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On Being a Real Writer

Yesterday, I was supposed to have a “me” day. My husband left to go watch football with some friends –he wouldn’t be back until evening. My son was working—who knows when he would be home. I’ve been going non-stop for the last six months. Finally, a day all to myself!

The dog and I padded around the house. No laundry needed doing. No hairballs rolled across the floors.

I sat down at my computer. Lately, I’ve been thinking that I should turn all the poems I’ve written over the years into a book, and all the memoir-bits into a memoir, and it really was time to revise the draft of my novel (again). I had piles of papers and folders in front of me. Where should I begin? I started typing some handwritten memoir pages just to get going. Then I re-read what I’d written. Everything seemed flat on the page. I felt my shoulders tightening. I looked at a couple poems, skimmed through the first thirty pages of my novel. I hated it all. What was I thinking? I was wasting my time. I wasn’t a real writer after all!

I went and sat on the deck and read a novel. It was good, and I got all caught up in it. I’ll never be as good a writer as this, I thought. She’s a REAL writer. I went inside. I felt like crying. I made myself some buttered noodles for dinner.

When my husband came home, he was smiling. He had a good day. He was happy to see me. “Why didn’t you eat there?” I lit into him. “Now I have to cook for you?” His face fell. He sat on the chair stolidly eating leftovers and saying nothing. Meanwhile, I tiraded along… How come he didn’t think I was a REAL artist? How come he thought his friends were more talented than me? And how come he didn’t respect me as a writer? He just looked at me blankly. Then I stomped upstairs and threw myself on the bed. My husband tiptoed around the house. I could almost hear the bewilderment in his footsteps.

By the time he came to bed, all the anger in me had deflated, and I was left with a lost feeling. “It’s not you that I’m mad at,” I said. “You didn’t do anything. It’s me. I’m no good,” I told him. “I’m not a real writer. I’m just a black hole,” I said.

“No, you’re not. That’s just insecurity. Why do you have that after all you’ve done, all you’ve written? Haven’t you proved ANYTHING to yourself yet?”

I shook my head. “I’m not good enough to be a writer,” I said.

“Of course you are.”

“Not a REAL writer.”

“What do you mean by real?”

I shrugged. “You know…good.”

It went on like this in circles. I won’t bore you.

My husband just held me for a while. He has strong arms and a warm solidness that makes you want to lean into him. Which is what I did. And fell asleep.

This morning, the sun is shining. I have the voice of one of my teachers echoing in my head. “Get out a fresh sheet of paper,” she always says. I love the way she says “fresh.” It sounds so clean. So hopeful.

So I got out a fresh sheet of paper and started writing. I still hear the voices coming out of the black hole inside of me—“You’re not good enough, etc.” But I’m writing over them.

Being a writer is like building a bridge. You make a solid structure where once there was just air. We all build our selves the same way. We build our lives that way too. We make ourselves real. As the velveteen rabbit says, “It happens bit by bit…”

Sometimes the bridge is fragile and teetering. Some days, it’s more sure, and I can even run across it. Some days, like yesterday, it collapses, and I fall into the black hole. But today, I’m building the bridge again. Word by word.

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