Writing a book is weird and hard. I know..not hard like farming or construction or being a doctor or a police officer. I don’t mean that, of course. I mean, it’s mentally draining and it’s full of a lot of self-doubts, even if you’re just doing it mainly for fun like I am.
I am at the tail end of the first draft of ‘A New Beginning‘ and it is kicking my brain to the curb. I stare into space, trying to work out an issue I’m having with it or writing a scene in my head while I’m cooking dinner or a kid wants to show me something. It’s a bit like being stuck in a self-made prison and even when you try to escape it, your muse or whatever it is comes back and whispers “Hey! I have another idea! Let’s go write!” That is all fun and aggravating at the same time. Why won’t my creative muse pick a different time to try to inspire me.
I could completely relate to the author in Stranger Than Fiction, which we watched this week because I saw me in her tortured behavior as she tried to finish her book, without the extra alcohol and cigarettes. Writers don’t just write because they like it or they want others to read it.
They write because they have to, because if they don’t it will gnaw at their insides until they are raw and aching for release or numb and depressed, begging to be put out of their misery. It’s like a painter or a photographer or anyone who creates in some way.
They have to create or their spirit wilts from the lack of artistic, creative stimulation. When you are a creative person, you can only wash so many dishes, cook so many meals, sweep so many floors, milk so many cows, assemble so many parts for cars or machines, before your spirit screams at you to breathe life into it again.
You have to do all those mundane things of life, of course, and sometimes you don’t mind doing them, but sometimes you need to do something creative as well.
I made my living as a writer for 14 years or so, but never really called myself a writer. That’s weird, I know. I still don’t call myself a writer. I’m not really that good, I tell myself. Slapping a label on myself like “I’m a photographer” or “I’m a writer” feels weird. I can easily say “I’m a mom,” because I have the kids to prove it. I can say, “I’m a wife,” because I have the husband to prove it.
Art, though, is subjective. I can feel like a writer or a photographer or an artist but until someone says I am, I’m not, or at least that’s what I think some days.
Last week, sitting by the tub, waiting for my daughter to finish one of her epic-long baths, I rambled out loud my debate about enrolling my one and only book in Kindle Unlimited or not, as if a 5-year old cares.
“I like your job, Mama,” my daughter said.
“What job?” I asked, since I, and the state of Pennsylvania, think of myself as “unemployed.” It says so, right on our taxes: unemployed, which in the United States also seems to mean “uninteresting, unimportant and unworthy.”
“You’re writing job,” she said with a grin, spinning in the water. “You’re a writer.”
My 5-year old thinks I’m a writer and, in the end, what my family thinks is all that matters anyhow.