I have been spending a lot of time lately thinking about writing.
I always spend lots of time thinking about writing. All day, all the time, I think about writing. And when I sleep, I dream about writing.
True story: I had a dream last night that my coworkers and I were on a road trip and I had a backpack full of random things. Everyone dove into my backpack in a shark-like feeding frenzy and took everything inside it. When they had finished their frantic rummaging – those dirty jerks – I felt about the bottom of the bag for something – anything – that might be left. My arm emerged from the bag with a pen. And I was happy.
But happiness while writing doesn’t take away the fear of writing. The thing that makes me happiest is also the thing that terrifies me the most. Figure that out.
My friend Dan has reminded me a few times that nothing is precious. You just have to write…and write and write and write and write. And then trash all of it. And then write some more.
I am bad at trashing anything. Ask the 27 Barbies living like refugees in a rubbermaid tote in my parents’ basement. I choose to think they’re having a party in there, where neon leggings and shoulder pads are still all the rage, but the truth is that I am afraid to get rid of them because I believe, deep down, that there will come a moment in my life where I will need precisely 27 Barbies and two Kens and I will somehow, magically, be in my parents’ house when that moment arrives.
And I think that’s how it is with writing. I am afraid to start – to truly start – because it will mean facing days where I will feel I am not very good at it, this thing that makes me happiest. I am afraid to begin because it not only means hard work, but because it means work done, and re-done, and re-done again. I am afraid to start because maybe, deep down, I believe there will come a moment in my life where my novel magically comes pouring out and I will simply be a vessel for words from the heavens.
True story: I used to be afraid of running. My shorts would accidentally leap from the drawers during vigorous cases of laundry folding and I would shield my eyes as I shoved them back in. My Nikes would stare at me dolefully out of all of their 16 eyelets and my heart rate would rise as I thought about myself running, slowly, without purpose, and badly.
I just ran three miles. Just now, about two hours ago. I laced my shoes, cranked up Florence + The Machine and away we went, for three glorious, sweaty, red-faced miles.
I’m not a great runner. But I run and run and run and run and run. And now it’s not so scary.
This week, I am going to start writing. And writing. And writing. Because there is freedom in doing something that is scary. Just like there is freedom in talking about things that are scary (thanks for listening.)
There is also freedom in failing at something. Because as soon as I fail – or give up, or take a night off, or stop writing, it’s all the same – then I am one step closer to trying again, and being better.
This is my arm, emerging from the bag.
It is holding a pen.