One hundred seventy eight
chapters gone too soon.
Racing and slogging through time.
My therapist is moving out of state so I’m crowdsourcing my therapy. My lack of motivation and inertia constantly conflicting with my desire to be a writer is a recurring theme in nearly all of my sessions. I feel I’m not a real writer, introducing myself with conditions — I’m a writer who doesn’t write. I’m a writer who writes for a day job but not what I really want to write. I’m a writer who isn’t published in mainstream media or by traditional publishers. Adding conditions negates owning it.
Jeff Goins quotes his friend in this article, and his friend could have been talking to me: “…you don’t have to want to be a writer. You are a writer. You just have to write.” Additional advice I’ve received from the universe: If you want to be something, then name it. Yet I still can’t fully own that I am a writer. I don’t feel as if I deserve that title quite yet.
To accept that I am a writer means that I have to write.
Not writing prevents me from knowing if I am a good writer or not. (I’m not fishing for compliments. Honest!) What if I find out I am a horrible writer and I don’t have a plan B after 30 years of wanting to be a writer? Better not to know if I’ll fail than to risk failing and feel like I’ve misplaced my dream all this time. I’m sure I’m not alone in this thinking.
I haven’t read SARK or Robert Fulghum or Dave Barry in a very long time. They inspired me. My walls were covered with posters of SARK‘s vibrant words and Robert Fulghum’s essay, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” I had my favorite Dave Barry weekly columns tucked into the pages of his books. I wanted to write like them. I had laminated clippings from “serious journalists” like Bob Greene on my walls, too.* I was going to be a staff writer for the Chicago Tribune Magazine.
What happened to that optimistic, young writer?
I was rejected by one of the best journalism schools in the country. I wasn’t excited about being accepted into my second and third choice universities; I was devastated that I didn’t get into my first choice — the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. I have been holding on to that rejection and failure for the last 23 years. I was a Journalism Cherub, a participant in their National High School Institute program. At the time, we were told that 90 percent of the Cherubs who apply to Northwestern get accepted as an undergrad. I was part of the special 10 percent who didn’t. It didn’t matter their overall acceptance rate is less than 15 percent; I wasn’t good enough to be a Medill-trained writer. Since I couldn’t be at Medill, I couldn’t be a writer and obviously needed a more practical career. I chose public relations, not even knowing what it really was. I believe the dad who died in Flowers in the Attic was a PR guy.
This is the first time I’ve admitted out loud that I’ve let that Northwestern rejection hold me back. I’ve used that as an excuse in the back of my mind for so long. If they didn’t think I was good enough, then I’m not good enough. So I gave up. Though the writer in me keeps nagging to come out.
Logically I know I control what I do, not a rejection letter. If I had friends in a similar situation, I would tell them to prove the naysayers wrong. Become a great writer despite the rejection. I’m notorious of spouting do as I say and not as I do advice and wisdom.
I’ve put my obsession with that rejection out there; I can let go and finally move on. Right?
What regret or grudge or out of your control circumstance has held you back?
*Total side note: I just Googled Bob Greene to make sure I remembered the spelling correctly. I thought he had died, and I was so sad to hear that when it allegedly happened in my head. Turns out, he is alive and still writing. He was dismissed from the Trib in 2002. The things one can learn from Google and Wikipedia!
Today may or may not be my birthday. As a former orphan, or like a Breadman sold on Craigslist, I don’t have original paperwork. No birth certificate; just an official document stating that it is an official document that states May 12 is my birth date.
As I begin my next decade*, I am beginning to write. Again. For the unknownth time. Depending on how you count.
I’m like the boy who cried wolf, only I yell “Hey, I posted a blog post! Stay tuned for another post in a week or two or year.” Elephants gestate a baby elephant in less time than the span of some of my posts.
I resist calling myself a blogger, or wanting to be one. I sometimes call myself a writer, though it would be more accurate to call myself a sometimes writer. I consider myself more of a columnist or essayist. (What’s the minimum word count to be considered an essayist?) Since grade school, I envisioned my writing as scraps of paper hanging on refrigerators across the country. Or tacked to people’s vision boards before vision boards were a thing.
According to Jon Acuff, (and many other internet philosophers), it’s never too late to have a do over. I recently read his book, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck. I didn’t come away tremendously inspired, but it did spur me to think about doing over this blog. Again. The book centers around his concept of a Career Savings Account — investments in skills, character, relationships, and hustle. I’m overdrawn in the hustle account.
As with many other things in my life (exercising, eating clean, keeping house), I know what to do but just don’t make myself do it. My life’s implementation is like step two in this comic:
Do Over is an easy, conversational read, much like his blog. I sense he is somewhat self-deprecating and funny and energetic in real life like in this book. Acuff also makes some very good points about showing up and needing to adjust yourself because others aren’t going to change for you. The book is likely helpful for many, and it served as a good reminder of some very foundational concepts. Not sure if I can sustain this do over beyond this post, but I can always start again. Again.
*I’m turning 41, so that starts my fourth decade, right? Did turning 40 end my third decade? It’s like the new millennia question — did it start with 2000 or 2001? Counting is hard.
I don’t have answers or even ideas about how to fix either system. I categorize this as one of those reads that infuriates me, not only because of the problems it exposes but also the frustration in not knowing where to start. If you thought the issues were bad in our federal and state prisons, they are so much worse in our local jail systems.
Engaging read. If you don’t read the whole thing, at least read the last two paragraphs.
For tl:dr folks – Creative people may or may not have mental illness.
Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill. And some people, like John Nash, are both.
I wrote a guest blog post for The Inspiration Project, the blog from Girls Inc. of Greater Indianapolis. A message for girls, women, and all perfectionists. Click the here to read it, and thanks for checking in.