The issue with telling everyone that you're a writer is that suddenly everyone starts holding you accountable to your "writerly" claims, even if that isn't their intention.
This winter I've had countless conversations like this:
Other person: So how's your winter going?
Me: Good. Really busy, but good.
Other person: Doing lots of writing?
Me: Erm . . . yes. No. Kind of. Well . . . I've been busy.
Sure I've been writing this winter. Article assignments. Radio scripts. Naturalist guides. Marketing plans. Blog posts.
My everyday paying work has me writing a lot, but for whatever reason, when people ask if I've been writing, my initial gut reaction is "No." My freelance business revolves around writing and that little business has been doing quite well for itself this winter. The assignments get written, the invoices go out, the checks come in.
But when people ask if I've been writing, my mind always jumps to the creative realm and if you're asking if I've been writing creatively, the answer is a resounding "No!" I've been furiously pedaling my business writing bike at what can sometimes feel like a scary speed, while my creative writing bike gathers dust out back.
In my mind, my business writing bike is a rather dull mountain bike that defies description. It's useful, it's hard working, and it ensures you keep making regular contributions to your IRA. My dusty creative writing bike on the other hand is painted shades of pink and purple, has a banana seat and a plastic basket in front studded with pink and purple plastic flowers. It's not exactly sexy, but it's a good mood elevator, if nothing else.
In the early days of this blog, I wrote a lot about the novel I was in the process of rewriting. In the end, the novel got edited, queried around to literary agents, received the teensiest of teeny weeny nibbles from a couple literary agents, and now lives, neglected, on my hard drive. In the end, I realized even if the novel's writing was decent enough, the plot needed a major overhaul before the manuscript should make any more rounds in the literary agent circle and that even then, I might not have a strong enough story for publication. That's okay. But just as the sun set on that literary goal, right when I should have been making some new creative writing goals, I started to get busy with article assignments and other work obligations.
When I was down in the Cities last month, I discovered a couple copies of my college's annual literary and artistic journal from the years we attended college on her bookshelf. I leafed through pages, wondering what I'd submitted, and discovered the stuff I'd gotten published really wasn't half bad. Not award winning literature, for sure, but still, not too shabby. As I read through some of my old poems and essays, I found myself missing how my brain feels when it's working to find just the right word for a poem.
For a few years after graduation, I still had submissions for that literary and artistic journal (which accepts submissions from alums) each year. But this year will be the second year in a row where I have nothing to submit. Nada. Nary a poem or short story in sight.
It's so easy to let our creative writing go as we move firmly into adulthood. Poems, short stories, and essays in general don't generate much income. They're also greedy little buggers, demanding so much of our time and brain power if they're going to be any good. And so instead we opt for the billable hours. We shove the novel drafts in the proverbial bottom drawer and tell ourselves that we'll work on it next. Next year. Next year.
They say that getting back into writing is just like riding a bike. And every once in a while, we have to ask ourselves, which bike are we riding? Even if there's not time to ride my creative writing bike all day, every day, doesn't it deserve to be taken for a spin every once in a while? How will I write a published novel if the bike's collecting dust in the corner month after month? How can Judd Apatow produce my screen play if I never write it?
2013 has proven to be a year of resolve and determination this year thus far. Now, as I eye that forgotten, but still lovely bike, I wonder, is it worth it? What if it has a flat tire and doesn't work properly at first? Will it just be another thing to feel guilty about not doing if I make some bold resolution to write 500 words a day or for half an hour each morning?
I don't know the answers. I just know I miss it.