Writing about writing is like movies about dancing about architecture. The second I begin I immediately cringe at the words I've chosen to group with those other words because it is writing about writing, so by God, it had better be good writing.
This writing is about writing. It's writing about writing on a post at a blog on the internet, a place where people have their choice to read just about anything they want. This writing is about writing because that's what I've decided to do.
I went to school to be a writer. My degree is in magazine journalism, and I decided that course because I wanted to write essays. I also wanted to write short stories and memoirs and film criticism and articles and screenplays and yes, of course, of course, a novel.
I landed a job blogging for the ABC affiliate in Nashville, and that was a glorious get. I'd been blogging for well over five years and was very passionate about self-publishing on the web and it was, frankly, a dream job. But that was seven years ago.
Somewhere along the way, slowly and with my hardly noticing, my career involved less and less writing and more and more marketing. Less creativity, more metrics. I went from blogger to social media editor. That role, while great for many, is not what I signed up for.
I credit my friend Carlo with tipping me toward a revelation. We sat at Southern Pacific Brewery, catching up and visiting for the first time since I moved back to San Francisco from New York. I was telling him that my freelance gig as the social media editor at NBC Bay Area is coming to a close (the five hour round-trip commute is not sustainable, and so my stint is a short three-month one) and that I was on the hunt for something else. I mentioned a social media strategist position for a big bank branch and doing community management for a retailer or how I was even considering social media for a local university when he interrupted me and asked, "What do you want to do?"
Six short words. He put them together to form a question that felt like a slamming of brakes. As soon as the question left his mouth I realized with great force that I hadn't stopped once to ask myself that very thing.
I was going to continue doing what came before. It's what I did, so I was going to do more. But suddenly a simple inquiry stopped everything spinning and sat fat in my lap, glaring up into my face.
I thought about it. For many days I turned that question over in my mouth, in my palms, in my mind, in my gut. Each rotation yielded that same result: I want to write.
It is important to note that I didn't say I want to be a writer. Luckily, I know the vast difference in wanting to write and wanting to be a writer. I'll take both, no doubt, but I want to write regardless of whether I sell a single book. I want to write even though no one may ever call me an author. I want to write and have wanted that since I was old enough to read.
I wrote my first play in third grade. In an after-school daycare program, I sat with pencils and wide-ruled notebook paper and re-wrote Cinderella. A brilliant parody, I'm sure. I cast myself as Cinderella, obviously, because even at eight years old I knew a prime role when I saw one, and cast anyone out of diapers who was willing to play the remaining characters. To their credit, the daycare workers gathered all the children into the main room to watch as my re-telling of Cinderella became a real happening thing, albeit with some major hiccups. I got my first taste of creating whole universes that can come to life more than a quarter of a century ago. And I'm not done yet.
I am 34 years old, and my only responsibilities are a few bills and two cats. I'm not married. I have no children. As a result, I have the luxury of taking career risks that others might not. Plus, some of us have to go for broke--why not me?
So, I've decided to go back to basics. I'm returning from whence I came. I've taken a job waiting tables, and when I'm not doing that I'm going to write. I'm going to pitch article ideas to magazines. I'm going to fill my paper journals full. I'm going to flesh out the outline on that book. I'm going to slowly, with a lot of patience and plenty of hard work, try to establish myself as a writer.
It's crazy. It's walking away from a career path with benefits and vacations days and good pay. It's chancing being forever in debt. It sounds wild and romantic and unrealistic, but it sounds like the only thing I want to do.
I'm out of practice in writing. I know my writing has a million miles to go and will never get to any sort of grand ending. But unless I do it, it won't improve. So, I'm going to do it. Full on. All the way. Double or nothing. No guts, no glory. Or similar.
I have no expectations. I do, however, have a loose, long-term plan. Mostly I just want to do what the heart wants and see how that ends up. I'm alive, with flesh and teeth and skin and hair and a passion, and I feel strongly that this singular life is for riding. It's ours to grab on to and hold on to and take for many spins. It's ours not to control, but to attempt to harness in a fashion that makes the trip we never signed up for as exhilarating as possible. It is what we make it, and so I'm going to wring it dry and stretch it over my bones and see how it can fit in new ways.
This is me writing about writing. This is an announcement of a game change. This is the a spark of a start.