If you are not here to make money or “Become a Writer”
No, I don’t want to be a Writer. Well, not really. There are many good articles on medium about how to be successful here, achieve a large following and make money. What about the rest of us who are not necessarily here as a career move or to earn a living? Why are we here and how should we do this?
I don’t want to become a Writer. I have a really good job and I earn a decent living. I am well into mid-life and content. My kids are grown. I have succeeded and failed at many things. I have not traveled enough yet. I will be traveling today to Boone, NC to visit my eldest daughter, a biologist. I will probably write about my visit with her. I usually do.
I don’t want to work as a Writer. I am a Writer. It’s not what I do, it’s part of who I am. I first became aware of this when I was about seven years old and I wrote my first book. It was about animals and it was six construction pages long. I did my own illustrations. Reading radically changed my life. It still does every day. I love books and articles. I never have enough time to read. When I got in trouble in school it was usually for reading a novel I had hidden in my school book or under the desk. I excelled in English and writing classes. I was a good student in general, but comparatively, I sucked in science and math. I was not athletic. I always kept a journal.
Since no one in my family had ever gone to college, I had no plans to do so. It was never discussed at home. In my senior year of high school, my English teacher pulled me out of class and questioned my plans for my future. She signed me up to take the SAT’s and sat me down with a career counselor. I had no idea what I wanted to do or be when I “grew up”.
“Well, what do you enjoy doing?” they both asked.
“I like to read and I like to write.” It was the only thing I could think of.
So I went to college and majored in … yup, writing. I have a fine arts degree in writing, literature, and publishing with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in psychology. But I never became a writer. I worked for a year as a freelance writer and editor. I created sales brochures and edited medical journals. I tried to find a group of other people to read and write with and when I couldn’t find it, I created it. Women Writers of Winthrop. And then I stopped writing for a long time. I was very busy succeeding and failing at other things for a while. Like life. Drinking, Marriage, divorce, careers, kids, cross-country moves, car accidents, hobbies, therapy, homes, friends, … Somewhere in there, I began a novel. Twenty thousand words into it someone used the thumb drive it was on and erased every word. I stopped writing again. Resignation was my go-to.
And then came the winter of my discontent. I came, exhausted, out of a tumultuous relationship and crawled into my own womb to heal. Like a small, furry animal stuffing leaves and twigs at the entrance to a burrow, I hunkered down in my bed with two dogs, two cats, a bin full of snacks, a stack of books and a laptop. I wrote. It just came out, like that colorful construction paper book of my childhood. Unstoppable, like vomit. Painful, like birthing contractions. I spent almost a year alone like this. A friend recommended medium to me and so I joined and labored and birthed a few articles. By spring I’d entered menopause. Ironic, don’t you think? And then I began that novel again.
For me, writing is not a “hobby”, though for some folks it is. For some it is a career. For me it’s spirit. It is my constitution. It is art and soul.
I am a writer just as I am a mother, as I am human. David Updike once told me, “If writing is that painful for you, don’t do it. It’s already difficult to be a writer. Don’t force yourself to suffer more than you have to.” It was confusing advice to me at the time since I was only twenty, but later his words allowed me to stop putting things on paper and just live. In my head, I was still always writing. As I ripened as a human the words just dropped off of me. They didn’t all make sense. I didn’t publish all of them. Not every apple should be put into a pie.
I think I would love to spend my days writing, not working, and have plenty of money. But then maybe writing would become work. “Writing is work,” I’m told. So is breathing through my nose when I have a cold. Most of the time, for me, it’s just what I do to feel right. Like brushing my teeth. And then sometimes I work at it to make it better. Like when I floss. Sometimes I just MUST. Like breathing. It’s great when my articles are published because I want to give to others what has been given to me: something to relate to, to validate life however it is, to not be alone, to show someone how to survive something, to teach, or spark a passion and open someone’s world.
Perhaps one day I will leave my job and spend all my days writing. Writing is art. I am here as an artist. Good or not, paid or not, the only rules I adhere to are the ones driving out the words from within. For now, to do anything different is a job.