I watched a movie last year—Eat Pray Love with Julia Roberts. It wasn’t a great movie, but aside from the slow pacing and lack of real plot or character growth—there was a line in there that completely bugged me. To be fair, there were a lot of great lines, but this one has overshadowed all the others. It was a scene where Julia’s character was at a dinner table with a bunch of other people, and she was asked to share something about herself. She said, “I’m a writer . . .”
And the guy interrupted her and said, “That’s what you do—not who you are.”
Are you kidding me?
What real writer could have written that little nugget of untruth? I cannot agree with that statement—at least not for myself. And I pity the writer for whom this statement is true. I am a writer. Yes, it is what I do, but it is also very much who I am. It defines me in a lot of ways.
And I’m not talking about publishing and book contracts—those things are awesome and life changing, but they are merely a natural result of me being who I am.
I’m talking about being a writer. That is who I am. My life entirely revolves around words. I write in my personal journal, in the secret journals I keep for my children, letters to people I love, rants when I’m angry, poems when I feel sappy, novels when I feel creative, songs when I feel sad. I’m a writer. It is something I can’t NOT do. My life is wrapped up in the little moments that make up stories and I can’t help but see it that way.
In a class I had in high school, one of my writing teachers plopped a boot up onto her desk and said, “There’s a poem in there somewhere.”
And there was. There is. Every time. There’s a poem in everything, a story in a glance, words wound up tight in every step I take in life.
I once heard a writer at a conference share her secret fear. CS Lewis said that friendship is born the day someone shares something and you’re able to say, “Me too!”
I have her same secret fear. I am terrified I’m going to die and have nothing but lame and embarrassing rough drafts on my computer. I’m terrified that someone will actually go looking through this stuff, and read my absurd drivel, and then think that all that garbage they find on my hard drive defines the person I am. I’m afraid they’ll judge me on the actual content instead of realizing that the fact that everything is there–written down is what really defines me. It defines me as a writer.
I would like to say that I avoid the problem of what they’ll find on my computer by only writing brilliant things. My prose will reduce you to tears of joy, my metaphors are profound, my adverbs are scarce. And if I said all that, I would be lying.
Everyone has train wreck writing on their hard drives. The point is not what’s in it, but that it’s there. It exists.
Do we always succeed as writers? Will we all get the contracts, the big book deals, the New York Times best seller badge? No.
But we do get the relief of expelling all the jumbled messes weighing heavy on our brains onto paper. We give ourselves permission to create something from nothing. We get the joy of expression.
We try for the other stuff–the badges, accolades, and awards, even when the little green Jedi master tells us we don’t get the luxury of trying.
In my kitchen there hangs a plaque that I got from Josi Kilpack. It reads:
I will not live the life of a normal person. I am a writer.
It’s not just what I do. It’s who I am.