The day my husband told me that I should “become a writer” I got mad at him. A writer wasn’t something you woke up and decided to be. A writer was someone who spent a lifetime honing their talent, and crafting their story. It was most certainly not me.
At the time I was twenty-six, sixteen weeks pregnant, and recently laid off from my job. I was scared. Let’s be honest, no one is excited about hiring a pregnant woman, and we hadn’t even had the conversation about child care yet. We’d been married only a few months. I’d finished my first semester towards the Master Degree in English Education I was working towards. I didn’t know how I’d manage school, work, and a pregnancy, but now I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to school without having a job. This was an out-of-nowhere tangle I hadn’t even considered when we’d decided to get pregnant quickly. My reaction to his suggestion was badly directed, of course, but I didn’t know it at the time.
At the time I was reacting to the idea of “being a writer”, and how I had no idea how to even accomplish something like that, and, yes, I got mad. What I didn’t realize was that my fear wasn’t in becoming a writer, it was in having to learn how while also learning how to keep a tiny human being alive. I didn’t even consider the extra work hidden in there. Things like laundry, or washing walls, or after school activities. I didn’t think about baking cupcakes, or being Class Mom. Instead of realizing that I was scared to enter two worlds as foreign as writing, and child-rearing. I just got mad. I got mad, and then I got busy. Eight years later, I am a writer. I am a writer who has written things. I am a writer who is currently writing a novel.
The journey to get here has been a difficult one. There’s been all kinds of reasons: life’s challenges, the need to teach myself about novel structure, software, time. The biggest problem, however, has been me.
There. I said it.
Maybe you don’t think that’s big news, and maybe you agree with me, and maybe you knew it all along, but I only just made the connection.
I’ve been torturing myself for years, reading all the writing books I could get my hands on. They all say the same thing: Write. Write every day. Create a routine. Develop a habit.
Some books go as far as calling me an amateur for not following their advice. Others tell me I am giving in to my inner demons. All of them make me feel like a complete failure, because I simply could not find a way to write every single day.
I tried all kinds of things. Getting up early. Going to bed early. I’ve tried Bullet Journeling (which actually helps, but doesn’t solve the time problem). I’ve tried deleting social media, and games on my phone. No matter what I did, I couldn’t solve for the problem that ten AM on Tuesday was never the same as ten AM on Wednesday. Ever.
Three weeks ago, I had an epiphany. “What if I just accept that I’ll never be able to do what those books tell me to do?” What if my life isn’t the kind where writing will ever have the chance to be a routine. What if I accepted that if I want to write, I have to fight for it?
I won’t say that some divine light shone down on me from above. It didn’t. In fact, I wasn’t really sure what acceptance would bring me. For a moment I considered that perhaps I couldn’t be a writer, right now. That didn’t sit very well with me either. The novel I’ve got trapped in my mind needs to be written. I owe that to the teenaged girl out there who thinks that she is defined by the choices being made for her, and to the boy who wants to be more than his small town can offer him. That girl is worth fitting twenty minutes of writing in between loads of laundry.That boy is worth using that free thirty minutes I have after I get home from the supermarket to work a scene. The story I’m writing is worth carving out some time, whenever I can find it, to put words to paper.
I’ve written almost every week day since.
Isn’t that amazing? For years I’ve beaten myself up for not being able to do the work of two women, despite the fact that I’m only one. I’ve criticized myself for not being able to balance raising children, running a household, and being a wife, with creating a universe out of nothing. We do so much damage to ourselves without even realizing it. I cursed myself for not achieving more, instead of realizing how much I actually do achieve every day. I engage in self-destructive behavior when I didn’t do it all, instead of feeling encourage by what I was doing.
All I had to do was accept myself.
I had to accept that I haven’t been writing full-time, because I have an actual full-time job. I had to accept that even though I don’t get paid for the laundry, the mopping, the bathing, the cooking, the planning, the coordinating, or any of the duties inherent in being the stay-at-home parent, it is still a job. In fact, it is more than a full-time job. It is a 24/7/365 job. I had to accept that the writing I do is work above and beyond the work that is expected of me.
Once I received this self-acceptance I suddenly was able to see myself as the juggernaut I really am. That I have almost a third of a novel written is now something I can say with pride, instead of shame. That I’m completing scenes as a faster rate than every before is a testament to my epiphany.
Maybe this blog isn’t going to get the attention it probably deserves. Maybe I don’t have the time to write an article a week, while still writing scenes in my manuscript. Maybe you’ll understand. Maybe you’ll get tired of waiting for me to write a new post. I’ve also accepted that I don’t have to know the future. That’s not a prerequisite for this job.
The only thing I have to remember to do is write whenever I can, because each one has been carved out of the time it takes to do the hardest job in the world.