Not Writing is Nobody’s Fault But Ours

There was a time when I blamed my partner, the time I was spending with them, for keeping me away from the work. But the fact is, I wasn’t doing the work and thank God for my ego I had the excuse.

Today was tough, because I have gotten in the habit of spending weekends with my current partner, and so it would be easy not to write. And I didn’t go near it this morning, we were busy. But instead of not writing and then retroactively blaming them, while we were relaxing after our afternoon and planning our evening I said, before we go out, I need 20 minutes to do some writing, because I’m trying to build the habit of writing every day. And she thought that was a wonderful idea, and encouraged me to do it. Even brought me a glass of water.

So it’s good to be with someone supportive, if you’re gonna be with anyone. But the critical point is to be honest with yourself. If you want to write, and you’re not doing it, are you chained up in a cage without a way to even scratch in the dirt? No? Then no one else is keeping you from writing but you. It’s taken me a lifetime to even begin to acknowledge that and act within “I don’t feel like writing / I don’t know what to write / I’m afraid / know for certain that it won’t be good enough”, and instead of using those feelings as excuses… to give them a curt nod and then sit down and move my fingers anyway.

I’m not good at it yet, I’m bad at it. But at least I’m doing it at all, and that’s something. Stephen Pressfield talks about the decades—decades—it took for him to even begin to conquer what he calls the Resistance. If he can plunge himself into the shadows again and again and eventually find a way to win, well, so can we.

It’s easy to look at your life in your mid-thirties, let alone your forties and say, well, that’s it: I had my shot, and I fucked it up. Guess it’s all downhill from here. This is something Gary Vaynerchuk talks about a lot lately, and he’s right: God willing and the creek don’t rise, if you’re thirty-five you could easily live for another HALF A CENTURY, same if you’re forty. Giving in any time is a mistake, in my book; giving in now is downright insane.

It’s not insane, though. It’s that Resistance. The death wish. The little voice that’s always been there, since Junior High, anyway. Telling you: No. You’re bad. Lie down. Stop breathing.

How many years have you spent secretly believing that liar? It doesn’t help that our culture has mobilized an ever-growing engine, a Lovecraftian tentacled horror, dedicated to grooming and caring for those voices. Maybe your twenties and your thirties are nothing more than an exercise in learning to live with them, like a barking dog in the next yard you somehow learn to ignore, or move house. But you can’t move away from this, you can only medicate it with drugs and bad relationships (or even good relationships?) and beer and social media and hipster restaurants and posting what you eat there on Instagram, and thank God some day you’ll be dead. And then the voice will stop, sure.

But so will you. And where will be all the art you could have made?

It’s not, “don’t listen to the voice”. I spent years “not listening”, it just made me crazy. It just made me wonder, if I’m living life the way you’re sposeda, why am I sort of miserable all the time? No. The voice is there and you can’t shut it up. But there is something you can do, not about it, but in spite of it: you can learn to act anyway.

And find someone supportive. Someone who doesn’t say, come down here and watch Netflix with me instead of sitting at your computer doing whatever. That’s not their fault, you picked that relationship. Ask yourself, why? Maybe hold out for someone who’ll kiss you on the mouth and say, I’ll see you after you’re done your writing, babe. Good luck. ❤

Being a Writer

Imagine we’re all sat in a circle, and the question is asked: “Do you want to be a writer?” And you raise your hand, and you see I’ve got my hand raised, too, and the follow-up: “How long have you wanted to be a writer?”

I don’t know what you’ll answer, but when it’s my turn I’ll say, “almost twenty years.”

I was in high school. I liked writing stories and I loved reading stories, but it never really occurred to me that, you know those authors you love to read? You could be one of them, until my English teacher told me, “you should be a writer.”

Like, the thought just hadn’t occurred to me. Obviously some people are writers, else I’d have nothing to read… but I could be one of them?

So then I got a degree in Computer Science and worked as a software developer for fifteen years, because that’s just how the story goes.

And now I’m thirty-five (well, almost thirty-six) and I still find myself wanting to be a writer, so… this is what I’m doing. I find myself thinking about someone who’s a teenager now, just imagining this for the first time. I don’t think, “well, it’s too late for me, but maybe…” No. It’s not too late for me, and if your answer to the question was “fifty years”, or your answer was “five years, but I’m already seventy”, it’s not too late for you, either.

But it doesn’t seem there’s anywhere you can look and see just what it takes to make all these writers we love into writers. If you ask them, it’s usually, oh, I’ve been writing since I was five, something something rejection letters and now I’ve published six novels. Okay, but… in between being five and writing five million words… you must have done something, right?

Well, I’m going to show you what happened. Starting with this: I’ve been dreaming about being a writer for twenty years. I don’t write regularly. For the last year or so I’ve been trying to build the habit of writing every day… and I haven’t done it yet.

If this turns out to be the only post on this blog, I guess you’ll know I failed or got eaten by carnivorous beetles. Otherwise, here’s how it works. Worked. Is working.

Join me.