Here's the not-so-pretty scene:
Me, idling in my car, three kids squawking in the back, waiting to pick up the fourth, scrolling through Facebook like I am wont to do. And there it was. Staring at me. An innocuous Facebook announcement from a well-loved and notable writer promoting her new endeavor. That's how, I’m sure, it was read by most scrollers. But, to me, it may as well have been a neon sign blaring. . . .
Sorry, sucker. Too bad for you. I took your chance. You have nothing to say. There's not enough room for all of us writer folks. Give up. Be done. Sling snacks to little kids because that is all you have the time, energy, and talent to do. And freaking organize your house, return emails and phone calls before hell freezes over, finish the laundry, get in shape QUICK before summer comes, and for the love of Pete, GET YOUR GRADES SUBMITTED BEFORE THEY ARE LATE AND STUDENTS START STALKING YOU AT TARGET. Oh, also, did you realize your shirt is on backwards AND inside out? Gah!! What is WRONG with you?
I'm spewing all this vitriol in my own direction because one of my favorite writer/bloggers has been invited to write for an organization I love. Not only love, but aspire to write for myself. Not only aspire to write for myself, but long to be an intimate part of that particular community of smart, thoughtful, faithful people.
I surprised myself by being reduced to hot, angry tears. All I could think about was how this woman, who I truly admire, was living THE WRITING LIFE OF MY DREAMS. I bought into the notion that there is a limited space for creative people out there, and she just took my place because I was too busy schlepping kids hither and yon to get anything done. I'm late to the party! There certainly isn't enough room for me. Now this (extremely talented) writer is now surrounded by the people that I would give my right arm to be working alongside. Not that it was ever even a viable option for me in reality, but WHATEVER.
I feel indicted. . .indicted by my own lack of commitment to the craft of writing, by my lack of showing up for myself everyday on the page, for not just going for it, and for letting my dream be deferred, one snack request and laundry load and text message at a time.
BUT. More than all of that, I feel profoundly, deeply, desperately afraid to be rejected.
I'm afraid to FAIL.
So I don't get to work.
I make excuses.
I create habits and activities and tasks that prohibit me from working. I escape and feed my Bravo TV habit. (But, in my defense, I also read the Bravo blogs! It's studying the craft of writing, OKAY?).
The differences between me and my envied writer/blogger may be legion, in that she has real, quantifiable, actual talent, and I scratch out missives on a teeny tiny little blog, but there's definitely one glaring difference between us: she works. As in, gets up every morning before her kids and gets her work done. Me, not so much.
In studying the habits of writers, I realized that I'm not alone. Stalling, procrastinating, self-defeating self talk, the shame spiraling. . . all writers cope with it. The ones that succeed just push through all the nonsense and do their work.
Here's the amazing thing. The writer who "took my place" didn't take anything from me. In fact, she is one of the biggest advocates of aspiring writers out there. Which, frankly, annoys me even more in this moment. She is magnanimous AND talented? GAH!!! She makes it so hard to be mad at her.
Hear me. You have a race that no one else can run. So please run.
Please run. Despite my jealousies and histrionics, I resolved that I do not want to write for just fun, or for accolades, or even for the prospect of being read. I just want to write as my work. Because by writing, I may, in fact, work out my life. The process of running my race and writing my stories. . . it helps me to determine what I think, feel, believe. Through wrestling with words and ideas, I can see who I might become. The process of writing could be life-giving for me, and maybe (cringe!) for others as well. And these "others" don't have to read my work in the New York Times or on HuffPost, although, who wouldn't like that? Maybe some folks will just read what I have to say in an email. Or on my wee little blog. Or not at all.
Tears are wiped dry. Sighs released. A congratulatory Facebook message is sent to the writer that unknowingly sparked all of this angst.
I don't have any more time to waste. It's time to get to work.
My life is waiting.