There is nothing worse than to walk around for months and years with a story in my head, in my being, that cries, yearns, to get out.  Maybe I started writing it, got deep into it, but put it down because…well life made its way in between me and the page.  Days and days I would sit in class thinking about the story.  I laugh out loud in the line in the grocery store because my characters have emerged in this untimely manner and they’ve started to dialogue in my head though I’m miles away from my writing pad.  I sit behind a desk of a temp job, my left brain reconciling expense reports while my right brain is wrestling the fate of the life of a main character, does he die of cancer or does he live to become a great artist?  But instead, his fate lies in limbo, because I, the channeler of his fate, lacked the courage to say no to the demands of life. Yes, I have to pay the bills, yes, I have to go to school, yes, I have to sleep.  I had to decide when I would say, Yes, I have to write.

I have learned, to be a writer, the work cannot be an if. It must always be a when.  It is a commitment that must have room to express itself.  It is not something to put on a list of priorities.  If you wish to accomplish yourself as a writer, it is a priority.  To get writing done is not to attach it to financial gain, or if you have a publisher or agent. To adopt that perspective is basically to adopt failure, as a runner doesn’t win a gold medal every time one practices in the years getting to that medal. 

My writing life shifted when I had the rare opportunity to meet the author I aspired to be, Octavia Butler.  When she asked me why I hadn’t finished a novel, I told her I didn’t have time as I was in school full time.  She told me that I had to plan, even if it was months in advance, to save up money, to plan time in the summer, or whenever, that would be writing time.  She told me I had to find that time, plan it, and make it happen. It had to take that kind of commitment and priority.

I have learned that to hold on to stories year after year means a piling up of a wasted gift.  It becomes a festering reminder of something you’ve given up or put aside because well…life happened.  It’s amazing how many people I’ve met who have told me that they had dreams to be a writer and even 20 years later still wonder if it was an endeavor they could have accomplished.  And if it is 20 years later, what is stopping them now?      

I see not writing as a refusal to embrace the muse.  To submit means to give yourself to a creative dance with words, a life that pulls on you that others may not understand.  You may not even understand it, but this is one of those choices you may not be able to deconstruct with your left brain, or 20 years will go by.  This, is a choice of trust.


Posted on April 30, 2011, in Fidelity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Beautifully put, and important, a gift to women in particular who write. Thank you.

    • A.L. Radcliffe

      Hello Arya, Thanks for stopping by. I love your blog, especially what you wrote about cafes. I’m sure many great works are created in bookstore cafes and coffeeshops! When we announce that we’re going to the “office” that’s where we head!

  2. thanks for visiting my blog. I am following yours with interest because for the last twenty years I have coasted along on my poetry, getting published as a children’s and an adult poet, but I have been cruising. A month ago I made a decision that I want to move on to prose, aiming for a short story but this has proved an immense hurdle. So I visit posts like yours for inspiration, to remind me to stay on the journey

  3. It’s amazing how many people I’ve met who have told me that they had dreams to be a writer and even 20 years later still wonder if it was an endeavor they could have accomplished.

    Thanks for sharing this, Asata. Only recently have I started telling people (outside my family) that I’m working on a novel. Yesterday, I had an experience similar to the ones you mention here. I was volunteering for a local organization earlier this week. A woman I met there used to be a journalist at our city’s newspaper, then switched gears to do business writing. But there was a wistful look in her eyes when I talked about my writing. She insisted that she’d love write a book, if only she didn’t have her children, her exhausting job, volunteer work…. We must make writing a MUST!

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