I am considering doing a scary thing. After a year and a half of saying out loud that I was letting the first draft of my book sit, but secretly poking it in my mind over and over, I am now realizing I need to let it go completely. Let go of the idea that there even will be a second draft. Let go of my plans for what my life will look like as I go through the next stages of writing the book. Let go of my identity as a memoir writer, and claim the identity of stay-at-home mom. And let go of the idea that the last almost-six years have been a waste if I don’t finish and publish the book.
I don’t want to be a failure. I don’t want to be a person with a book in a drawer. I want to be a clever person who attends writing classes and readings and knows lots of local authors, some of them famous.
I realize I have become invested in the accoutrements of the identity of being a writer but not in, you know, actually writing. That recently, writing anything other than this blog has filled me with lethargy. I feel like I’m walking through molasses.
But here’s the thing: Lots of other people tell me I have to write. That they love what I’ve written. That they need me to write more. They even start tell me what I should be writing.
One of the reasons I have felt stuck is that I felt obligated by this kind of talk. I am not just letting myself down by abandoning my book. I’m letting them down.
It’s only by putting that into cold, hard print that I realize how ridiculous that sounds. No one else gets to tell me what I should do with my life.
But I’ve been hearing messages like this all my life: Succeed where I couldn’t. On the surface, people are rooting for me. From somewhere deep within me, it feels more like they’re throwing their arms around me, desperate to have me save them from drowning. Be famous and successful and eloquent like I could never be.
Every time my ability to write feels like an obligation, a thing I am required to use to serve other people and their dreams for me, I feel like lead inside my belly. When writing feels good is when I follow the words where they take me, get silly and weird, write what I want without worrying about solving all my problems or discovering the real reason buried in my past that I do X or Y.
I think I need to keep the subject of my writing secret for a while. Maybe I need to be a bit of a tease. I don’t want a cause people can learn about and claim for their own. I don’t want people to look at me and say, “Yes, of course, you are THIS kind of writer, and then you will write this and you should write that and someday you will look like this.” I’d like to defy characterization a little.
I seem to be very sensitive to what I perceive to be other people’s needs. Right now the need I must focus on is my own, or really, the needs of my muse. She is shy, but stubborn, and she does NOT like to be bossed around. She’s perfectly happy to walk away like a diva if her own needs are not being met. She wants neither worship nor an iron fist. She responds best to a kind of sideways glance, where you’re working away next to her and you look over and say, “Huh. Cool,” and then keep on working.