I Would If I Could, But I Can’t, So I Won’t

I’m a writer. It feels kind of weird to claim that label, but it also feels right. Because I am. I am a writer.

And being a writer isn’t dependent on whether or not I ever get published (though I do hope to do that). It isn’t about what anyone else thinks of me. It isn’t dependent on having an audience of particular size, or a dedicated readership (although I do want my writing to reach people). It’s not about winning awards or being connected or attempting to create some literary legacy for future generations (but those things would obviously be awesome).

Saying “I’m a writer” isn’t me claiming a profession or stating an aspiration. It’s an identity. I’ve only recently come to understand how true that is, though. Because I can’t stop writing. Stopping isn’t something I’m in any way capable of. I will be writing poems and short fiction and blog posts and long rambles on what I think and attemping to write novels as long as I’m alive. It’s as much a part of me as my gender and sexual orientation are. It’s part of what makes me who I am.

Because writing isn’t easy. It takes a lot of hard work and careful thought and practise to be good at. It takes dedication and effort to get words on the page. It takes even more determination to refuse to give up when writer’s block hits, or a deadline looms, or when the words just don’t want to come. It takes a combination of introversion and discipline to stay away from email and social media and friends and distractions to write.

I’m not the fastest writer. I’ve known people who could sit down at their keyboards and bang out five, ten, even fifteen thousand words in a single sitting. In the span of a few hours. I can’t do that. It’s a challenge for me to get a thousand words onto the page over the course of a day.

I also have a lot of things outside the writing process that make it difficult to write. Things like chronic illness and mental health issues and insomnia and chronic pain. God knows it would be easier to give up writing, to allocate that time to sleeping or reading or self-care or sleeping.

And I’ve tried, on multiple occasions, to pursue other hobbies and leave writing alone. To make it a once-in-a-while thing. To be “realistic” and grasp the concept that “making it” as a writer these days is all but impossible, and that the work isn’t worth the pay off, and just — give it up. Let go.

I can’t do it.

Because the stories will fill up my skull and trickle down my spine to pool in my fingers and toes until every thump-thud of my heart is a whisper of “write me”. Because the emotions that live inside me will shriek and claw at my ribs until they spill across the page. Because there are days where even I don’t know what I’m thinking or feeling until I put pen to paper and let the words come out.

And there’s a certain freedom in just not fighting it. In saying a writer is who I am, not just something I do. It’s giving myself permission to seem like a bad stereotype, to be happy, to do what I love, to have a dream that I believe in even when I know that the odds are stacked against me. It’s deciding that practicality isn’t as important as being able to claim that piece of my identity.

So, yeah. I’m a writer.
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.

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