I have neglected writing for about half a year now. Confronting the perpetually blinking cursor on my screen feels about as uncomfortable to me as running into an old coworker on the train when I look horrible and she is laughing with a friend. I avoid eye contact and retreat to the other end of the subway car where I pretend to be engulfed in a Casper mattress ad. When I leave I glance back and see that she noticed me. Obviously now she thinks I am a bitch and I forever feel shame when I see her face on my LinkedIn.
That situation has been playing out in my head for six months in relation to my writing.
I like doing this. I like the process of it all. I enjoy the bouts of inspiration, the scribbled notes I take, and the conversations I have on the page that would never play out in my real life. But it’s hard to keep the relationship alive, just like seeing a familiar face and feeling terribly unprepared to interact. When I see how long I’ve let myself go I revert back to a place of self-criticism and hopelessness. My “all or nothing” attitude swoops in with a vengeance and reminds me that I am absolutely terrible at this.
During my commute home this week I listened to the second half of the David Sedaris interview on Michael Ian Black’s “How to Be Amazing” podcast and was able to find some solace in a few words from Sedaris. He explained how he received a letter from a 20 year old college student asking for his advice on whether or not to be a writer based on a sample she sent him. He responded,
It doesn’t matter what your writing is like. Your writing is the writing of a 20 year old. At best it’s going to be ‘eh’…but that shouldn’t stop you. If you’re a writer than nothing will stop you. You wouldn’t ask a man you never met for advice. You wouldn’t let him tell you what to do. (…) Don’t take “no” for an answer but take, “not now.”
It seems pretty obvious that someone who has been only a part-time writer for a small 26 year existence wouldn’t be at the same level as someone who, like Sedaris, has a career spanning decades. But I can’t help but elevate my standard to that level when I read my work and pick out all the things I wish I was better at. I’m trying to change this.
This is my commitment to keep at it. I don’t have to be “a writer” now. I don’t even have to be one before I turn 30 or 40, or before I start publishing from my retirement home. But I have to at least be writing and know that is enough.