The year is coming to a close and instead of feeling the sensation of something ending, I am filled with the joyful anticipation of what is beginning.
2017 has been a difficult year for me, as it has been for just about everyone I know. There is so much frustration, fear, anger, and general dissatisfaction swarming around that it feels overwhelming and slightly insane to even begin to cope and process the emotions tied up in it. The valleys of life have bruised and broken so many as we’ve collectively tumbled down. BUT! The valley isn’t bottomless. There is an end. I think that’s why people look forward to the new year. There is a tangible sense of completion and the feeling of transition. You have an opportunity to emotionally leave the sorrow and worry behind and step back into hope.
Personally, I’m stepping into something deep and soul-filling that I wasn’t always sure I’d have the courage to claim for myself. I’ve been somewhat discreetly calling myself a writer for a couple of years. I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month, I’ve journaled…a little, I’ve started five books, and I’ve gone back to school for an English degree with a focus in Creative Writing. But here’s the thing: I haven’t finished a book. I’ve got essays coming out of my ears, and I can write and write and write for a prompt, but there’s a big bad inner critic that haunts my personal creations. She lurks in the one-inch margins and the beckoning “new tab” button on my browser. She watches and waits while I write, staying silent and hovering until I stop for the day. Overnight, she creeps out and chips away at the confidence I constructed around the piece and over time, as I start to glance back over my shoulder at the work I’ve done, it starts to look weak and tired.
It doesn’t help that being a writer is this rather obscure thing that many people have a hard time understanding or appreciating. It’s looked at as a hobby, a self-indulgence, something to pass time with, but not invest time in. The looks I’ve gotten when confessing to being an aspiring writer vary from patronizing, confusion, tentatively interested, to actual pity. There’s this odd feeling I get sometimes when I tell people I write like they’re disappointed to find there’s a hidden conceit in me. I guess it’s because anyone who thinks they can actually be a writer and not just aspire to be one must be somewhat full of themselves to assume they’ll make any money or enjoy any success in such a secretive and mysterious industry. If only they knew the painful self-criticism writers trudge through on a daily basis. Writing is a labor of love I can only liken to childbirth.
When I was giving birth to my son, I was delirious through most of the 27+ hours it took for him to grace us with his presence. However, there was a moment about twelve hours in that I remember clear as day. I was laboring in a giant birthing tub and had reached a point where I realized I was experiencing the absolute worst pain of my life. My brain literally had trouble understanding what was happening to my body. I could tell it was trying to reject the experience entirely, trying to save me from psychologically processing the pain. I had this sudden thought, “This is the most exquisite pain of my life…and it has to get worse before it can go away.” There was something so powerful in that moment because I could have easily had a mental breakdown right then and there at the sheer monumental task of living through the experience of pain, but instead, I felt a shift. I recommitted to not only living through it but working even harder to let my body do the work so my child could be born.
Now, writing is not physically painful, unless you count weak wrists or tired eyes…or hot coffee spills…but it can be emotionally painful. There’s incredible self-doubt around being capable. There is so much love and care poured into a project that may not become anything special to anyone else. You face the constant awareness that all the work you do may never be recognized by another soul alive, but you can’t help but do it anyway. You can’t help but try. You can’t help but continue to give of self and labor through the challenges knowing that giving up isn’t really an option and something special will be born on the other side. It’s okay if you are the only one who cares. It’s okay if you are the only one to love it for what it is. Because it’s yours.
As I’ve come to understand this heavy relationship I have with writing, I’ve also realized how lost I got in the creation part of it. I’ve been so consumed with labor and birth, I’ve neglected the parenting books that tell you what to do after you bring the baby home. As any parent will tell you, that “oh, shit” moment that you really realize you are responsible for the life you just birthed, the “what’s next” moment is…interesting. It’s a scramble. It’s spending hours on Google or flipping through books, calling up friends and family who have any scrap of experience and begging for insight. For me, on the other end of that moment (or month) of lost composure, there’s a list of potential literary agents, a writing conference on the horizon, and a blog.
Strangely, knowing where the books are going, even in just the most general way, gives me hope for their future. I know there will be surprises and that I’ll probably have to amend my rules as their personality really starts to shine independently, but I feel like I won’t actually completely fuck them up.
As I leave one year and begin another, I’m committing to push the envelope. I’m committing to tossing the training wheels. You’ll likely see some interesting things as I plan on bringing you along for the ride. First on deck for the new year will be the premier installment of a serial that I’ll be publishing a bit at a time once a month. I’ll also be sharing some old stuff I’ve written. I’ll share my journey with submitting essays to literary magazines, and what a writing conference is really like. I’ll continue to share my love for words, and my odd thoughts and experiences, and maybe even a poem or two. What is this blog about? Well, I guess it’s that self-indulgent thing you worried it was. It’s a vehicle for my writing journey. It’s a platform to share my love for this blissfully torturous medium. It’s a way, I hope, to connect with my readers. I encourage participation, questions, and requests! If nothing else, I hope this blog is something enjoyable for more than just myself.
Au revoir 2017! Thanks for the memories and the growing pains, but I’ve got a date with a manuscript.