At some point after my daughter was born, I convinced myself that I wasn’t writing because I liked it. I wrote because I sought fame and fortune. Basically, I wanted desperately to be the next JK Rowling, and that, I realized, was a fruitless pursuit. No but JK Rowling ever has been, and no one ever will be again, JK Rowling. Which is fine.
In light of this, I gave up writing. Full stop. No more.
I pursued other things. I chased photography, at which I’m good enough to be called decent. I cooked a lot. It turns out if you cook several times a day, every day, you get very good at cooking. I hiked, I read books to my kids, I set up art projects, I did laundry, cleaned floors, wiped off counters. I even learned how to pull a decent shot of espresso on a bad espresso machine.
I got by, and it didn’t seem bad.
Then one day this little worm of an idea for my old manuscript crept in. The characters I’d loved for several years of writing all spoke at once, and pushed for a brilliant new plot line.
I dusted off my kelly green Mead notebook (I once tried the classic legal pads, but that’s not my thing) and my Pilot G-2 0.38 (I am serious, I will get unpleasant if I run out of these pens) and started writing. By the end of the day, I realized that I’d been living with blinders on for months. My whole life seemed to sparkle. I was a real, living person again. I liked my kids, I liked my spouse, every song made me want to dance and sing.
I’d turned myself into a zombie without realizing it. And I loathe zombies.
Writing is my thing. It is not a thing I do because of JK, or any other writer. It’s not something I slog at with the idea that I can make a career of it. Okay, maybe that idea is there, but it’s very little and I know enough to laugh at it, because a career as a writer is adorable. Writing is not something I do for the praise of others, although it is a thrill when someone else can relate to something I wrote.
I write because if I don’t the whole world turns dull and gray.
It’s not at all easy to make time for my notebook. I’m typing this very post at my kitchen counter while my son repeatedly rams a toy car into my foot. There’s a good chance I’ll get interrupted before I’m done. Dinner time is looming and the chicken isn’t defrosted yet. But the time must be carved out of the day.
An important thing, something I just found put to words (and nice words, too) by Stephen King in his book On Writing, is the importance of writing things that make you happy to come to the page. And I think this is part of what led me to shove my notebooks in a box for such a long time. He writes of the expectation he met with that he shouldn’t waste his talent on the kinds of things he really enjoyed most. I spent a lot of time bowing to certain expectations. I wrote higher brow nonfiction, when what I really wanted were stories of people with magic powers embarking on epic adventures. I tried to inject some of what I’d been pushed to produce in creative writing classes into my manuscripts.
It wasn’t fun, constantly reigning in my imagination and my own desires. At times, I sat for days in front of empty pages, paralyzed. Trying to be better.
This has become my perspective. I come to my notebooks and my keyboard now with optimism and joy. I want to have fun writing, because otherwise what is the point?
Today, I made a list of all the things I love to write best. The types of relationships, the scenes, the characters that make my fingers itch. If you are in a writing funk, I recommend you do the same.
Then go write those things. I’ll be doing the same.