Since I was little, very little, I’ve always enjoyed the written word. I wrote little scholastic poems for grade school that I was incredibly proud of. I would hang onto the words my father read to me at night, and I loved the smell of old, creaky bookstores. When I was young, every Sunday, my parents would take me downtown to an old and legendary building that housed The Eliot Bay Book Company. I would spend hours roaming the children’s section, and then as I got older, the other sections, ending in a heap of books I couldn’t live without. I would pour over my haul while munching a toasted bagel in the café that was located below the bookstore, down a thin spiral stairway underground.
As a teenager, I wrote creatively for friends. Instead of buying gifts I would recount moments in our friendship and type them up in great emotional detail to be handed to them on birthdays or holidays. One Christmas I wrote a one-hundred and twelve page choose your own adventure story staring my four best friends and, naturally, they each got a copy. To date, that is still one of my crowning creative achievements.
In college, I was encouraged by professors I adored to continue chasing the talent I knew lurked in me, despite my incredible ability to get sidetracked and not show up to class. I danced through my creative writing and English courses because I loved them, and I was inspired by those who taught them. I had a true passion for editing the work of my peers and I would fawn over my finished pieces like a helicopter mom ready to defend or coddle depending on the necessity.
In writing classes I was cajoled into the practice of multiple draft edits, though to this day it is a struggle for me to return to a piece I have completed. That rush of inspiration, that flow of words, for me it has always been a flash flood, a hurricane. The slow build of rain on a river has never been my process though there are times I wish it were. My writing is often impulsive and disorganized, though it is passionate and imbued with my creative fervor upon its conception. Going back in a different mindset often leaves me uninspired and unimpressed with what I have written. When not in the moment I am a fearful creature, full of doubt and disinterest.
To remedy this reaction– as multiple edits are proven to not only elevate one’s work, but also move a person from the amateur explosion of inspiration, to the hard work of a creator who has a craft—I send my written pieces to friends, and read them aloud to loved ones. I ask for brutal honesty, and at times that helicopter mom instinct comes flying up inside me and I am forced to choke it down as I listen to their critique. More often than not, they are right, and as I sit down to revise my writing, I am forced to push past the internal whining and pouting and gigantic self-created boulders of effort in order to make my creation something more graceful.
When I was nearing the end of college, I thought I would pursue an academic and literary life. Teaching writing seemed an honorable and glamorous career. I loved reading papers, I loved editing papers, and I loved writing. I had such regard for those who taught me that I couldn’t wait to have that admiration heaped back on me. However, things took a turn as I graduated and a life experience taking kids outdoors (which made an extremely convincing career bid) combined with the fact that I was in my early thirties and didn’t relish the idea of more debt for my Masters, meant I left school and, overwhelmed with choice and confusion on where to go from there, simply continued doing what I was doing–serving drinks in beautiful bars to beautiful people which was fun and engaging but didn’t feed my creative soul.
The creativity that had marked my young life and driven my eventual academic success was put aside for a steady income and the security of guaranteed employment. I dabbled in a little writing here and there but by and large my endeavors were short lived and unrealized. I woke up one day and found that all my big dreams about what I should be doing were in very stark contrast to what I was actually doing.
I didn’t have an answer. I am an easily overwhelmed person and realizing I had no real foothold in the creative world left me flustered and nervous. I had gotten married to a wonderful man, co-owned a house, and was pregnant. My life was quiet and I was involved in my day-to-day with a general contentment that comes from the warm glow of grownup happiness. Yet, the need to write still lurked within me.
Between college and this present moment one of my favorite pastimes has always been going into a bookstore and pouring over the ‘how to write’ section. I have read, and my shelves are populated, by books on writing. I read blogs about how to begin writing. I read so much about the process that I never get around to actually writing anything. This, of course, is because I am afraid.
- I am afraid I have no real ideas.
- I am afraid I don’t actually have any talent.
- I am afraid I can never write anything longer than a blog post because I never have.
- I am afraid that inspiration is not enough.
- I am afraid I don’t have a strong enough work ethic.
- I am afraid of being judged by people who love me for not writing something they find appropriate.
- I am afraid of creating something that no one wants to read.
- I am afraid that I don’t have the time.
- I am afraid that writing is selfish.
- I am afraid that I will never have a creative life of any merit and will only be qualified to be a server even when I’m fifty.
And that’s only the beginning.
At some point, I knew I needed to stretch my fingers again, and throw myself into the void. Being a new mother means my organization of time is absolutely inscrutable. Some of you understand the insanity that is the first year of infancy. For those of you who do not, suffice to say the time you have to yourself is populated with the very real knowledge that at any moment you might have to drop whatever you are doing and go to your baby. It could be five minutes, it could be thirty minutes, it could be (in my case, very rarely) an hour or more. You find slivers of time when your baby is asleep, or your partner is home and tells you to go do something that makes you feel special. I thought that after I put my baby to bed in the evening I would be able to sit down and write. In all honesty, I could, but the exhaustion I feel by six o’clock is heavy, and it pulls me to a halt. My creative mind goes kaput and all I can do is watch a show or read my book until I fall asleep in a crumple of sore limbs and snores.
So, my solution, at least presently, is this blog. Even creating this tiny space has been a struggle of the old demons:
- There are a million mom blogs in the world, no one needs yours.
- Your friend’s will read it out of obligation but no one else will.
- Is this even real writing?
Well, to all those demons I say simply: The world doesn’t need my blog, but I need it and so I will create it and let it loose. My friends may read out of obligation, and they may also tell me it’s great writing even when it is not because they are my friends. However, I will be grateful when they read it and l I will count myself lucky to have friends who care enough about my creativity to do so. Writing is writing, and even if I write one hundred little snippets of scenery or broken thought or horribly cheesy story beginnings, at least it’s my writing and it piles up into this messy creative life I’m cultivating.
There are a lot of loose ends to my craft, and I am quietly approaching them, like easily startled wildlife, trying to see how near I can get without spooking them away. Maybe someday I will write that children’s book I keep talking about, or that fantasy epic, or who knows? All I know is right now, and right now is this blog and I’m happy to be sitting here with my cold coffee while my baby sleeps, waiting until my husband gets home so I can read this aloud to him and see what he thinks.