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.