Those are famous first words. They have led to many inventions, arguments, discoveries and yes, failures. It’s how my mind works or doesn’t much of the time. What if those who can’t do, write? Having withstood a similar accusation as a teacher for more than 20 years I answer, “big whoop”. And then, I put on the big girl panties and enter the classroom yet again. Teaching is not for the faint of heart. Someone’s gotta do the impossible with the unlikely. Why not me? I offer you the same Q & A if the What if I’m not a writer suspicion nags at you as often as it does me. Why not you? Let’s look at this particular neurotic’s landscape together.
Define writer. According to many, a writer is one who writes. I’m doing it now, aren’t I? Guess I’m a writer. You? If you think a writer is someone who is read. Get reading. There’s plenty research to suggest writing improves with reading. Often, when I read, I’m inspired to write back. Often I just do it. It gives me a sense of community, of somewhere to be outside my head. Even if it doesn’t really make me feel a sense of belonging, it reminds me at least that I’m not alone. If you think a writer is someone who publishes, be a publisher. Nowadays, it’s fast and free. So publish if that’s your definition of being a writer. If you think you have to be an editor to be a writer well, I find that I’m the best person to trust to keep my meaning, so I edit. But if that’s not your hang-up, we have people for this. If money’s what you lack, work out an exchange for services.
If you want to know what the difference between a writer and an author is, well, take yourself out on a wee little adventure and ask a few people. You know, the kind of man on the street interview Late Night made famous. Let me know if you discover anyone who really knows. Even if you don’t, you can write about the process and, voila, you’re a writer.
What I’ve discovered so far is that each year as Nanowrimo approaches, I go into a dither punctuated by unrealistic expectations (writing 1,621 words a day, shutting myself off from human contact – other wrimos are only technically human so contact with us at local write-ins [no matter how frequent] doesn’t count – and adding daily exercise to my routine when it’s not part of my life for months at a time). What I’ve come to understand about myself is that November is pretty much the only time I give myself permission to prioritize what I enjoy more than eating, sleeping, housekeeping (no, I don’t particularly enjoy housekeeping but a messy house interferes with my writing) or solving the world’s problems with friends and family over coffee or on the phone. If this makes me a freak, so be it. If it makes me a writer, all the more reason to indulge. All the more reason to let November’s frenzy seep into the rest of the year. All the more reason to start writing and keep writing without apology. Besides, having unrealistic expectations is what makes us human and what moves us beyond what only yesterday seemed impossible.
Look at it this way. It’s 9:30 am and I’ve already exchanged texts with a neighbor, let the dogs out, fed them and myself, dressed and am having a staring context with the unmade bed. C’est la guerre. And, with close to 1,000 words down longhand and digitized, I count that I’ve already won. I’m two-thirds of the way to impossible.