Writers have this tendency. It's spurred by fear or guilt or shame or an utter lack of confidence. It's rooted deep within our souls, jousting with our innate impulse to create. Most writers, if you ask, will admit to being constantly at war with their desire to write and the pull of "what they should be doing." Writers have this tendency to consider themselves not worthy, not good enough, not writers. But you are. But I am.
I share this as a reminder, because after I finished graduate school and stopped writing poetry, I didn't feel like a writer again for a long time. Even while writing my old food blog, Cooking After Five. I didn't feel like a writer because I was writing about food, something I had never done before and with so little experience, I couldn't possibly be a writer, could I? It was only after coming here, to Eat This Poem, that I've felt comfortable enough to say it out loud for the first time in six years: I am a writer.
All this came about because of a lunchtime conversation I recently had with a co-worker and friend where we discussed balancing our writing and professional lives. We also talked about poetry, and why we're so drawn to it now. (Reasons included its calming effects, that it forces you to pause, and its ability to be ingested in short doses.) Having grown up, our writing has transitioned from waves constantly lapping at the shore to a dry stream, not unlike the Los Angeles river. There have been false starts, occasional bouts of inspiration, and months of writing nothing at all except work emails or reports. The thing is, we like what we do. We work in a field we're passionate about. We don't want to sit in a cabin all day with a notebook. It's just that our love of writing has been pushed to lunch breaks, evenings, and weekends. Life happens.
But something occurred to me that gave me a great amount of peace. Our writing changes because our lives change. What doesn't change is our instinct, our desire to create, explain, understand. The words are simply waiting for us to make the first move. We must let go of who we once were and what our former writing life contained. Only then can we redefine what it will look like now and in the future.
We might still live with a book of poetry tucked in our purses, on our phones, or piled on our night stands. We might not write as often. We might write something other than what brought us to writing in the first place. We might write a blog, or a screenplay, or book reviews, or the brochure for a fundraiser at our child's school, but we're still writing. Look at your writing life differently and imagine something new. This freedom will taste sweet, like the words of this poem by a former professor of mine, Barry Spacks.
Mela, mela, how it pleases.
Greek for "honey" - word so small
you can write it in the cold hard sand
in the time between two waves.
from The Hope of the Air
Let's remember this: If you've ever had a creative urge, drive, force, moment of clarity, moment of feeling compelled beyond reason, or electrical surge through your body that physically moves you to another room where you can write with abandon and in the full knowledge of doing just what you were meant to do in that moment, then you are a writer. Because you say you are, know you are, and because not writing would be so unbearable that you decide you can be brave, just this once. You can utter the words, even to yourself, in solitude, (I am a writer. I am a writer) and follow the words to shore.