On Becoming a Writer

No one gave me permission to be a writer. It’s not as though I woke up one day and decided: “Self, it’s time to be a writer.”

I grew into the moniker. Gradually. Painfully, even.

Writing has snapped me to attention on more than one occasion, swatting me across the back of my skull with enough force to give me whiplash. Being a writer is an unusually irritating portion of my creative self. It’s intrusive and demanding; entirely unlike being a designer, which is softly methodical and precise.

Becoming a writer has forced me to look at the shadows lurking on my many peripheries. It’s deeply uncomfortable and, more than anything, uninvited. I’ve had to craft language to communicate thoughts, ideas, and feelings I didn’t (and sometimes still don’t) fully understand. I’ve spent enough hours scrapping with inane paragraphs and implacable stanzas to qualify it as an inner Fight Club. Give no quarter, lads. Don’t talk about Write Club.

Then, there are the times that I’ve run from writing. It’s a marathon I’m all too familiar with. I’ve known what life feels like when words come to a grinding halt and I’m left with two hands bereft of context. It’s lacklustre and staid. Until fairly recently, I’d managed to only write when I felt I’d had time for it (which was never), instead of Making First. The result of which was a restless, brooding, and sometimes feral existence. I gnashed my teeth and fought wars with myself, just to get in front of a sentence for longer than ten minutes.

I’ve fought hard to be anything but a writer. I spent years in post-secondary, learning to become a programmer. I’ve spent the last six years building a web design business. I got into the habit of treating writing as a hobby, meant to be dragged out once a year when NaNoWriMo rolls around again. Shoving such a petulant piece of my creative self to the side only made it easier for my inner critic to surface when I did manage to pour some time into writing. It raged with a thunderous fury, throwing insults like spaghetti on a wall.

“Idiot. You have no business doing this. You decided to be a programmer. Go write code. You’re not qualified. You’re not worthy. This has been said before. Clunky. Lies. Liar. Imposter. Drivel.”

Sometimes, I wonder who I’d be if I had never decided to write my first short story or my first novella. Where would that creative energy have gone? Would I have fared better as a programmer? Would I have poured that into becoming a better designer? Or would I be hiding bottles of whiskey in dresser drawers in order to make it through another listless day? Would I have had the courage to uproot my life to move to the city? Or would I be standing still?

I used to daydream about my personal alternative history, especially the alternative timeline of embracing “Writer”, instead of yearning for it as long as I did. I would have walked right past the computer lab and into a Fine Arts degree, before eventually getting my MFA in Creative Writing. I would probably not be married or have children, because I wouldn’t have met my husband on a co-op term in Fort McMurray. I’d be hard around the edges, bristly from years of rejection. I would have travelled, perhaps even settling in the same city… but lacking the same context.

My alter-writing-ego seemed like a fantasy worth having when I was scrabbling to regain footing in my current reality. An alternative reality where I was a writer before anything else seemed enticing and thrilling. The haze of early parenthood held me hostage in that fantasy for too long, before I realized that what I was yearning for was a fiction I wouldn’t dare write.

It would have been cliche. Boring. Predictable.

Girl gets degree. Girl writes stories. Girl maybe has success. Girl maybe falls in love. Girl probably loses touch with what drove her to write in the first place. Girl is disillusioned. Girl ends up working at a dead end job until her mid-life crisis sets in and she writes once again.

When I made a commitment to myself earlier this year that this would be the year I reclaim my writer self, I had the same panicked thought over and over again.

“What if all the words are just… gone?”

I’ve had nightmares that every word I wrote was “the” or that every sentence was declarative, literal, and devoid of meaning. I still don’t believe it when my work is published on The Daily Crate. I’ve found myself wondering who’s sitting on the sidelines just waiting for me to slip up and reveal that I’m actually a fraud, only playing at “Writer”.

Becoming a writer is something that I’ve always wanted and secretly resented.

I am a writer.

(The only declarative I require.)

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  • To me you’ve always been a writer, and a damn good one at that! You inspired ME to write and be better at it than I thought I could be. Also, because of what you are doing now I was inspired to submit a short article to Scary Mommy. It was rejected due to being too similar to what they were already scheduling to run, but I sent it in and that’s a big step for me. I also wrote FanFiction because of you, and I started my blog because of you. So for all your fighting your inner writer you have done a pretty good job of being one. You, my friend, are no fraud. Loved this piece btw!