I did an interview recently for the local SCBWI blog, Kite Tales, and one of the questions was, “When did you first feel like you were a writer?” My first reaction was, I don’t feel like a writer. I don’t, for practical reasons. I’m not published or even represented. Also for emotional reasons. Who the heck am I? I can’t write. I’m playing make believe. This is all a grand exercise in delusion.
I let that weed of a knee-jerk reaction subside and really considered the question. Supposing I did have flashes of feeling like a writer, and I do, when did those begin, and sparked by what? The answer? I felt like a writer over the course of writing this blog.
What a horrible answer, but there it is. A blog. Woof, such a cliche. Amiright? I don’t write this blog for readership; I never have. If that were my intent, I promise you I know enough about marketing to know that I’d go about it differently. I don’t write this blog for attention, or to get discovered, or picked up, or anything really. I don’t write it for anything. Except, just, to write. To work out who I am as a writer. To experiment with putting words together. To wrestle with words. It’s a blog, it’s social media, but it’s intimate. Because I don’t care if you like it, or comment on it, or share it, or ever read it at all. It’s public enough that I’m accountable to how I put the words together, but private enough that I don’t feel prey to anyone’s scrutiny or validation. I love this blog, and it has made me feel like a writer.
This year I need more of that. And I need it to be next level. An agent, a sold manuscript, an award in a writing contest. Something. Something else from somewhere outside my own fingers, something from the cosmos that hears my call and responds, “Yes, okay, you are a writer.”
The older I get, the more I realize that quiet was what I was always meant to be. My ego has longed for fame, fortune, acclaim, praise—all on the highest level, and yet my actions have led me to a small, quiet life with a wonderful partner, a pair of cats, a tiny apartment by the sea, an office job, and all the accouterments of standard, out-of-the-box happiness. Nothing too extraordinary, or revolutionary, but as singular as a snowflake to me. As quiet as one too. My ego wanted one thing, but my heart took me to another. Peculiar. Does the heart just win?
Am I equivocating? Trying to console myself for being in my mid-thirties, still in debt, still unknown and working in an office? Maybe. I honestly don’t know the answer to that because if my life were a bit more exclusive, maybe I’d be happy with that too. I don’t know. The only thing I do know is that I wouldn’t take away a single thing today that makes me happy in order to obtain the extravagance about which my ego is so curious. I wouldn’t trade the great love I have, my sweet cats, my family, or the little baby growing inside me.
Oh yeah, I’m expecting. Probably nothing exemplifies the paradox of wonder as it relates to my ordinary life, better than my pregnancy. I am growing a human being. She’s the only one of her kind. I am doing something that millions of women around the world are doing, and billions of women since time immemorial. It is, arguably, the most mundane thing anyone could possibly do, from a statistical standpoint. And yet, why does it feel like I’ve won a Pulitzer? How does it feel like I’m the first woman on the moon? It’s like I’m spinning a new universe from scratch when all I’m really doing is something that most women will do at some point in their lifetimes. It is, at once, the most ordinary and extraordinary thing in the world.
That’s my life. An extraordinary, ordinary life. Even that’s a cliche. There’s nothing special. There’s nothing singular. And yet, it feels as though these cliches have something in common with walking on the moon. Growing humans. Loving someone. Writing. Making a life.
Acts of creation?
My ego wants to be the only one. The only one who gets told I’m great, I’m special, I’m beautiful, I’m known. But something else, something that’s not my ego, knows that just as much magic can exist in a small version of greatness. The outcome may look different. The compensation almost certainly will. The core is the same. All acts of creation are singular, no matter how small, or prolific among humanity.
Don’t mistake my introspection for complacency. I am ambitious. I want to be on the New York Times Bestseller list. I want to win a Newbery. I want one of my books to be made into a movie and have a chair on set that’s always saved for me. These are not quiet ambitions. I know that. I also know that achieving them will not make me any happier than I feel on a Friday night, coming home to my husband, eating spaghetti, watching Netflix and feeling my baby kick me from the inside. I know it. One day I’ll accept my Newbery Medal and I’ll say to my daughter, this award means the world to me, but you were my world first. I’ll say to my husband, this award brings me joy, but I only know joy because of you. I’ll say to my cats, you are little stinkers and neener-neener, I got a medal. I won’t talk to my cats about it. They don’t care. But they make me happy.
If I never actually get that medal, or that spot on the NY Times list, at least I know what it feels like to win. To be the luckiest woman in the world. Happiness. Its potency doesn’t increase with scale. It’s in the sun, and a grain of sand. The same amount.
And love. Singular, unique, exclusive, magical, love. A fertile soil where all creation begins, and blossoms an extraordinary garden. What’s more ordinary than a flower? They grow all over the world. But they always make you pause, don’t they? Pause, and wonder.