I’ve been participating in a revision writing class for the past few weeks…and the next few weeks…and in addition to reinvigorating me in my work and teaching me some incredibly helpful skills, it’s also gotten me thinking about why I write. After a rich and meaningful conversation with other writers in the class, after my brain digested some of what we talked about, I had an epiphany.
I really, really, really want to get my books published.
But that is not why I write.
I knew that but I forgot.
I write because it makes me feel great. The creative process makes me feel fulfilled. I write because it’s what I’m supposed to be doing right now. It’s a form of therapy. It’s moving me in the direction toward the person I want to be, a person who enjoys the journey of life without getting caught up in the final destination. I love the process of writing, and I can’t forget that.
I fall so easily into striving. When I first started writing Five Days, I didn’t really even consider being published. I simply had these characters and this story in my head that needed to come out. And it did. It was only later, once I’d completed a draft, that I set my sights on having my book on a table at Barnes & Noble. Because I naturally go to thinking about what’s next. But I don’t want to feel so pulled to the “what’s next.” I want to relish the “what’s now” a little bit more.
My Type-A personality can’t help but assert itself, though. I set goals for when certain things need to be done. I make myself accountable to deadlines and tasks because that’s who I’ve always been. And that is all well and good sometimes. Those qualities and habits keep my house clean (sometimes) and food in my fridge (again, sometimes) and my business running successfully.
But I need to remind myself that’s not what writing is primarily about for me.
I started writing to fill the empty space left by my kids leaving home. I continued writing because I loved it and it made me feel good. As I’ve worked at learning to let my kids be adults, to hand over control of their lives to them, I’ve found a way to create and control a whole new group of people…fictional ones. They give me a place to put my nurturing. They keep me company. I get to decide what happens to them (although not really…sometimes they are pretty adamant about what’s going to happen to them…just like my kids).
Here’s another thing. I care about what people think. I want people to believe I am a serious writer, and serious writers are published writers. But I can’t control what people think. And I only have a certain degree of control over whether or not I get published.
The more important thing is that I see myself as a writer, and that I don’t worry about the serious part. I’m going to keep writing. I’m going to keep sending my books out to agents. I’m going to keep taking classes and going to conferences and surrounding myself with better writers and learning and growing in my craft. I know I’m a better writer than when I started, so I’m sure I’ll be even better in another few years, so I’ll journey on.
But I want to do it with grace, being gentle and loving with myself. I want to do it differently than many other things in my life that I’ve done with pressure and self-criticism. I’ve never been quite sure I’m good enough, so I’ve always jumped through hoops to prove it. I don’t want to do that anymore, and definitely not with writing.
Six years ago I would have never thought I could write a book. And then I did. I already proved whatever I needed to prove. I’m giving myself permission to relax and enjoy the rest of the ride.
Somebody remind me of that later when I forget again, okay?