I still have a hard time getting the "I'm a writer" sentence out of my head and through my mouth without stumbling. So much of life as adults is geared around not what we do, but what we get paid to do. And I don't get paid to do this. I just do it.
Last week at dinner a friend said to me, "I didn't know you wrote!" Because I had posted something on my main Facebook feed about writing and that was her first indication. I said, "Well...I blog." and then felt stupid because who blogs anymore? Well besides me. I still blog. And then she asked what I wrote about and I had to try and explain and I stumbled again. For someone who likes words as much as I do the one time they seem to fail me is when I try to explain that I write. "Nonfiction? Fiction?"
Yes, those. I told her that I had written about common core that day and the day before a fiction piece about how people are different colored lollipops. Which I followed with, "It all made sense, really." And then I tried to explain the bar people and realized how very crazy it makes me sound...
Then she said she used to write, which made her fiance say, "I didn't know that." And made me relieved because then we could talk about that instead of me.
But then it made me think. There are a lot of "I used to write" people out there. Heck, for a number of years I was one of them. Sometimes life just gets in the way of being able to sit down and put words on paper. Sometimes confidence shatters and you think it's not worth it anymore. Sometimes you just have nothing to say.
And then today while I was cleaning house I thought about when I started writing again. The first few things I put on paper. All nonfiction on the blog at the start. My stories. My life. My past. And people liked them. I got feedback from people I knew who were glad to hear the stories. And people that were in them who liked being a "featured performer." And that feedback gave me the courage to actually share complete fiction. Stories that were just out of the air. And I got good feedback on those as well. Which was great, because that was really hard to do.
Not just to share them, but to unlock that vault again. To open that pathway back up. Because I used to write.
My head is busy. I've written about it before, I've talked about it before. People who know me in real life see it in person. I have a busy brain. I can and will switch topics mid stream of a conversation because there was a random connection that flashed for me and I ended up on that tangent instead of the one we started on...it's crazy up in here.
Reading and writing keep me sane.
Reading gives me a space to become absorbed in someone else's world. To focus on that life. That drama. That story. I can get sucked in to that and it calms my head. Reading is meditation to me. It's the way I have to keep my brain occupied and calm.
Writing lets the voices out of my head before they drown out everything else. When a fiction piece comes to me, most often it comes almost fully formed and wanting to be written NOW. Stop what you are doing and write me NOW. And if I don't then it plays over and over in my head until I get it out. I think that's why I end up with so many short stories. They just come to me. And since a group of them are my bar people they just keep talking louder and louder until I have to let them out to shut them up.
But I will let you in on a little secret. If you ignore them too long then they stop talking to you. And it's awful.
When I was little I was always the storyteller friend. I was the one that came up with our games of make believe. I was the one who told you what your character should be doing. I was the one that remembered where we were and what we were doing at recess the day before. I made up stories on the bus when our youth group would travel. I wrote stories at school for creative writing and just to share with friends. I was dramatic.
When I was in high school my brother found a box of things that had been stored in his garage. In that box was my diary from elementary and middle school. I read it and just had to shake my head. Anyone else reading it would think I had led a very different life than I really had. I didn't write about what was really going on. There wasn't a single page on any of the abuse. But there were long passages about this boy or that boy. And they were much more umm...intense than the reality. I even wrote at one point about a worry over getting too attached and getting pregnant! I was 12 when I wrote that and I was still a virgin while I was reading it! Crazy. But the reality wasn't all that exciting so I punched it up.
Because I was a writer.
But then I stopped. Lots of reasons. No time. No faith in my talent. No time. And did I mention no time? But what happened when I stopped was first the stories went back in to my head. Quietly. I was still able to sit and entertain myself for hours in public spaces imagining what people were doing, who they were, what they might be thinking. But then the longer I stayed away from writing the quieter those voices became. I could call them up when I was playing with C. But the stories running in the background of my daily life were gone. Just gone.
I used to be a writer.
I can remember one day at work at the agency (the first time I worked there) I was at the front desk with our receptionist and a new hire. There was a KFC meeting going on (this was when I was the bookkeeper not the AE so I had to be available for questions but not sit in on the meetings) and they had had lunch catered in. There was a big bowl of salad left and it had baby corn in it. Courtney asked what made the baby corn so small and I popped off, "Low self esteem" then wove an entire story about it out of thin air. They laughed and laughed, Jack gave us stink eye from the conference room and I said, "See? Don't you feel yourself shrinking right now?" And we all had to cover our mouths to keep quiet.
As I was walking back to my office Diana said, "You should be a writer." And I said, "I used to want to be."
A few years later I thought about that story and I thought about how easy it had been. That it had all come to me just like when I was younger and would tell stories on the bus. Or when C was little and we would tell a story together. It was still there. Someplace. So I thought, I will try again. And for a little bit I did. I would come up with something I wanted to write. Something I thought was interesting and I would get a few sentences out and then....nothing.
I used to be a writer.
It took a long time. I think the voices stopped talking to me because I stopped listening. I think it took them awhile to trust that I would pay attention again. And I think that's why they can be so insistent now. The story has to get out before I decide that I used to be a writer again. And so usually I do stop what I'm doing and write.Because I like the voices in my head. And I missed them when they stopped talking to me.
And I know that still sounds crazy when I say it out loud. Which is why I stumble over the words.
But...when I was telling Raquel on Saturday about trying to explain my blog to someone who hadn't ever read it and what I do and how hard it is for me to explain it she said something that made me smile...
"You're a writer."