We were lying in bed the other night cuddling and having a care-free, generally fun conversation. I started teasing myself and Luke was laughing, and then I casually changed the conversation to how jealous I am of him for working so hard on his musical projects.
I said, “You go home and sit in your studio for five hours.”
“Yeah, but a lot of that time I’m dicking around doing nothing.”
“But some of that time you are. I come straight home, sit on the bed, and browse Imgur, Buzzfeed, Hulu, and Netflix for five hours.”
Then came what I’ve wanted to say for a while but hate thinking about: I’m not doing anything with my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy overall. But when I look at the sum of my pursuits, I’m dismayed.
A couple months ago I went back and read old blog posts from my time in Ireland and the short stories I wrote in the following years. Some were good, others cringe-worthy, but I still see the talent I know is there. In my more personal posts, there’s wit, charm, and an obvious voice. I can even see specks of that voice come out in the fiction writing and almost always got positive feedback on my fiction at my time at Iowa.
Why then have I not written anything of substance in over two years?
Since I left college, life has been interesting. While I was a waitress (and at one point: freelance writer, waitress, and bank teller) I felt stagnant in any sort of creative endeavor. My main goals were to feed myself and save some semblance of money. I told myself, “Once you get a full-time job, things will be different.”
This winter I started cross-stitching again and in the spring/summer I started reading. All were feeble and slightly successful attempts at getting myself back to writing. I had to get the creative juices flowing again, right? I couldn’t just jump right back in without any precursor!
All were excuses. I have zero complaints about my love life and while I wish my friends lived closer, I’m happy there as well. My dog is finally done being sick every other week so that stressor is gone as well. I have a decent savings account so every medical or dental emergency doesn’t send me crying to my bedroom. I adore my job (even if it causes many headaches) and see a future for myself at this company.
Yet I’ve never been that concerned with my day job. I’ve started to look at work as that: work. Some of us are lucky enough to find things that make us money that we are also passionate about, but I’ve realized as of late that isn’t the case for everyone. Luke actually showed me that.
Regardless of his job status, music was a constant for him. I remember when we first started dating and I’d stay up, laying on his bed in his dirty bedroom and listening to him slam away on his keyboard and aimlessly turn knobs on his synthesizer. Today, he’s working on finishing up an ambient album and hoping to find a record label, fulfilling his dream of completing one by the age of 26.
Unless you have a passion for teaching or law or retail or whatever your career may be, many find ourselves “stuck” in jobs for which we have no drive. That is why I’ve tried to think of work as a place to center myself and a means to an end. Work gives me the comfort of steady income, vacation time, healthcare, and a structure to my days. After work time is the time for my passions, at least for now.
Why then, do I waste them away browsing the internet and binge-watching as many shows as I can shove in my face in a given night? I can consume media at an alarming rate. However, reading or writing feel like too much “work” still. It didn’t feel that way in college.
When I get home from work now, all I want to do is “veg out.” In college, yeah I had classes and work and sorority obligations and extra activities and projects and papers. Still you find yourself in college (at least with a liberal arts degree) with a certain amount of free-time you don’t have later in life. I feel I used that time well when I had it, but “forcing” myself to write now feels like far too much work.
Then I thought I would just wait until I wanted to write again. I noticed I did after I started the full time job because I suddenly had a bit more free time and felt antsy. I started writing blog posts again. I have pages of random crap I Facebook message to myself that I can churn out in a half hour. Thoughts on politics, social issues, feminism, people I know, people I love, people that annoy the shit out of me.
I don’t understand why I’m convinced some magical Writing Fairy is going to plop itself on my lap and tell me, “MOLLY, YOU MAY COMMENCE WRITING YOUR PERIOD OF WAITING IS OVER.” I know no one is going to come to my home and tell me I have to write anymore except for me. Without the threat of teachers or grades I find it hard to be motivated. (If anyone does have access to a Writing Fairy though, let me know the going rate and I will pay handsomely)
My office is generally empty and I technically work remotely in that my boss does not see me on a daily basis and I may meet with my team monthly at best. Because of this, I spend hours talking to myself about work, important world issues, stupid petty bullshit, and other random things. I can feel the wheels slowly turning again when I say something witty or write a sentence that makes me pause. I’m trying to engage Luke in more discussions on social issues to get my skills back up and running.
Luke is sweet but not too sweet, like a Pinot Grigio, but incredibly supportive. If I was listening to me I’d probably slap me upside the head and say, “Quit complaining about fucking nothing.” Luke, instead, gave me something much simpler.
“Just start writing again.”
“I can’t just start writing again.”
“Because…I’m scared I’m not good enough. That any praise I received wasn’t real and that I’ll try and learn I should have given up on this dream to be a published author a long time ago.”
“You don’t think I was scared?”
“Well yeah, but at least you’ve created something. I’ve just been sitting on my ass doing nothing for two years. I can’t even call myself a writer anymore because I’m not…writing.”
“Then start writing again. I love reading your blog posts. I’ll even help you edit, you just have to start again.”
It seems so simple. Could it really be that simple? I’m still not sure. What I do know is “doing nothing,” while fun and relaxing for a bit, is getting tiresome. Is it still my dream? Yes. Do I want it enough to start writing again? Yes. Do I have the time to write? Yes. Do I still have the ideas? Yes.
Am I good enough?
Not writing anymore because you don’t think you’ll be good enough doesn’t prove anything; it doesn’t say you are or are not talented. All it says is that you quit, that you’ve given up out of the fear of a possible rejection that hasn’t even come. So what is the solution? I'm not even sure. And maybe that's the point; squish all of that self doubt and self loathing into a concentrated amount of talent I can slam at a blank Word document until I am happy.
Or maybe, and more likely so, maybe I have to stop waiting until I'm "in the right place" and accept that I want to write because without it, I'm not sure who I am. Dear God if that isn't whiny and millennial sounding, I don't know what is.