I believe writing is about conversation, and I hope this blog is always part of a much larger conversation. So when Erin Block said she read my post “The Definition of a Writer” and it spurred her to write the post below, I was both humbled and thrilled. Ah yes, I thought, this is conversation.
People, friends, family, folks Iâ€™ve never met, have all been calling me a â€œwriterâ€ as of late. Usually, we identify ourselves by our job, our career, what we do to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. You know, the practical things in life. But Iâ€™ve always hated being defined by the practical â€“ thatâ€™s why I went to conservatoryâ€¦to music school. For heavenâ€™s sake, there isnâ€™t one ounce of practicality in that.
But people have started identifying me by what I am, not what I do. And this is a welcome relief. You see, I really donâ€™t like what I do. Who does? Iâ€™m told. But yet I hold out the hope that I will, one day. Iâ€™m hungry, and I have to believe that thereâ€™s something out there for me. Iâ€™ll chase it down. Or maybe, itâ€™s growing presently, underfoot. Maybe, I just need to move my leftâ€¦or, my right. Orâ€¦oh I donâ€™t know. But, I have to believe itâ€™s true, just to keep sane.
So — Iâ€™m a writer, they say. Itâ€™s what I am. And now, I believe them. In fact, now I realize that Iâ€™ve been one even before I started writing. Itâ€™s very much like when in adolescence I grew breasts and realized that yes, I had been a woman all along. Damn.
I have a much similar reaction to the having been a writer, all along.
There is a narrator in my head, and she told me this is true. She has been with me for over 27 years now. Sheâ€™s me. Sometimes, speaking in baritone. Sometimes, growling and hissing and howling like a wild animal; sometimes, she makes put-put-put tractor noises like a little boy. And sometimes, dressed for a ball, she sings in a sweet soprano.
Iâ€™ve spent a lot of time alone — in childhood, and now as an adult. And this narration has been, and is, my way of “talking,” I suppose. We humans have an instinctive urge to share experiences, thoughts, and stories â€“ and this is often where, and how, we get hurt. Self sabotage. Opening up before we truly know whatâ€™s out the door, waiting. We are herd animals though, and so we have to take the chanceâ€¦.always, take the chance.
But then, there are the loners, the ones who leave the pack, the ones who purposely separate themselves. These are the artists, the musicians, and the storytellers â€“ they also often happen to be the depressed, haunted, and afflicted. Once removed, they observe — exploring the tribe’s condition from outside â€“ and while it may look like this is really a reclusion, really, itâ€™s quite the opposite. You canâ€™t see the picture, sing the song, or read the novel when youâ€™re in it. And so, there are the artists, musicians, and writersâ€¦the storytellers.
And I, am one of them.
Now, I see that I have been on the outside, telling myself stories my whole lifeâ€¦that narrator describing everything I do, taste, smell and see…back to myself. I thought this was normal. I thought everyone told themselves stories. But as it turns out, they don’t. Instead, they listen. They listen for someone to find their experiences words â€“ they wait to be given their own stories back.
This is a great expectation. A glorious weight. And yes, one that depresses, haunts, and afflicts.
But so it goesâ€¦I am a writer.
Erin blogs at Mysteries Internal, where she ponders fly fishing, life in the mountains, and all that is beauty in the world.