I’m starting to understand that sometimes we can learn the most important lessons without even knowing school is in session. This is the story of how I learned for certain that I was a writer. It happened this past Monday and Tuesday.
Anyone who has followed my work at all will probably (hopefully) know that I’ve authored or co-authored a total of ten books, all of which are currently available on Amazon.com. (This concludes the shameless self-promotion section of today’s reading.)
Honestly, I’m not even really attempting to promote my work right now (Ed. Note: Yeah right), but rather I’m just pointing out the somewhat paradoxical nature of the last sentence from the first paragraph. Go ahead and re-read it. I’ll wait. Yes, now you see it. How is it that a dude with ten books for sale just found out this week that he was a writer? How can this be? Won’t you please explain?
Yes, I’ll explain.
You see, at some point on Monday afternoon I quit writing. I don’t mean for the day. I mean for good. So before you even ask, I will tell you that the reason I quit is not part of this post. That’s all I’m saying on that topic.
But, yeah. I calmly informed my wife that I was not going to write anymore. There was a little bit of discussion, but basically I said, “This is how it is going to be.” End of story.
A little later I told my daughter the news as well. She voiced her opinion on the matter also, but ultimately I came to the same conclusion with her. “This is how it is going to be.”
I spent the rest of the day keeping myself busy with mindless household tasks until I finally went to bed, where I lay awake the majority of the night, thinking about all the steps I was going to have to take in order to no longer write books. For example, I was going to have to put up some sort of post here and on the Facebook group, as well as a farewell email to the list. But I didn’t try to compose the message in my head. Because it was my first night of no longer being a writer and I wasn’t going to even allow myself mental composition.
Next, I realized I would have to tell Craig. Each time I made the proclamation I dreaded the one to come ever more; telling my daughter had been harder than saying it to my wife. But the thought of telling Craig was really unsettling. This guy has invested a lot into my success, and now I have to tell him I’m walking away.
Needless to say, all that squirreling around in my head didn’t make for a peaceful night’s sleep. It made for no sleep at all. I crawled out of bed the following morning feeling exactly how I imagined one of those premature burial people in the Poe stories must have felt. Confused as to why they’re alive, but equally confused as to why they’ve been buried. Exhausted. Empty.
Especially empty. As the previous day had progressed, scraped along like a knee across a sidewalk, I realized that the predominant emotion attached to the decision was one of a profound and rather terrifying emptiness. I’d gone to bed hoping it would be gone in the morning. I got up wishing I could dial back to the prior 24-hours’ level of internal vacuum because it was now far worse.
I was alone in the house and it was so quiet that when the refrigerator’s compressor kicked on it actually startled me a little. I sat in the living room doing nothing. No music, no television… no stimulation of any kind. It was just me and the emptiness.
Now I may not be the brightest guy ever, but it didn’t take me a long time to realize there was no way I could live like this. If this was what a few measly hours were going to be like, I was absolutely not going to make it all day. I had two options. The first, my go-to for years, I will not give name to. A thing gets stronger when it has a name.
But the second option, (and if you are an astute and steadfast individual, which as a reader I already know you are, you will realize is the one I chose), was to end the nonsense and admit that I can’t stop writing any more than I can stop breathing or eating glazed jelly donuts.
I got fired from a job once, and a caring former co-worker sent me a card saying “A job is what you do, not who you are.” I suppose she, or perhaps the person who wrote the card, was aware of the research that indicated that many men pour so much into their careers that if they lose their job they lose their identity.
It was a nice gesture, but I knew that job hadn’t been who I was. In fact, it had prevented me from finding who I was.
For those few hours that I convinced myself I was no longer a writer, however, the feeling was much different. It was not a loss I could rationalize away. It was, unquestionably, the cancellation of who I was. Who I was meant to be. Who I am.
And as I got back to work on Clean Up Crew #2 – The Count of Carolina (Ed. Note: He’s back to plugging his books again) I instantly felt the void fill. I worked through a rather difficult section and knew that the second draft would likely be quite good, certainly better than the first. But the key thing, for me, with the first draft is to propel the story forward and to at least suggest the best way of telling it, ultimately.
Stopping writing would not have stopped me from being a writer. It would have caused me to be a writer who isn’t writing, and that my friends, is the most miserable son of a bitch that ever walked around pretending to be a real boy.