It may surprise you to know that despite being a full-time freelance writer and the owner of a business called Frankfort Writers Center I often get tired of writing. It surprises me, too. I spend hours each day tapping away at the keyboard writing about all kinds of things like Medicare policy, hydroponic farming, and the antics of my dog Tilly. It’s interesting enough work … if you can get it … but after a while, I start to feel like words aren’t enough.
But how can that be? I’m a word girl. I love words. I love to read them and learn them. I love to say them and combine them. Sometimes I invent new words or bring back old words that previously have been retired. And it goes beyond that: putting ideas and thoughts into words helps me process and interpret what’s going on around me, and writing beautiful words is one of my highest goals.
The problem is I often put too much pressure on myself to Write and be a Writer. I expect every jot and tittle (see, old retired words brought back to life!) to be marinated in meaning and bubble over with brilliance. But sometimes, the words don’t want to be written. They just want to play, and I want to play with them.
I’ve met new writers who struggle with something similar. They’ve loved to write their whole lives, but all of the sudden Writing becomes intimidating. It’s the thing they’ve always dreamed about, and sitting down to make it happen invites a lot of pressure. What if the words don’t come? What if it’s not perfect? What if someone reads what I’ve Written and they don’t like it?
Writing with a capital “W” is the thing we make writing when it becomes our end game or when it comprises too much of our identity. I’ll admit: I’ve told people in the past that writing is how I define myself. In our book On Being a Writer, Ann Kroeker and I spend a whole chapter telling the stories of how we ourselves first called ourselves writers. And I stand by what we’ve written. People who write often struggle to call themselves writers because they’re afraid to take themselves and their writing seriously.
But there’s another end of that spectrum: Writers who take themselves or their Writing too seriously. People who, if you take away the writing, have nothing left.
That’s not the kind of person, or the kind of writer, I want to be.
You neither? Want to stop Writing and instead start writing again? It’s simple: do the things that made you love writing in the first place. Write in your journal, draft short stories just because, pen poems on your lunch hour. Begin corresponding with friends through letters. Copy favorites passages or quotes from the books you love to read onto index cards. Or this, tackle your next writing project — whatever it is — with humor and wit, even if you have to edit out the funny parts later.
That doesn’t mean we’re not still word people. We are. We’re writers. We write on a regular basis. But we’re a whole lot more than that, too. And the more we can bring the rest of ourselves into the writing life, the more we’ll keep on writing for the long haul.