note to self: it’s okay to be a writer

note to self: it’s okay to be a writer

If you’re awake at 4 a.m., you might as well get up and write something.

Instead of peering over the edge of the bed, staring into the tiny screen of the smart phone perched on the side rail, trolling the internet, go ahead and roll out to the dining room table. It’s summer in the northwest. It’ll be light in about five minutes.

* * * * *

There’s always something. Some reason not to write . . .

You write for a living and sometimes have nothing leftover. You’ve spent your words at work.

You’re a perfectionist. You write and write and can’t seem to make it right. See that seventeen-inch high stack of papers that should be a book by now?

What if no one reads it? What if it angers people? What if I say something stupid?

Everybody writes. What could you possibly write about that hasn’t been written?

The bathtub and shower need to be scrubbed. Look at that grout! It’s a disgrace.

You let the slugs eat the lettuce you planted. All of it.

You have a hundred thousand pictures in boxes and on hard drives that should be organized into albums.

You have a stack of patterns and fabric in the loft, waiting, waiting, waiting.

You would so much rather look at houses, recipes, magazines . . . imagine renovations . . . Why weren’t you a Home Ec major again? (Oh yeah, maybe the neglected bathroom, lettuce, photos and fabric . . .)

You feel guilty.

That’s it, isn’t it?

You start to write and remember messages you haven’t answered. Phone calls to make. Thank you letters. Birthday cards. Friends you’ve neglected. People you keep saying you’re going to have over and never do. That prayer group you’ve been thinking about starting for seven years — wow, has it been that long?

You beat yourself up about failures. You know that, right? You let them get the best of you.

Yes, some of that guilt is good. It’s a reminder to pull your head out of those deep thoughts and see the people around you. We all lean toward our own interests and not the interests of others. You’re naturally self-centered — just like everyone is to one degree or another — and sometimes have to fight it off with a baseball bat. For you, a person energized by solitude, this is often a real struggle. But a worthwhile one. Make yourself act on the small voice whispering call, go, speak. Face your fears.

You have a tendency to fold inward, especially when you are feeling inadequate. Which, if you haven’t noticed, has been happening more and more. You are less confident than you have ever been. And for you, who once thought she knew it all, that’s actually a very good thing. But there is a time to unfold.

Sometimes, though, you need to understand . . . your failures aren’t really even failures. It’s just how you’re made.

You’ve always, always, always written your thoughts. (You’d be the most amazing pen pal if you weren’t so easily distracted.)

You’ve always been a dreamer. A strategist. You have thoughts about so very many things.

You are a ponderer and you are becoming more of one every day.

You see story everywhere. Even walls speak.

You see a connectedness in things. You stare at a clover and see the Trinity. 

You see possibilities. There is always a way.

Your quiet is good.

Your reflective is necessary.

Your words encourage someone.

You are a writer. The multi-cat, messy house, crazy hair, absent-minded sort of writer. In twenty years, you’re going to be just like every odd writer you’ve truly loved. Maybe by then you’ll even have finished a book.

Unfold the pages of your life and hit publish, dear writer.

Someone, somewhere has insomnia, too.

* * * * *

Photo credit: Esther Bubley, photographer, 1943
Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, LC-DIG-fsa-8d27122

17 thoughts on “note to self: it’s okay to be a writer”

  • Well, I do not think it an accident that after tossing and turning all night, I grabbed my Nook to check my mail at 4:15am and your monthly email had just posted at 4:09am…yes it is ok to be a writer. I always think of what an English teacher told me in high school once..the older she got, the less sleep she got and she felt lke it was because she was getting older and running out of time…so why waste it sleeping?

  • Thank you Deborah! I’ve been working on writing my first novel for over two months now and haven’t wrote the first word yet. I think this encouraging post is what I needed to read to get me started because now I understand I’m just being human.

  • So much of what you say rings true to my life as well. I don’t write for a living, nor have I accomplished as much as you have as a writer and yet, I know I SHOULD be writing. I’ve started umpteen blogs, and end up abandoning them all…mostly for all the reasons you’ve listed, I’ll write 5 posts a day, and then nothing for months or years! If it makes you feel better, slugs haven’t eaten my lettuce, because there is no lettuce for them to eat! Ever since I tried to plant a garden and ended up flooding our finished basement with 3 inches of water, I have been banned.. 😉 I kill every plant anyway, so it is just as well… Oh and I gave up on the material years ago..but finally freed myself of it after the 5th move. Good thing about being in my 40′s is that I’m finally ok with being me. Thanks for your writing!

    • Oh that’s so true. I think maybe that’s what’s happening to me. I’m finally okay with being me. If that’s true of the 40’s, the 50’s will be grand. Also, I can relate to your garden adventures….my little plot is literally two big pots and a 4 ft by 4 ft square. That’s it. And still…:)

  • Well, that sure was scary–kind of like you were looking into my own mind. Tossed and turned this morning knowing I should either get up and edit the commentary I’m editing or walk another 5 miles like yesterday morning or grade some overdue papers. All right, only two of those have to do with writing, but all three have to do with pondering–one gets a lot of thinking and internal processing accomplished in a 5-mile walk. Thanks for writing the blog, Deb.

  • Deb,
    Thanks, I needed this. I’ve never considered myself a writer – just your crazy younger cousin who wanted to grow up to be an astronaut. But so many many things you have written here chime faithfully in my own life. The guilt, the dreaming, pondering, a connection to story,a book, half still in my head, and yes the house chores that I never quite get to and a pile of unused fabric and patterns. But the part that I needed the most was the part about what we write encouraging others, because I fold inwards too – and my baby steps at writing are usually born of processing my thoughts. Things I deem both unworthy of sharing or too private to share. It’s a hurdle, So yeah, I needed this today. Thank you!

    • Mysie, every time I read anything you write it makes me wish we lived next door to each other. Which reminds me! You wrote this week & I am going right now to read!!

      • I would LOVE to live next door. Still very thankful for technology to fill the gap a bit!

  • Deborah, this is pure brilliance. Just brilliance.

    I truly enjoy finding posts that encapsulate what I’ve been thinking and can communicate it way better than me.

    Well done, and thanks for writing this — will be sharing it for sure, as I feel people need to read this.

  • Deb, this is exactly what I needed today. I think I saw myself in every word, except for maybe the ones about the slugs and the lettuce ( but I just traded those in for, “I let weeds take over my entire yard.”). 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement.

    • Thank you, Natalie. And your comment is exactly the encouragement I needed today, too. It’s so easy to let discouragement keep me in bed — even at 4 a.m. when it’s totally reasonable to be there!

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