I am a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend. I think I may be a writer, but I am too afraid to voice those words. I have nothing to go on, only a feeling, some terrible poems I wrote in sixth grade, a few decent essays in high school and college, and again, this tug to pick up a pen and write.
Perhaps even stronger than my need to write is the responsibility I feel as that wife, mother, daughter, friend. Writing takes hours a day; when I’m not physically putting down words, I am writing them in my head. What starts out as a tug turns into an embrace and I don’t feel I can be this selfish with my time.
So everything else, everyone else, comes first.
But at 2 am, the feeling isn’t a tug; it’s a drill sergeant shaking me awake. Characters flick on the overhead light in my brain and I can no longer sleep for the glare and the noise. They grab my hands and pull. Careful not to wake my husband, I slip out of bed and take a legal pad and pen downstairs. A couple of hours later, I have the beginning of a novel.
I don’t sleep much the next ten years, but that’s okay. I help my husband start a business out of our home and it does well. I drive five hours a day, ferrying our four children to their sixteen different activities, and they bloom. When everyone’s home, I carry my legal pad from room to room and finally drag a chair out into the yard where it’s less distracting. It’s better than okay.
Our youngest child starts preschool, and now there are a couple of quiet hours here and there when I can sit and write, join a critique group, practice making my characters speak and move in ways that express something deeper than mere dialogue and gestures would suggest. Some days I feel my ability swell.
But most of the time between the tug and the work, I hear the critic in my head, the same nasally harpy who told me I wasn’t Picasso so put down the brush. A degree in fine art, professors who believed, all were silenced by this inner critic, the only voice I could hear at the time. But I am older now, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, and the people in my life believe in me. This time, maybe I should too.
So I embrace my manuscript, a thriller — not literary — get over it. Literary or not, I stretch with every ounce of will in me to make each word, each sentence, every page and every chapter the best I can, and when I am done, ten long years later, I am spent. I tell my husband I have finished and burst into tears.
But of course I am not. The manuscript is too long, too complicated, unfocused, and there is a whole other side of this business to learn. I study everything I can find on agents, queries, synopses, and publishing. It’s brutal out there. The inner harpy returns.
Most days I can shove her away, but I’m not going to lie, there are moments I almost quit. It’s the tug that refuses to let me. It’s my husband, mother, children, friends, who refuse to let me. I lift up my head and go on.
Writing a query is daunting. Writing a synopsis seemingly impossible. Finding an agent too ridiculous and far-fetched to consider. Instead of being discouraged, I open my arms. Published or not, I have held nothing back, and as I mail the manuscript, I know there is no disgrace in believing.
Questions For The Day:
- Do you feel you must be published before you can call yourself a writer?
- Does guilt keep you from writing? How do you strike a balance between family and writing?
- What do you sacrifice to write?
- What keeps you from throwing in the towel?