When I finally sat down to write this post, I couldn’t do it.
That damn blinking cursor stared back at me and just kept incessantly blinking and blinking until I thought, “No, I’m not going to write this post.” And it won again.
But I’m not going to let it. I’m not going to let it tell me that I can’t start that previous sentence with a but and the one before that with an and. I’m not going to sit here and stop myself from doing what I love, because I doubt my own skill. What I love is writing, what I love is starting with a thought and putting it into words for others to read. That is what this post is about: writing.
First, though, I’m going to talk about dancing. When I was in high school, I used to dance a lot. I would dance at parties, I would dance at dances, I would dance in private and in public. Somewhere along the way, I stopped. I used to believe that I was a decent dancer, that I could move to the rhythm and that others thought I could dance well, too. Something, and it would be too difficult to pinpoint what it was, made me stop. Suddenly, when I danced I felt awkward and large. I didn’t know what to do with my face or my hands; when I danced I looked ridiculous. So what changed? Was it me? Suddenly did I forget what rhythm felt like? Did I ever know in the first place?
Nothing about the way I danced changed, but it was my perception of the way I danced. Something about me changed. Maybe someone made fun of the way I danced, maybe I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, but suddenly I cared what I looked like and not how I felt.
Around the same time I was dancing, I was writing, too. I wrote everything and anything, and I wrote every. single. day. I had a journal that I kept and I would write fiction and poetry, too. And I thought I was good at it. I worked at it, I studied it. I read it. I lived it and breathed it. Eventually, I found other passions that complemented my love of the written word, like a love of languages and how they work. Eventually, writing became less and less important. It went from being an obsession to being a hobby; how can you call yourself a writer if it is just a hobby and not something that you can’t survive without?
So, suddenly, I started to doubt myself. If I’m not writing every day, if I’m not constantly working at this, then I am not a writer. I do not have what it takes to be a writer. I gave up that dream.
But why? Why do I have to feel validated in front of other people to label myself, to pursue something that I am passionate about? Why do I continually let my own perception of myself fail me? If I have stopped writing, I have no one to blame but myself because I have been nothing if not encouraged by others to do this. In the same way that dancing now seems awkward and feels unnatural, so does picking up a pen to paper or opening a blank Word document. It is all because I have doubted myself.
I signed up for NaNoWriMo because I thought it would kick start something in me that has been dormant for years. It has not. I have not written a word because the task seems too daunting. I am too scared to nurture an idea into a novel, because I do not feel relevant, I do not feel like I could come up with something worth reading.
And if that is the case, I am missing the point.
A close friend of mine jokingly said to me the other day that she had a sign from the universe that I should keep writing. Something I wrote randomly popped into her head and she didn’t know why. Obviously, it was a sign. Then another friend, on Facebook, asked in a meme I’ve seen floating around to name 15 authors that have influenced our writing. Here is my list:
1. Derek Walcott
2. Philip Larkin
3. ee cummings
4. Tim O’Brien
5. John Steinbeck
6. Madeleine L’Engle
7. Louise Erdrich
8. Yusef Komunyakaa
9. Mary Oliver
10. Pablo Neruda
11. Jeffery Eugenides
12. Barbara Kingsolver
13. Haruki Murakami
14. Sandra Cisneros
15. Sherman Alexie
Did anyone on this list every wonder if they were good enough? Maybe, but it obviously hasn’t stopped them. They had stories to tell and poems to write and they wrote them. I don’t know if these are signs from the universe, but it certainly has made me stop and think for a minute.
This is what I love. This is what feels natural, even if I have to remind myself now and again of that fact. I will not let myself be intimidated by a blinking cursor or my own insecurities, I will keep writing. Those authors have given me something special, they have influenced the way I write and the stories I tell, and I shouldn’t let that gift go to waste. But I will not write for them, I will only write for myself.
And I’m not going to stop.