As much as I typically hate that kind of hippie bullshit, a dear friend convinced me that I should set intentions for this year’s Winter Solstice. Since I already had plans to get drinks with someone, I decided to convince him that we should spend our time together answering the questions in the email my friend had forwarded from an astrologer.
I showed up at the bar with a notebook and scribbled our answers next to our initials. We fumbled, mostly. We argued, a little. We saved the hardest question for last:
How do I want to feel about my work, relationships, body, spiritual life/relationship with myself?
My friend said he wanted to feel more accomplished about his work. I wrote down, “Feel accomplished.” I said that I had just been assigned a big project at my job, which would launch in April. “So…that’s a thing I’m going to be feeling.”
Next to my initials in the notebook, I wrote: “April.” I paused. “I also want to concentrate on community service.” I added a comma, then wrote, “Volunteer.” I paused again, waiting for my friend to say something. He didn’t.
I took a breath. “I guess we should talk about writing.”
“What about writing?”
“Well, will I do it? I’m waiting for it to happen some day but maybe it won’t. I’m too old for this. I’m either going to write or I’m not.”
I was expecting him to say, like so many others have, “You?! You have to write.” But instead he asked me, “Do you like to write?”
“I like to think, but I don’t like to sit still–”
“Well that’s it. You’re not a writer.”
“Lots of people don’t like sitting still!” I argued.
“And that’s why not a lot of people are writers.”
I thought about the way my puppy looked when I took his collar off at night; as though he couldn’t figure out whether he was being liberated or robbed. I wrote down next to my initials in the notebook, “Not a writer.”
In fact, this past year, I worked quite hard to stop being a writer professionally, and the day that they finally changed my title felt like one of the greatest in my life. I thought that once I didn’t have to write for work, I would write more of the things I wanted. But it turned out that I almost never wanted to write.
Writing is tiring – emotionally and mentally. It’s scary – filled with the potential endless criticism, judgment, misunderstanding and rejection – both of your work and you as a human. It’s time consuming, and even though most of my writing sounds like I rattled it off over a glass of wine, it actually requires a lot of thinking and editing. And finally, no matter how much you and everyone else loves what you wrote, there will always be some jackass who finds a bunch of typos.
But it’s also true that I have a voice in my head that writes things all day long, and it is, without a question, my best friend in the world. And that not sharing them leaves me with a latent unease, like I’ve buttoned my shirt wrong. I found myself walking to work the morning after printing, “not a writer” and wondering if that could really be true.
I recalled that when my friend first suggested that I set intentions for the Solstice, I protested, first abstractly, but finally I confessed, “It feels like everything’s been messed up for so long, I can’t even visualize what it would look like if it was right.”
“Think small,” she said. “Tiny little adjustments, like pilates motions.” I hate hippie bullshit, but from what I hear, Pilates is legit. I was willing to take that advice.
As it turned out, I’ve had two small, low commitment projects that I’ve wanted to do for a while.
- Publish every day for a set period of time to prove to myself that nothing I can write or say will be crazy enough to destroy my life (and if it is I can finally move to India)
- Write about the dozens and dozens blog posts I’ve conceived of over the last 3 or 4 years but never actually written.
I decided I could combine the two in some kind of 12 days of Christmas thing, but what with the laziness and inertia and fear, Christmas has come and gone. It’s almost New Year’s. There is no socially approved landmark around which I can moor this mess. So, I’m doing 13 days of Why I’m Not a Writer. After today, that’s 12 more posts where I’ll write about all the things I never wrote about. I won’t be editing for typos. I might not even edit for clarity. It’ll end on January 8th, or whenever I finally accept that I’m not going to be a writer. Whichever comes first.