The Lone Writer

Recently, I wrote an article about some of the students I work with. I tutor writing and English at the local state college, and since I love the work, I was inspired to reflect my feelings on paper. When it was published, I proudly emailed it to my supervisors. Both of them took time out of their busy schedules to read it and both praised the piece profusely. While their words were kind, I felt a bit deflated and even slightly forlorn. These emotions confused me as I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of reaction I was looking for. At the very least, I guess I was hoping for a spot on the employee bulletin board and a brief, self-indulgent flash of notoriety. Perhaps I even wished that my email, article attached, might have been forwarded to the dean. Certainly, I decided, my feelings were somewhat childish, and even though I had not expressed them out loud, I was embarrassed. For all I knew, half my colleagues were published authors and could probably care less about some little newbie writer. The entire episode forced me to re-examine my motives and ask myself, “Why do I write?” As a sort of therapy, I composed a few thoughts:

I have to write something every day. Sadly, some days I only write a sentence or two. Other glorious days, I have four or five hours to write. If I am deprived for reasons beyond my control, I must do something pseudo-writer-ish like wasting thirty minutes editing a simple five sentence work email and enjoying it entirely too much. Even weirder, I find myself getting a little too creative with the grocery list and using overly descriptive, flowery adjectives to describe items like a bunch of bananas or toilet paper.

Life is a series of writing prompts. If I don’t capture each one, I feel as if I might miss an opportunity to write something decent. This is sometimes a challenge since life doesn’t always stand politely by so that I can take notes. Technology generally comes to the rescue in the form of my cell phone, email, and Evernote. Utilizing this technology often takes some ingenuity depending on the activity of the moment. For example, stop lights have become an opportunity to jot notes regarding whichever article happens to be writing itself in my head that day, instead of just another annoying pause in my daily commute. Note taking while running poses an entirely different problem. You would think that an Evernote recording might be the perfect solution in such a situation; but alas, I am usually entirely too out of breath for that. Plus, the whole-looking like you are talking to yourself-thing is a little strange. Therefore, I have devised a system whereby I kind of jog in place for a brief moment while I type into my phone. Unfortunately, this usually results in a sentence that looks something like this, “Gee Blue Hero Was Staying so? E rocks waiting for best fast.” By the time I get around to transcribing it, I am rarely able to remember what I was trying to say! In these instances, auto correct is not my friend!

I keep little notebooks everywhere. In addition to the one I keep in my car, I also have one on my bathroom counter in case some interesting concept pervades my psyche at 2:00 in the morning. Should this occur, and it often does, I simply stumble sleepily out of bed, scrawl whatever it is down on paper and head directly back to my covers. This “scrawl” can also be quite the struggle to decipher the next day! Regardless, the entire exercise does manage to somehow capture those elusive life prompts and safely anchor them down before they can float away. At day’s end, or whenever I have the chance to write again, I gather my emails, Evernotes, and notepad scrawls and transfer them to my laptop with the intent to someday, in the near future, turn them into something more. What that will be remains to be seen. I just like to think it will be more.

Once upon a time, I actually made a steady paycheck doing something else other than writing. Every other week, a respectable amount of money magically appeared in my checking account which enabled me to pay my bills. While I was financially comfortable during this period of time, I was also miserably unhappy and consequently couldn’t write even a sentence. My little muse, stressed out and sad, went into hiding and refused to come out until the day arrived when I was no longer making that respectable paycheck. Now I write full-time and make little to no money. I also tutor college students in writing, work that I love which helps pay my ever-present bills. Although I must now stretch my paycheck to pay those bills, at least dry cleaning is no longer one of them, and I save a lot of money on therapy.

So, at the close of this little exercise, I am satisfied to conclude, in all honesty, that I truly do write for the love of (and obsession with) writing. In the end, I’ve decided, it truly doesn’t matter how many times I am rejected or whether I ever become the next Flannery O’Connor. It doesn’t matter that my article wasn’t posted on the employee bulletin board or that the dean hasn’t seen my latest contribution to the literary world. I write simply because I am fueled by the desire to do so. If I am rejected, I eat a lot of chocolate, and maybe drink some wine, okay . . . a lot of wine, and I move on. Writing is and will remain my great passion, and while I often feel alone and voiceless in my own creative solitary world, I never feel lonely. And that is good enough for me.

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