Last month, I learned from Elizabeth at The Daily Creative Writer that the first Wednesday of the month is Insecure Writer’s Support Day. Apparently it was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh.
This is where I’m supposed to admit how insecure I am as a writer. I am. But I used to be much worse. Elizabeth told a great story illustrating the importance of just showing up. Why did it take me over a half century to figure that out? Because I really did finally figure it out, although it took me so long.
When I was little I wanted to be a writer like Louisa May Alcott or Carolyn Keene. That was before I found out that there was no Carolyn Keene truly, and that Nancy Drew had been written only in part by a woman named Mildred Wirt Benson and wholly by a company with the nefarious name The Stratemeyer Syndicate. But I am going off on a tangent, and that is poor writing. By the way, I also wanted to be an actress and an archeologist. Just saying that I’m not a Johnny One Note.
In high school I showed my poems to my best friend who turned up her nose and then to my boyfriend who looked confused.
In college, I stopped writing, and instead I studied, partied, got married, worked, studied, partied.
After my husband and I adopted our son, I turned back to writing with a poem about picking him up at the airport. I wrote other poems and applied to a college writing program.
While I was in the program, I wrote poems and stories. Then a famous poet who had selected one of my poems in a competition sat me down and gave me some advice. She told me to go on and get some more education. I’m a good girl and do what I’m told, so I listened to her.
With two little children and teaching and studying, I didn’t have time for my writing, so I stopped writing again.
Looking where I had come from, the pattern was now apparent: I would write for a while, but then stop showing up at my desk. And why? Because my kids needed schlepping to school and activities, and I was carrying around tote bags full of papers to grade. I had meals to prepare, a house to clean, and there was always another holiday or birthday looming ahead which I needed to prepare for. All of those things were rewarding (well, except maybe the paper grading, which did get tedious, I’ll admit). I didn’t want to give them up, but could I have squeezed in some writing? I’ll never know. I didn’t try. I suspect I had a decades-long case of insecure writer blues.
A few years ago, I had foot surgery and a long recovery and I had to retire from teaching. After I had fully recovered and had moved from California to Arizona, I told myself I was going to PBIC (put butt in chair). And because I have ADHD and can’t just sit around doing nothing (I’m the one reading the book and doing a Sudoku puzzle at the same time in the doctor’s waiting room), just by PBIC I automatically started writing.
Now I’m working on a memoir, creating a play with my daughter, writing 3 blogs, and occasionally drafting a poem or two. No, there is NOT enough time. But at least I’m showing up to write now–even on days like today when I am wondering if I should even hit the “publish” button.
23 responses to “Showing Up to Write”
“Put butt in chair”–that’s my favorite saying! It’s so true–there’s no other way to get writing done.
I have also learned that there is never enough time. There will always be something, no matter your circumstance or lot in life. That’s why it’s important to carve out writing time, because you’ll never finish all those other tasks–housework, paying bills, taking care of kids, etc. They will be there waiting when you get done with your writing for the day, don’t worry!
Is that your writing desk? It’s so neat! I will have to post a picture some day of my office. It looks like a tornado hit it!
Hi Rachel, you definitely PBIC a lot! You are so right about never enough time. I have been going through a very stressful, time-consuming period lately, and I am putting the writing first–it’s as if I finally made it a habit. It might not be my best work, but it’s more important to keep typing away.
Haha, I’ve loved to see your office! Yes, that’s my writing desk, which I designed when I moved to arizona (after very cramped working conditions up to then). I love being in there, but honestly I spend more time at my laptop in the kitchen!! Go figure.
I’m not in my office very much, either! Maybe because it looks like such a disaster. If I really need to write and concentrate, I usually end up going to a coffee shop–too many distractions at home.
