When I was sixteen, I wanted to be a writer. (There’s an amusing anecdote regarding that decision, involving me falling off a horse in Australia, but… not today) Thus, when I went away to college two years later, I signed up to major in English, with a concentration in Creative Writing. As I fought my way through the hazards of college, I held to my goal all the way.
Then came the dreaded After College. During battles with jobs and lack of jobs and general life issues, writing came and went. I was still determined to be a writer, but making a living had to be first priority. After a few years, I resigned myself to the constant guilt. A few years later, writing dropped even lower on the list as I went back to school for an interactive design degree.
If web design had existed in 1993, I might well have pursued it instead of writing. As most writers know, words rarely pay the bills. Design is my second love, next to writing/reading, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to learn about and later work in that field. No complaints there. Alas, no writing either.
At some point a few years ago, I declared that I was no longer a writer. There was a lot of angst behind that decision, but in the end I felt it necessary. Thinking of myself as a writer while not producing work meant that I was a failure. So I gave myself permission to do what I’d been doing all along – not write.
This led me to be able to focus on other things, and allowed me more freedom than I’d felt in a long time. Now that I’ve become more comfortable with not writing, I’ve discovered that it’s easier to put words down than it used to be. I am no longer defining myself by artificial limitations. Strangely freeing, that.
Right now I am Not A Writer and also Not A Web Designer. The latter is, alas, a factor of the current job market. And so I find myself with an excess of free time. I won’t lie, there’s not been much writing so far… but there’s also been a lot of dealing with life issues and trying to make ends meet and the like. Some days, getting out of bed is my biggest accomplishment.
But lately, I’ve been needing a bit more action, so to speak. So I started this blog; I read up to a book a day, so there’s a lot of fodder, and I spend enough time grumbling at the books as is, I might as well do something practical with that energy. Both of my degrees put great emphasis on constructive criticism and proper critique methodology; thus it seems only natural that I start a review blog. I am only now, as I begin this endeavor, recognizing how much my skill in critical interpretation has evolved purely due to constant internal use.
Of course, reading so much has also sparked a number of ideas rattling around my brain. I’ve recently determined that a storyline I’ve been fiddling with for nearly 20 years has evolved beyond all recognition; in fact, I just chopped out the original main character and put her in a completely different universe, while maintaining the original storyline with a new main character. So now I have two universes to populate, and of course they go in opposite directions. (This will likely be fodder for future blog posts) I’ve also come up with a few new prospects, as well as reviving old friends. I can tell that I wouldn’t have been able to justice to these concepts when I was A Writer.
Even if I somehow magically find a way to write full-time, I may never rescind my Not A Writer status. I’ve seen so many turns on “you can’t call yourself a writer if…,” and maybe that really is what works for some people. Being A Writer involves a constant struggle to retain that identity, and constant “you’re not good enough” internal monologues. I follow enough writer blogs to know that even successful authors mainline the guilt.
That’s why I prefer the freedom of writing for the writing, not because it is something that defines me. I am not less because I did not finish that story or I had to chuck that blog post. I am me, and if that includes writing, well, fine by me. If it doesn’t, I don’t lose anything. And I’m perfectly happy either way.