Procrastination is a survival tactic I utilize often to avoid hard things.
So, when I read You Are Enough, by Positive Writer I accepted it as a sign to move forward…or sideways… or anywhere other than remaining stagnant within my own story.
Is writing a calling?
Is it ingrained in one’s DNA?
Do children realize they have the talent to be the next Dr. Seuss when their teacher is reading Green Eggs and Ham before recess?
This wasn’t the case for me, but I've always been a passionate reader. R.L Stein, Nancy Drew, VC Andrews, Christopher Pike and Stephen King consumed my time and imagination while growing up. My bookshelves overflowed and I found comfort hidden within library stacks.
The power to write boiled to the surface around the same time acne and hormones made their debut. My writing flourished with teenage angst. Anger, confusion and shyness found an outlet within the pages of my own creativity.
I’d sit within the safety of my bedroom. Door closed. Alone. No one to disturb the raw, honest feelings that flowed through me. A few of my pieces were published in my high school's literary journal and a confidence I lacked, in other aspects of life, flourished.
So, I continued writing to survive my own shortcomings…and high school.
Until I didn’t.
My breakup with writing began with a toxic relationship at eighteen. One day I was plotting my next story and suddenly naive decisions led to self-destruction. Okay…maybe the words "self-destruction" are a bit dramatic, but EVERYTHING was dramatic at that age.
Then, a teenage pregnancy muddled the waters and single motherhood took priority. My journals, stories, and poetry descended to the bottom of a bitter cesspool. Yes, again with the dramatics but honestly...100% accurate.
Over time, I made healthier choices. I met the love of my life and had two more children. Life continued and I placed the "call" to write on silent. Instead, I chose to read my children bedtime stories written by other's who were far braver than I.
Writers are emotionally charged beings.
My oldest left for college in 2013 and I felt a shift. The urgency to write buzzed beneath my skin and I finally allowed my creativity the attention it craved.
I created a blog for purely selfish reasons. To fill my time. To tell my story. To prove to myself that I was worthy of the words I had silenced for so long. Over the next few years I published over seventy posts, joined writing groups and attended conferences. I published two small pieces in literary magazines, but even though I was producing, writing overwhelmed me.
There were so many questions and so much to learn.
Did I have a distinct"voice"? (I am told to I do?)
What genre would I write in? (ALL! ANY!)
Do I plot? (NO)
Am I a pantser? (ALL THE WAY!)
The answers to these questions came to me over time.
Five years later...
I have continued to write and study the craft, even while standing knee-deep within another parental shift. My middle child recently moved away to college and my baby entered high school. (These common, yet no-less emotional life adjustments are a bitter-sweet subject that I’ll save for another time.)
At least five times a day I wonder, “What if…?" and, for me, the answer always comes back to writing.
Being a writer is not a choice, but writing is.
You must DO the work. You must WRITE. And writing is so damn hard.
Just like a bruised and bloodied boxer needs a brief escape from the fight to be patched up, so does a writer. Retreat to your corner, practice self-care or self-preservation…whatever you define it as - whatever you need to recharge your focus - just DO IT!
Then, step back into the fight and WRITE.
There are rules and advice given by many. I have read dozens of books on the craft of writing. Too many to recommend all of them, but I do have one favorite that I'd like to share with you. If you are feeling lost within the writing world of “do’s and don’ts”, check out Patricia McLinn’s book, A Survival Kit to Writer’s Who Don’t Write Right.
McLinn helped me understand and accept a beautiful truth…There is no right or wrong way to be a writer.
So, is writing a calling?
Yes and no.
The definition of calling is: a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation.
Was I urged by my own inner conscious to write as a teen? Yes. And again as an adult? Yes.
Yet, I feel it is more of a need required for survival; like air, sunshine and food. Writing is part of my identity. It is not a vocation or career choice. It is a life choice. (Again with the dramatics, but truthful.)
The forgiveness of a blank page seduces me. The intense power of an unfinished manuscript mystifies me beyond explanation. I am not a plotter. Nor do I write linear. Some of what I write is complete and total crap. Some projects may never be published. And all of this is okay.
All of this is okay, because I choose to do the hard thing. I choose to enjoy my crazy and beautiful story. I choose to survive. I choose to write.
Donna Janell Bowman
What a powerful post, Jennifer! It is scary to feel vulnerable but empowering to take a stand. You are a writer. Let us hear you roar through your words.