“It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room……”
Writing has been a part of my life since I learned how to grip a pencil – which, being a lefty, meant in the completely wrong way, at least, according to my kindergarten teacher. Despite her attempts to have me hold my left hand behind my back when I was first learning how to print way back in 1980, and encouraging me to somehow will myself to be right-handed, I continued to be left-handed, right-brained, and full of stories and poems for the next twenty years of my life. When I got married and became mom to my three wonderful kids, writing took a back seat for the next decade of my life. I didn’t want it to. I missed it terribly. But that’s life, that’s parenthood. It’s all-consuming, completely wonderful and completely exhausting all at the same time. Once my kids were out of diapers, off nap schedules and could buckle up their own seatbelts, I was grateful to welcome writing back into my life.
For me, like for most creatives, it was not because I simply wanted to, but I had to have it in my life again. Writing, for some of us, is a necessity, not a luxury. In my journey of life and writing, and particularly in this past year, when I started and finished the novel I had had in my head for the last twenty-eight years, I have learned four truths about writing that have helped me understand both it and myself, and has helped me become the writer I’ve always wanted to be.
4 truths about writing
Writing makes you a writer. Whether or not you finish every piece you start, get published or have readers / an online following, eager to read your every word, the simple act of writing, in a journal, on a laptop, in a blog read by thousands, or a journal entry read by only one – YOU – that act of writing is what makes you a writer. Be proud of it. Own it. Give yourself the right to that title should anyone ever ask, what do you do? Say proudly: “I’m a writer.”
Writing results from habit, not inspiration. If you only ever think about writing or sit around waiting for either inspiration to hit or for the time to be right, you will never, ever get any writing done. Writing is all about making a habit of the process. For me, having a dedicated space – a tiny desk from IKEA that just fits my laptop and notebook – tucked away in a corner of my bedroom, made all the difference in creating that habit. Having that desk transformed my writing from sitting with a notebook on the couch sometimes when I felt like it, to sitting my butt down at that desk, every day from 4 – 5:30 pm and finally getting that novel that I had dreamed about writing for 28 years out of my head and into (many) literary agent’s in-boxes in 9 months time. Sit down and write – every damn day.
Rejection is part of the gig – just don’t take it personally. There is no way around it: rejection sucks. When you’re a writer, you can count on being rejected – a lot. I have a whole scrapbook full of rejection letters that I received back when everything was done through snail mail. Now I just get form letters via email that always start: “Dear Author……” I usually don’t bother reading the rest. Your work is not going to fit every literary magazine or newspaper or publisher’s needs. That’s just the way it is. You can’t please everyone, you can’t interest everyone in reading your work. Deal. Like my wonderfully supportive husband says every time I receive another rejection for my novel: “You only need one ‘yes’.” And that thought is what keeps me going. Don’t let rejection stop you. Keep writing, keep submitting and most of all, keep believing in your work – and in you.
That nagging voice of self-doubt will always be there. During the nine intensive months of writing my novel, there were many nights when I would wake suddenly from a sound sleep with one, terrible, awful thought swirling in my head: “Why are you bothering?” It was the voice of my self-doubt. The unwanted, uninvited voice that liked to pop up just when I was feeling good about my progress. Sometimes it sounded like an unsupportive teacher or sometimes like a family member. “Why are you bothering?” it would ask and then continue with a barrage of negativity. “No one cares about your stupid story.” “Give it up and get a real job.” “You can’t write.” “Stop dreaming.” “No one wants to read it.” “It’s just a pipe dream – wake up already.” It was always a struggle to silence that voice, to find my own inner strength and believe in myself and continue to write, but I did, because not only did I know that I wanted to – I had discovered that I needed to.
Stephen King, in his amazing memoir, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, says, ” It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room. Life isn’t a support system for art. It’s the other way around.”
For me, that is truth. Writing is what gets me through life. It always has. Being able to create stories and poems and journaling throughout my life, has sustained me through many dark times. Sometimes even, it has saved me from giving in to that darkness.
I write because I have to, I am driven to. Whether or not others will read it, will like any of it, is not in my control. That nagging voice of self-doubt will always speak loudest during the quietest of nights, but I know I can silence it with a pen stroke, a key stroke.
I breathe, I write.