I’m biding my time, hoping to hone my craft well enough that when I retire from my day job, I can finally and unapologetically call myself a writer and actually write. I’m not sure what it’ll take for me to be able to say, “Yes, I am a writer” without looking over my shoulder for the Exaggeration Police to pounce. I have one book under my belt (a book that was even translated into another language); I’ve published stories in three more books; I regularly meet deadlines for the local paper, my own blog, and guest blogs. And yet when asked what I do, I default to being “just” an administrative assistant at a small university.
Why even bother trying to pursue such a difficult and elusive dream? My time to create is during stolen minutes leftover after day is done, not exactly when my mind is fresh. There are aspects of the modern writing life that are anathema to me. I loathe the self-promotion, the incessant marketing, the maintaining an online presence, the selling! Daily, my inbox is accosted with blogs and tweets from other writers who use their platforms to preach and persuade to their (often political) point of view – with the bottom line being to buy their book. Maybe you feel that I do that, too. I hope not. When I do succumb to the pressure from fellow writers that I must do more to publicize, I feel that I am selling my writer’s soul.
I need to return often to the joy of writing and quell the voices that try to interfere. This past weekend at the beach, I finished Pat Conroy’s “My Reading Life” as I drank in the ocean’s majesty. And I remembered why I write.
Why do I bother? Hopefully these words from Conroy that rekindled my passion will answer that:
“The idea of a novel should stir your blood, and you should rise to it like a lion lifting up at the smell of impala. It should be instinctual, incurable, unanswerable, and a calling, not a choice. . .
“Here is what I want from a book, what I demand, what I pray for when I take up a novel and begin to read the first sentence: I want everything and nothing less, the full measure of a writer’s heart. . .
“Now, when I pick up a book, the prayer that rises out of me is that it changes me utterly and that I am not the man who first selected that book from a well-stocked shelf. . .
“That’s what a good book does – it puts readers on their knees. It makes you want to believe in a world you just read about – the one that will make you feel different about the world you thought you lived in, the world that will never be the same.”
And from Robert McKee:
“Write . . . despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.”
Oh, Lord, if only I could write like that!