The following story is the first story I published for money as a public blogger.
I’ve been a writer since before I could read. I would make up stories and my mom would type while I told them. I would illustrate the stories on the page below her typewritten words. Much was made of these books I “wrote”. This continued until long after I learned to read around the age of four. By the time I entered into my tween years, I started to distance myself from my mother and began keeping my own diary. I wrote in it sporadically for years.
I wrote my first poem at the age of fourteen after seeing the movie Pink Floyd: The Wall (1982).
When the Dove explodes
And the Hawk is born
From the Earth flesh is torn.
In hindsight, this poem is far from profound. It is also inaccurate. In the movie, during the song “Goodbye Blue Sky” (Roger Waters 1979) an animated Dove explodes and turns into a double-headed eagle. Perhaps, even as early as fourteen, I was able to take artistic license in the name of the elegant flow of sound. I doubt it. As juvenile and inaccurate as that poem was, it was also the beginning of a life-long writing habit.
When people ask me: “Are you writing?” the answer is always a resounding “YES!” followed by a small, silent, and guilty “no.”
I am always writing. ALWAYS. Even when I am not putting actual words down on physical paper, I am writing. To be accurate, I suppose I should call it composing, but since it feels like writing, I have always called it writing. In my head, I constantly narrate the world around me. I note the trivial and the meaningful alike with delicious turns of phrase. If I’m awake, I’m writing.
I write in my sleep, too. I dream write. I literally dream the written word. My dream images sometimes take the shape of typewritten pages flowing past my mind's eye, or a disembodied pen inscribing words in the air. Other times I dream myself reading the dream story in a paperback book so vivid that I think I can actually smell the old, crumbling, sepia pages. Rarely do I remember the words I have dreamed, only the images and the emotions which they evoked.
My physical pen-to-paper writing has been consistent enough for my husband (who has known me for thirty-eight years), to answer when asked what he thinks I am the most passionate about, “Writing!” I enthusiastically start a “real” writing project; a children’s book, YA novel, or my memoirs; bound and determined to stick to it and rise into the lofty realm of professional writer, only to slowly fizzle out into insecurity and apathy. At which point I give in and give up.
Until recently, after yet another self-perceived flop, I stopped writing altogether for well over a year. I didn’t even mentally compose or narrate my surroundings. I didn’t dream write. My mind descended into a blank blackness.
A few months ago, my brain slowly lifted out of its self-made darkness and I began again. I told myself “It’s just journaling.” And it was. It started out slowly. I forced myself to write just a sentence or two in my journal every day. Pretty soon, I was writing for twenty minutes every morning. This turned into every morning and just before bed. When I found myself stopping at my desk several times a day to make journal entries, I realized I wanted to write, physically write, to the exclusion of all else. Including paid employment. I decided it was time to find a way to do this full-time.
I read everything I could get my hands on about getting paid to write. I found plenty of how-to articles about making schedules, developing rituals, and following my passions. I found a platform on which to submit essays and stories. I made lists; lists of essay ideas, lists of catchy titles, and lists of topics about which I am passionate. I made a list of writers I admire and styles I would like to emulate. I listed my writing goals and made plans and schedules to achieve them. I set my intentions in writing just before bed hoping to enlist the help of my subconscious mind. I did everything I had been advised to do.
And it worked.
The other morning I dreamed I was writing an epic love poem to my husband. Before the crust was out of the corners of my eyes, the words were gone. The realization that my greatest passion is my love for my husband remained.
I wrote him a love letter. Actual words on physical paper.
After I transcribed and copied it to the platform, I remembered I needed to add a photo. I took a bunch of pictures with my phone and added the least horrible. Before I could really think about it or talk myself out of it I pulled the trigger and hit publish.
I am terrified.
I am terrified of not being read. Terrified of being read. Terrified to fail. Terrified to succeed.
My terror made me write this piece. I will continue writing despite my fear and because of it.
I will continue to pull the trigger and hit publish.
There’s no going back now.
This story originally appeared in The Start Up on Medium September 14, 2019