I read many blogs from the writing community. A common theme weaves into their accounts when they talk about writing. They each say they have to write because the characters in their heads make them do it. A recent comment, “If your characters want you to write the story, they will haunt you until you do write the story,” caught my attention. Actually, it stopped me dead in my tracks. These authors live to write and write to live. They’re dedicated. Focused. If they didn’t have writing, they wouldn’t have anything. I look at these sentences trying to find myself in them. Instead, I’m left doubting if I’m actually a writer.
I think about my stories. There are times where I think about them a lot. It comes when I’m avoiding 8-5 work, drowning out fighting children, or in between choruses on my drive home. I play out scenes. I act out dialogue. Try out a couple jokes on myself. But I can turn it off. In fact, I can easily distract myself with the other million things I like to do. There are kids, concerts, and cookies to fill in the seconds I choose not to think about writing.
I don’t have a compulsion. When I take a break from the book to give a fresh eye before an edit, I have no regrets. I enjoy living the non-writer life in doing things with people. (Lemon drops come to mind.) I play on the internet and catch a little television if there’s been something I find exceptional. Damn you, Mad Men. Does this make me a bad person? A bad writer? Is it my subconscious confirming what my doubt tells me everyday? “You are not a real writer.”
Being a writer is so subjective. Do you graduate to full-fledge writer when you type THE END on your first novel? Is there a special initiation when you land your agent? Or an acceptance to a secret society when a hard cover shows your name on the binding? Or are you only a real writer when you spit out the sentence about not being controlled by your fictional characters?
The uncertainty can drown you on a daily basis. Or maybe it’s only me who gets caught in the affirmation undercurrent. I find myself looking for any sign I’m on the right path in this writer’s journey. Especially times like now, when I’m fighting to get back to my WIP or start the query process for another.
The other night when I told my Tragic friend about my dilemma, she wrote out some wise words. “Just write. Right?” In fact, she suggested I put it on a shirt. (I thought she referred to another sentence which would be good on a shirt when I wrote — “Where are all the dicks jokes?”) Her idea is simple. To the point. Stop worrying about all the other bullshit of “should I’s” and “what ifs” and stick to the part I enjoy. Enjoy the process of getting to know my characters instead of being haunted by them. Keep telling their stories even if an agent isn’t around the corner. Most of all write because that’s what I want to do.