I know I’ve been missing in action for a while. No, I’m not dead — I’m writing again. Yes, I’ve said that a few times already, but the truth is that I haven’t really been writing. I haven’t committed, in the way that you must when you take on a project as time-consuming, demanding, and narcissistic as a novel. The novel tugs at your shirt sleeves all day and all night, asking, “Am I good? Am I bad? What am I? Who will love me? Where are you taking me? Are we there yet?” Sound familiar? I’ve compared novel-writing to human gestation before and the analogy is truer than ever. You can’t just grow a human half-heartedly, tending to its needs when it’s convenient for you. Morning sickness doesn’t care that it’s nighttime. Your burgeoning belly and heavy feet are a daily reminder of the commitment you’ve undertaken.
I haven’t had the time to write for a while now. Before that, I didn’t have the emotional and creative fuel. My last novel was a enormous undertaking that I was ultimately unable to carry and I was left with its carcass in my arms, desperately trying to turn skin and bones into the living. It took more than half a year to move on. And then I felt it again — that itch, that urge that told me something was missing. That told me I could never be whole, could never be me, without my writing.
So I took my already jam-packed busy life and carved out some room. This past week, before work, during my breaks, while I proctored the ACT, all weekend long, I wrote. Starting today, I’m gradually shifting my sleep schedule so that I can put in two hours every day before work. I don’t know where this project is going yet — it’s still in those early stages, the ones fraught with doubt. It could easily be discarded, but I’m okay with that now. At this point in the game, I’ve learned to let go of the ones who don’t make it. It’s easier to say goodbye at 2 weeks than 40.
Recently, I talked about the pressure of publication. The truth is that it’s both a pressure and a hope. As long as that hope is alive, it keeps the light in my heart burning. As long as I have hope, I will keep writing. And the day I lose that hope, I will be just as relieved as I will be melancholy. Because then I will be able to write solely for myself, and that is a freedom. Either way, I will never, ever stop writing.
That is how I know I’m a writer.