Showing up is half the battle of anything. I wanted to be a writer since I could learn to read (and/or a librarian, superhero, detective and warrior – turns out parenting covers a lot of that!). It’s taken me 40+ years to get serious about it and I’m still amazed at how much I’ve written since saying “I am a writer”. I’m not as insecure as a writer as I should be, but I think that’s part and parcel of being older when starting out – less fear, more pressure to get on with things.
It’s great to read someone else’s “writer” history. Most of us aren’t savants and the paths to get where we’re going are different and similar in so many ways. Thanks for sharing your path!
I absolutely love your list: librarian, superhero, detective and warrior. Oh man, that is the best. I can so relate to it. And I agree that being older means that there is less time for insecurity. I too feel that “pressure to get on with things.” Thanks for stopping by!
The sharing of your experience as a writer provides me with an opportunity to commiserate as well as be inspired by your path. What I find interesting is that in spite of the years you spent as a student, and teacher, of literature – you found little time to write. I had always envisioned that as an ideal situation to create. But then, I do recall that when I worked as an interior decorator while raising my children, that my own house suffered for lack of attention. I’d blame it on being exposed to too many design options to be able to make a decision and move forward with one, but truth be told it was lack of time and a bit of burnout.
I’m glad you have found your groove and applaud your productivity!
Kimberly, I know what you mean about the envisioning. I thought so, too. The reality was so different. I also stopped loving to read while I was teaching lit because “having” to do anything goes against my nature.
I love that you were an interior decorator. I’m really sorry it caused burnout and all since I had again envisioned that it would be a really fun job. Thank you so much for your support! Let’s see how things go once our group resumes our work haha.
You have been a real trooper showing up, and the results are clear: superb writing. Congrats on cracking this case! wjk
I love it: “cracking this case”! hehehe. And thank you soooo much for your praise–that means so much to me, coming from such an amazing writer and editor.
Showing up to write (for a writer) is excellent advice. I intend to ensure I am present to write daily ..
Happy new year and my you are a busy one 😉
We need to come up with a writer’s motto, like the mail deliverers have: sleet and snow and all that. Happy new year to you, too. Let’s make it a big writing year!
Luanne, I am just glad you are putting your butt in the chair and writing, because I love your poetry, blog posts and essays. You owe it to us, your audience, to keep going. <3
Shucks, ma’am. I am thrilled that you like reading my stuff. You are such a loyal reader and friend! xo
Definitely worth showing up, good to find you and your writing.
Yes, we can have a blogger’s chant: Show up, don’t flee. Just PBIC! Thank you so much for stopping by and chatting!
I have more time than ever before open to me and I still don’t write (even post-Otis, you know what I mean). I am still struggling with it, and I think it is the insecure writer syndrome. As long as I don’t actually do the writing, I can still imagine that I might be a great writer someday. If I do it, and it’s not good, then I’ll find out it was all a pipe dream…Got to PBIC!
Barbara. Listen. to. me. It is not a pipe dream. You are a wonderful writer, and I’ve heard that even the best writers produce crap part of the time, so it’s time to just let your fingers loose on the ole keyboard!! PBIC!!!
Love this! I need to PBIC. I am not going to forget that! 🙂
CM, I am thrilled to hear that you aren’t going to forget it. Me neither. So if either of us forgets, the other has to remind her with very strong words. Got it?
I just loved this! It’s so me! I’m terribly busy and way frustrated and you are right…it is very easy to just walk away from writing but I never do. Instead I do show up every day but find myself flustered because I’m so disroganized and still lack the confidence it takes to achieve my goals. I have a lot of work to do in 2013 and it’s great support knowing I am not the only one experiencing these writing challenges. Happy New Year to you 🙂
Olivia, I’m sort of glad you can relate, as in it would be good if you had more confidence than me haha. But thank you for sharing how you feel about showing up to write! I will be cheering you on to get your work done this year!
Your support is much appreciated! I just sat down at my work space and it’s time to get rolling on what I have planned for this year. But that’s a big span so I’ll just be starting off with this week! lol Best of luck to you too as we all begin this new year 🙂