I am a writer.
Phew, that’s hard to say! I write it down up there and I still experience cognitive dissonance. I mean, a ‘writer’ is someone who spends a lot of time alone, thinking. Always scribbling (or typing) stuff down. Someone who writes constantly, who chooses writing over stuff like reruns of Holmes on Homes or a yoga blog. Someone serious.
Someone, that is, totally unlike me. The idea of starting a nice fresh article draft from my own idea file literally makes me itchy. Sometimes, it takes me three hours of pfaffing around to settle in for 20 minutes of writing. I like to be around people. I find writing really hard and annoying. I am not at all confident about what I write down. It takes time and time and time and time and time for anything I write down to look like anything worth reading, and even longer for it to be apparent that what has been written might have any value to anyone.
As it turns out, a lot of successful writers look a lot more like me than like the vision of that imaginary writer I’ve always compared myself so unfavourably to.
You know how I have finally (well, functionally) overcome the cognitive dissonance that for years kept me anxious and guilty? I played to my strengths. For me, being a real writer means setting the iPhone timer for 40 minute stretches of nothing-but-writing-seriously-now-leave-your-email-alone, then giggling over Go Fug Yourself for 10 minutes with one friend, or swapping grading and syllabus tips with another friend, topping up our lattes, and setting the timer again. Being a real writer for me means shitty first drafts, really, really shitty first drafts. It means posting daily updates about how many words written and how long, and writing little comments for 10 or 12 other members in the same boat as me. Being a writer means a weekly drinks date with my lady colleagues as a reward. It’s calling my husband up when I get blocked, and telling him my ideas verbally until I get it sorted out. It’s cupcakes and new pens and other daily rewards.
Since I’ve decided to just accept the kind of writer I actually am, rather than beating myself up every day for not being how I thought a real writer should be, I’m writing a lot more. Every day. And it’s easier. I mean, I still hate it, but that’s my process. That’s who I am as a writer. My essential supports are cupcakes, friends, Internet breaks, daily accountability to other writers, permission to write really awful prose that I rework, sometimes with a peer editor, and near-daily verbal processing of ideas with someone married to me.
What are your essential supports for writing? Does it match your idea of what a real writer needs? What if who you are is what a real writer is?