I was talking to a friend of mine from Canada yesterday and she asked me how my writing was going. I responded that apart from this blog, all other projects I’m working on seem to have stalled. It hasn’t reached the point where it bothers me yet. This happens to me quite frequently. I go through too many peaks and valleys. But, and I’m not sure if I hate her or love her for this, she asked me that when I’m going through my periods of drought, do I still call myself a writer. My initial response was yes. I scribble most days. I feel I need to. But perhaps my long answer is more accurate…
I am, for all intents and purposes, a writer. I seriously love to write. I even love writing when I can’t think of anything to write about. The thought of staring at a blank page, whether it is with pencil in hand, or on the screen of my laptop at home, excites me. The feeling I get when I manage to eke out a single word or random thought that propels me to something better is arguably the best feeling in the world. I am good with random thoughts. My attention span dwindles on most occasions and the random thought becomes my savior. My love of writing surpasses my love of reading, which is pretty voracious, and to spend an evening not writing used to be rare and painful for me. It’s more rare now to spend an evening writing but I do have my moments!
This addiction to write is healthy. This addiction to write allows me to call myself a writer. But when does using the term “writer” become a lie? What if, and maybe I’m not alone in this fear, that the writing I do will never see the light of day? What if I write with the knowledge that I will never seek publication for one reason or the other? Would I consider calling myself a “hobbyist” instead of a “writer”? If I never seek to publish, is writing merely a hobby rather than a necessity of my everyday life?
I write, but I don’t really publish. Does this make me any less of a writer than I claim to be? Yes I have a published book of 35,000+ words, but I am more embarrassed by that one book than I am proud of it. Surely that reaction alone stifles all thoughts I should have about me being a writer. Okay, so I have come to terms with the thought that the book isn’t as bad as I think it is, but I just can’t shake that thought. Is it cool to see it advertised on Amazon.com and know that someone paid me to write it and I didn’t have to pay to have it published? You better believe that it is indeed very cool. And when I see it on bookshelves or hear from friends back home that they saw someone buying my book I can’t deny that I don’t do a little fist pump in celebration.
Having tasted the exhilaration that comes with hearing someone wants you to write something for them and having suppressed the monumental urge to run out on the balcony and scream so everyone in the world could hear me “to go out and buy my book” when I was delivered the first copies, you would be right to assume that I wanted to immerse myself in that kind of euphoria again. And I do, I suppose, but I also suppose I’m scared shitless to try it.
For the last decade or so, I have rarely lacked confidence in anything I did. In fact, I think I can write anything I am asked. That is not a problem for me. The problem comes when I try and convince myself that it is any good. I know that all writers, even the ones named Stephen King, go through this dance on a daily basis. Sometimes this confidence comes across as arrogance. Hopefully, when you read about me “praising” my many virtues, you realize that I’m doing this in a very tongue in cheek manner. I am confident yes, but conceited no. I still blush when I get a compliment, damnit.
The first book I wrote for NaNoWriMo circulated among some people at the hospital I worked at and the early reviews were very positive. When someone comes up to me and says they laughed until they cried when reading so and so chapter I know the writing came out as planned. And this is just the first draft that was written in spare hours at night during only one month. Imagine if I sat back and edited it? I still might do that. But then, will it just sit on my desktop at home gathering electronic dust and never seeing the light of day? Probably. And I say probably because being an author who prides himself on his imagination and creativity, I can come up with some very imaginative and creative ways to tell myself no one would ever be interested in an over the top, hysterical, dating advice book for men. Many of the reasons I’d give I have used before when talking about any of the stories, articles, or even blog entries that I have managed to churn out over the years. The latest book I wrote during this past NaNoWriMo I had been working on in my ill-fated Creative Writing Masters program. The idea, I am told, is gold. Now to get the writing to at least a sterling silver kind of standard and see what becomes of it.
And maybe it is time to stop that sort of thinking. Maybe it is time that I took the title of “writer” seriously. Perhaps it is time to start to suck up a stream of rejection letters. I’m a big boy; I think I can take the onslaught of failure that might arrive if I start sending things out. I’ve faced failure before. I’ve been rejected for college courses, by girls at the bar, even been cut from sports teams for one reason or another, and all that happened on those occasions was that I set myself straight and worked harder to make sure it didn’t happen again.
I love success. I love everything about it. I love the smell of it. I love the new suit you get to wear when you’ve got that little bit extra lump sum in your bank account and you have a formal dinner to attend. I love that little rush of pride that spews from you like a beer from a frat boy on $1 half pint nights. I love the even tinier swell of humility I get when I think for an even tinier second that I don’t deserve the accolades or success. I could get spoilt by success and not have any reservations about it.
And so what exactly is success? Finishing a story is a success. Having a blog that is generating interest and garnering wonderful comments from wonderful people is a success. But don’t take this the wrong way; maybe it’s not enough for me. Maybe success for me will be measured when I start collecting rejection letters and contributor’s copies. It is time to take off my big girl panties and wallow in the despair that sometimes comes with being a writer. I tell myself this a lot, and maybe one time my stubborn old ass is going to listen.
Yes, I am a writer. I am proud to call myself one. And I’d love to throw a party for all of you and show off my collection of rejection letters. I won’t let them faze me. Anyone can get rejected and quit. I plan to get rejected and thrive. Judge me not be my failures. Judge me by the way I handle them. And the way my shoes and belt will match as I’m handling them. And yes, we’ll have that party here in Dubai. People really need to see this city at least once in their lives.