Why do I want to be a writer?

I have said for quite a few years that I want to be a writer. In all that time, however, no one that I have told has ever asked me why. To be fair, I haven’t told everyone that I’ve met…just a handful of family and close friends. Their reaction is usually something along the lines of, “That’s nice. Have you tried the sweet potatoes?” It makes me wonder if they heard me or consciously decided to bypass the idea. And now that I have spent some time thinking about the subject, I’m not sure I’ve ever put an answer into words even in the confines of my own mind.

I suppose I should start by stating the fact that I am something of an introverted loner who prefers working independently when given a choice. I get along just fine with other people but I enjoy quiet time on my own. Well, what profession could be better suited to my personality than one in which you spend hours in a world that is totally you own creation with input from no other person? It seems such a natural fit that it’s rather astonishing that it took me so long to attempt it.

Let’s move on to another fact about me. I’m obsessed with books. If my bank account and my house were both larger, I’d buy books all the time. The idea that I could have my name on one of them sends chills down my spine. To touch the letters each of the letters on the cover and then to read the “About the Author” section at the back would truly be dreams come true. I had a great-aunt who published books of poetry many years ago. I never knew her well and I regret that she didn’t live close enough for me to do so. But she has become an inspiration to me. She wrote something and had it published into books that live on now that she has gone.

So why didn’t I do it sooner? Was it a lack of confidence in myself? I would have to say that plays a huge part in it. Life dealt me some blows that took much of the wind out of my sails when I was in my twenties. It was a time I should have relished and a time I should have explored what I really wanted out of my life. I know I’m not alone in that situation but it still hurts to think about what could have been. Following close on the heels of a lack of confidence was a heaping mound of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of my own abilities, fear of success. All of it added up to keep me trapped in one spot, denying what I really wanted to do.

So, here I sit. A latecomer to the party who shows up as a few early-arriving celebrants are making an exit. A straggler who wanders in late in the evening hoping to snag a drink and maybe find something left on the buffet. Sure, some of the shine has worn off the event, but there’s still several hours to go before the plaintive cries of “last call” resonate in the ballroom. I can still sip the intoxicating elixir of inspiration and feast on the nourishing morsels of ideas for however long I am granted.  Cheers!

Stowing cargo…

“Fear is the major cargo that American writers must stow away when called to the writing life.” — Pat Conroy

I call myself a collector of quotes. I can’t help it. I love finding clever, pithy sayings that make me laugh out loud, encourage me to think deeply, or speak to me on a subconscious level. Today’s quotation by Pat Conroy is near the top of my list. Conroy was one of my favorite authors and the sentiment in this statement reminds me exactly what I need to do to make my writing endeavor a successful one. His recent passing made me take time to write about the effect of fear on my own life.

For most of my adult life, I have suffered from a series of fears:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of success
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of getting stuck in a rut
  • and so on

These fears often conflict with each other, producing a battle in my head that ends up keeping me in the same place. Remember in the first post where I mentioned that long-time job? I definitely was not happy there. I liked the people, but hated the actual job.

I had a serious fear of failure when it came to trying anything new. My previous attempt at a major career decision (attending grad school to become a history professor) ended up going down in flames. To be fair, I experienced some personal issues at the time that sapped my mental and emotional reserves and made studying near impossible. But the results were what they were. I felt awful about myself and my self-esteem went out the window. I did not want to go through that again. So, I stayed where I was, going through the motions and grumbling about being miserable all the while.

In parallel with that fear of failure, I was also harboring a fear of success. I don’t think I actually knew that at the time, though. I was so beaten down by having my hopes dashed to the ground before that I became afraid of trying something and having it go well. “What if it actually worked?” I asked myself time and again. I always got scared of finding out.

Take these two competing fears and add in generous dashes of many others and you will come up with a rather stinky emotional stew. That was how I lived for the better part of two decades. Not happy about the situation, certainly not proud of it. But it was.

So, this is where I find myself now. I am stashing away the cargo that consists of these fears into the far recesses of my mind, leaving the majority of the hold open to be filled with ideas, inspiration, motivation, and activity.

To Mr. Conroy, I say a heartfelt thank-you for putting so clearly into words what I know in my heart.