My mom tells stories of when I first learned to write, how she spent hours and hours on the basement carpet with me, dotting out my name and our address over and over so I could trace the letters. For some reason I didn’t like using those learn-to-write books; I wanted her to do it. And she complied. For hours. (Thanks, Mom!)
Then I progressed to writing stories. I had a PlaySkool desk in my own little nook with papers and pencils and crayons, and I spent hours in my own little world, writing and drawing happily. In high school and even college, where I majored in English, I still wrote stories and reveled in my creative time.
But somewhere along the way I ingested society’s expectations of me as a “functioning” individual.
Clearly I’m Supposed To…Get a 9-5 Job
I got it into my head that becoming a writer wasn’t a “real” job that someone like me could actually do. I don’t know what I thought a “real” job was. It’s not like I came from a traditional working family of any kind—at the time my dad was driving limos, which he thought was the greatest job in the world, and my mom was a Pilates teacher. I seemed to think I needed to work forty hours a week to be a real adult, even though neither of my parents had worked 9-5 since I’d been born.
After I graduated from college I did what all liberal arts majors unsure of their futures do: I got a job at Starbucks. I came home with an elbow aching from pouring a million lattes. Then I’d change my clothes, go to another Starbucks store and drink reduced-price coffee and pound away at a novel on my laptop.
Tell People My Dreams? No Way
Even then, I never seriously thought of myself as a writer. I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a novel, except my closest friends. I cringed if my parents mentioned it to aunts or uncles or cousins. I wasn’t sure it was any good, and I didn’t even know if I’d ever finish it
I was so unsure of my skills that I couldn’t bring myself to invest fully in what I was so passionate about. I loved writing so much that I was afraid to admit it even to myself, afraid of shining a light on what I was sure would be a lack of talent.
This makes me mad on my own behalf now, like I’d be mad if someone was insulting a friend of mine. Who was I to talk so negatively to myself? Who was I to put myself down?
You Can’t Live the Life You Want Until You Imagine It
I recently spent a lot of time at a job I hated, which forced me to dream of a life I’d love. And I imagined life as a writer. So, readers, I QUIT second-guessing myself, and I quit being half-ashamed of my passion for writing. (On a side note, I really like that “quit” is both present and past tense, because this was both a conscious choice at one moment in time and also an ongoing quitting battle.)
Even once I decided to pursue an MFA degree this past fall, I was hesitant about telling others. Would they think I was crazy for sinking so much money into such a seemingly impractical degree? Would they think I was foolish or wasting my time?
I experimented. I told a few people, then a few more. Mostly I was greeted with enthusiasm and congratulations. Every now and then I still get a raised eyebrow or two, and I realize that I don’t care much about those people’s opinions, anyway.
No More Hiding
The amazing thing is, once I fully committed to my writing, and worked on it every day, I faced both my fear of not being a good enough writer (through practice) and my fear of telling people I’m a writer. I want to publish the novel I’m writing as part of my MFA studies, which involves the same characters I invented several years ago in that Starbucks. I love spending time with my characters, like they’re friends of mine. In order to live a congruent life, I’m committed to sharing my passions with others.
Every time I get my tuition bill in the mail, or read a really awesome book, I doubt again. I doubt that I have what it takes. But it requires just a little positive self-talk to bring myself off the ledge. That and a good hour of writing, which I do almost every morning.
Every time I let go of another doubt or fear I get another little thrill, because I know I’m following the path I’m meant to walk.
Brooke Law is pursuing her MFA degree through Fairfield University’s low residency program and is currently working on a novel. She writes about her favorite books at Books Distilled, which is a TLC Book Tour featured blog. She lives with her husband in Long Island, NY. Follow Brooke on TWITTER!
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