Monday, February 18, 2013

Being Means Doing

It took me years to call myself a writer.

Now I can use the term in public--without that weird clog in my throat I used to get trying to make the words come out--but I'm still a fraud. I say, "I'm a writer."

But it isn't true. A writer, above all, writes. Notice the present tense. Better yet, make it present progressive: A writer is writing. Currently. Right now. Putting words on a page, revising, creating worlds and characters, designing suspenseful and meaningful plots, enjoying the Lego-like building and destruction that children enjoy.

A writer is planning query letters. Reading scenes aloud to hear the dialogue. Arranging words in their best order for poetry. Perhaps even finding a rhyme or two (though that's rarely me).

I have a friend who is a painter. She told me, "I try to make painting a priority--try to spend at least three days a week painting."

I asked her, "You get three days a week in? That's impressive."

She frowned at me, thought a bit, and said, "No, I get about one day every two weeks." Yet she is far more of a painter than I am a writer.

I do write. A little. I am writing this blog entry. I write a poem here or there. But mostly I just grade essays. Mostly I do laundry and dishes. Mostly I write business letters for my other jobs, assess journals for my classes, prep for teaching. Clean my house.

But I don't write. If I have a few minutes of free time, I go play piano. Hell, I even paint more than I write. I go to play rehearsal. I watch TV, even if I hate everything I watch. I fill my hours with tasks I dislike, instead of pulling back, taking days here and there just to write.

I still can't figure out why I do it, but I do it nonetheless. And until I start writing again, I'm not a writer.

Maybe someday I will be.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Why Do I Listen to Myself?

I have given in at times...

I've backed away from a challenge when people suggested I wasn't good enough to do something. I've held back from trying when I knew no one expected me to make it.

But I've also proven people wrong so many times. I wasn't supposed to marry my hubby--it wouldn't work, my family said--but we're about to celebrate 20 years of marriage. I was told not to try being a teacher (it wouldn't suit me), yet I've managed to get three degrees in English and teach for nearly as many years as I've been married. And I'm a good teacher. I'm interesting, I'm effective, and I'm fair but tough.

I've learned to ignore what people say. They are too quick to give up on me, to likely to be skeptical about my abilities, too likely to brush over me, dismiss me, ignore me.

But then my own inner voices come... and they tell me the same things... and I don't ignore them. I let them shove me down, pull me back, shiver me into a corner. I back away from challenge. I hold back, I keep quiet, I shut myself up entirely.

Why? Why do I listen? Why don't I slap those nasty voices into next week (oops, there's a bad pun), toss them in the trash where they belong, wash myself free of them in the shower, letting them go down the drain and disappear for good?

Better yet, why don't I try to SHOW them? I do this with outside people, but I don't challenge my own voices. Why don't I just see this as a challenge?

It's because they are me. They are my caution, my tact, my defensive mechanisms. These same voices keep me from saying stupid or mean things out of anger. Sometimes shutting up is the best choice, and I'm grateful when they help me make it, too.

I can't just chunk them out a random window. They are as much me as the determination, the work ethic, the sensitivity, the everything of me. But they need to go to their room sometimes, and let me work. They need to leave off. They need to go take a nap or something so that I can get back to writing without them screaming at me.

Wow. They're listening. I'm amazed. I can see their shoulders hunching a little in shame. I can see their sad looks. Their off to their rooms to think about what they've done. Are they giving me the day off? I sure hope so. I could use the afternoon for writing. Without their looking over my shoulder.

Now I'm off. If they pop their heads out, I'll just glare until the heads disappear. If they start grumbling, I'll turn on the radio to drown them out.

Maybe I should turn on the radio NOW.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Not So Philosophical

Sometimes I find it hard to think when everyone around me is screaming.

The amount of trauma drama all around me right now astonishes me. And I believe most of it is invented, self-inflicted, self-wounding. People raging all around at each other, then keening loudly because everyone has abandoned them. People taking everything personally. People harming each other, then wondering why others seem so ticked. What could the matter be?

Tough life.

Thank God I don't have to live it. Not because the swirling waters around all around my ankles, but because around my ankles they can't sweep me off to drown. I have to choose to walk into the deeper water.

I don't choose to. And I won't choose to.

Life is just life. It's good and bad. People are kind and cruel. But I have a choice. We all do. My choice is to do what makes me happy, avoid the trauma drama, and help my kids keep their equilibrium, too. So this morning, with the world falling all around me, I'm at peace, knowing that I have not lost my mind. I can calm the waters all around me, give my kids a chance to swim in the warm water, and have a glorious, sunny day.

Despite the trauma drama.