When I was a little girl, I probably had a lot of dreams of what I wanted to be when I grew up. The one that I remember the clearest, though, is the dream of being a writer. I was an avid reader at a young age. My mom tried to read books before me, but she eventually gave up and just let me read because she couldn’t keep up. We had something called the Scholastic Book Club at our school. We would get a thin, newsprint magazine of the books available for purchase that month, fill out the order form, and give it to the teacher with our money. One of the greatest things my mom did for me in my childhood was allow me to order as many books as I wanted. A week would go by, and the magical day would come when the Scholastic book order was in. I could always spot my order on the teacher’s desk, because my it was the only one that was a pile of books that had to be double rubber-banded together.
I read everything. And then I read A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, and my love of reading became a desire to write. The book was unlike any I had read. It pushed the boundaries of imagination, it made me think that I could do wonderful and unimaginable things. I decided then that I wanted to write books like that when I grew up. Now here I am, some forty plus years later and I haven’t written a book, much less become an author like I dreamed. So I am asking myself — why am I not writing? It is not a new question, but one I hope to unpack a little further.
The first thing that comes to mind is 1. I don’t know what to write about. To the casual reader, this sounds lame. Just write about anything! I have done that in the past, and that kind of writing doesn’t really get you a book. It just gets you a bunch of free-form, journal type writing that nobody is every going to read. I have had some good ideas in the past, but I didn’t write them into existence in time for the story to be relevant. I heard someone say recently, “If you don’t do it, someone else will. And then you’ll be pissed.” This is true, and it has happened to me. Why? Because I had the idea and then I didn’t write it. Or I wrote part of it and stopped because it got hard.
The second reason that comes to mind is 2. I am wasting my time writing. There are already so many people out there writing, what makes me think that I will be any different? True, with the attitude that I have had so far, there is no reason to think that I will be any different. There is also a deeper element to this reason — the extreme self doubt. I don’t know exactly where it came from. I didn’t have it when I was eight years old, or even when I was fourteen years old. But somewhere after that the doubt in my abilities as a “creative mind” starting building. It built slowly, insidiously, until one day I had graduated from college and I no longer believed that being a writer was a viable option for me. It was a dream in the sky, like all of the guys who dream of someday being professional baseball players.
I have been reading a book by Rachel Hollis, and she poses a question that I am now asking myself: “Am I one of those people that wants an excuse for why I didn’t chase the thing I wanted?“. Maybe I am. I don’t want to be that kind of person, but I have definitely been behaving that way. To paraphrase Rachel, why do I keep telling myself that my life is so hard (because I have OCD, because my brain freezes up with anxiety, because I am on medication that dulls my brain) that I can’t write a novel or do anything productive for that matter? Why? Because it is true, yes. But if I listen to myself, I will do nothing, if I listen to Rachel, I am capable of more than I think I am capable of. Which is true? Does it matter?
Rachel Hollis says: It’s not about choosing what you want right now, it’s about choosing what you want most. My stomach drops when I read that. It sounds like she is going to ask me to do HARD THINGS. Hard things are exhausting and debilitating and, well, HARD. Like an-alcholoic-not-taking-a-drink hard. I don’t want that. Do I? Maybe I do. Maybe it gets easier, and maybe if I do hard things now I won’t be here next year and the next asking myself the same question that I have been asking myself for the past thirty plus years. Why am I not writing?
I’ll end this post with another paraphrased quote from Rachel Hollis. “Someone else doesn’t get to tell you who you can be (your spouse, your mom, your sisters, your community, statistics). Go all in. Take massive action. Anything I want, I have to do myself. I must set my mind and go ALL IN. I will only become the person I want when I take a huge leap of faith, flying through the air, not knowing if I have a parachute or where I will land. I must rise up from where you’ve been, scrub off the tears, and start again. Girl, wash your face.”