Oh, the post-vacation blues are here. I’m finding myself more and more stepping into this role of “writer”. For the longest time, I always told people I liked to write but it was not until recently that I started saying, “I am a writer.” I’m unsure of what it is that frightens me about saying those words. It’s almost like if I claim it, I have to live up to it. If I claim to others that I am a writer, I better damn well prove it.
I don’t know why, to be honest. I used to write “I’m sorry” notes to my parents when I would get in trouble. My mom saved quite a few of them I think. At age 12–give or take–I was a “stringer” for our local community newspaper. I wrote articles on some extremely difficult topics, like what to do over summer vacation. I know, tough job, but someone had to do it. A couple weeks ago I raced into Barnes and Noble after church to grab a book my stepmom had recommended to help me push through this creative rut I feel I’m in.
I found the book and beamed as I practically skipped up to the counter. I handed the book over to the cashier, still smiling. I was met with her kind eyes as she asked if I had found everything I was looking for. I squealed in excitement as I replied, “Yes! I did!” She looked at the book I had handed over to her. She glanced at it as she scanned my copy of The Artist’s Way and then proceeded to smile at me and ask, “Are you an artist?”
“I’m a writer,” I replied without a thought. She smiled at me and continued to bag my book and send me on my way. I texted my stepmom and told her the profound moment that came from me uttering those words. I am a writer. I think I’ve typed them before but saying them out loud, confidently? Doubtful that’s ever occurred.
The enthusiasm I have carried with me since sharing my newly claimed title with the kind stranger at the bookstore is incredible to me. This weekend that’s all I wanted to do. I wanted to sit at the coffee shops in town for hours, sipping on endless almond milk lattes, feeling the magic of the keys beneath my fingertips.
Oh, but then Friday hit. I had made plans for Friday evening so I had a limit on my time in the cafe. This only allowed for one, quite large latte. Crap, I thought to myself as I glanced at my watch and back at a blank screen. I nervously looked around the cafe as if everyone there knew I was failing as a writer. I looked back at my screen, tears welling up in my eyes. I suck, I thought. Some writer you are, Dani. Oh my inner critic was screaming at this point and I was finding myself having to dash off to the restroom to ensure my mascara wasn’t running down my cheeks. I couldn’t be a failing writer and the girl was mascara-stained cheeks. Time ran out and I headed for the door, no new content to be had.
After a wonderful Friday night in South Bend filled with wine and food and joy, I found myself the following afternoon, once again with a time crunch and a blank screen taunting me. There were those tears once more. This time I composed myself a bit faster and didn’t have to race off to the restroom. Progress! Oh, but that inner critic. She was screaming once again. I’m not a writer, I thought to myself. I sat at home with a glass of wine and an empty notepad, wondering if it would be better if I hand wrote it. Spoiler alert: it didn’t help. I drew flowers. I drew flowers and a stick figure Dani who was pissed that she couldn’t write. There may have been an “f-word” or two on the page but I can neither confirm nor deny that. I left my laptop, my flower doodle, and my identity as a writer at the house for the evening. After a tad too much whiskey–or just enough–I brain dumped my frustrations to a kind, listening ear. The conversation then shifted and I once again simply left my frustration.
“If you weren’t nervous before the game we’d be worried about you,” my parents used to say whenever I expressed nerves before a volleyball game. They enjoyed hearing I was nervous. It meant I respected the sport I played. I’m finding, though, there is a fine line between respecting your craft and deeming yourself not good enough for it. See, here’s the wall I’m running into: I have a hard time deeming myself good enough in a lot of areas of my life.
“How’s your headspace?” a friend asked Saturday morning. I initially said, “I’m drinking rosé and eating hot dogs for lunch. Pretty great.” Then I followed it up with, “Skeptical.” This led us down the rabbit hole of me not doing well with compliments or accepting that good things can happen. He then asked how I planned on combatting it. I told him my plan and he said, “I agree. But I also think being in the moment is important.”
Boom. Epiphany. The answer to all my troubles: get the hell out of my own head. I was listening to George Mumford, the author of The Mindful Athlete, speak on a podcast on my drive home today. He mentioned scripts we replay in our heads whether it be on the court, in relationships, at the dentist, wherever. Huh, funny. I think I’ve mentioned those in a past post before as well. Good ol’ George and I get each other. His answer? Be present.
Isn’t this so much easier said than done? I mean, gosh, with our social media we’re constantly living in other people’s moments, neglecting our own. Art, writing included, is about feeling. While most people in my life will vouch for the fact that I am definitely a feeler, they’ll also tell you I’m in my head a lot. I’m always thinking about the future, replaying a script from the past, but never sitting in the moment. “Never” is a strong word. I rarely sit in the moment. I want to be better. I want to write quality crap. I want to lift heavy weights and run faster miles. I want to help more kiddos.
Oh, but the words that have come from me sitting in small moments this past weekend have been beautiful. I’m trying to stop writing from my head and instead write from not just my heart but my senses. As I close my eyes for a moment, I wonder if that’s why we love reading about the things we do so much. You don’t just read a thriller, you experience it. Your heart pounds and your body tenses in a climactic scene as you turn the pages of a good thriller. You cry when lovers part in the middle of their story because it takes you back to when you watched someone you love walk away. You sigh when the man kisses the unsuspecting woman at the bar because, when you close your eyes, you remember the feel of that first kiss on your first date together. You feel the anticipation as the handsome man approaches the woman at the coffee shop, simply offering a coffee and a smile because you have felt that build up when you approach someone you know has the ability to carefully hold your heart and break it all at the same time.
We feel art. We feel words.
My whiskey-stained breath uttered something along the lines of, “I worry I’ll never write something as good as that” when referring top the blog we wrote while Mom was sick. On my drive home today, I wondered why that blog was as impactful as it was. We didn’t use tags. We didn’t really publicize it all too much and yet, our story was read by countless eager eyes. Why? You felt with us because good writing makes you feel.
Oh, as I’m getting to the end of this unbelievably long post, I’m finding this is truly a brain dump and really just not all that pertinent to most people. I don’t have a nice little bow to tie things together like I try to. Maybe this post is just for me to simply process things the way I do best: through the click, clack of my keyboard.