This was not the interview question I expected. She was holding my resume, thumb on the bullet point listing my creative writing degree.
Both are true, I thought. Too scared, really. “It’s just not something that was on my radar.” Half-true.
I didn’t realize it then, but I had pushed my dream of being a published author down so far that I didn’t even know what I was running from. I’ve probably tried every substitute for writing besides actually writing, and in the process put off my dream of completing a novel for most of my adult life.
It’s easier to serve others
When did I become afraid of writing? The farther I got from my writing classes, the scarier writing became. Many of my friends went off and got “real jobs.” I had an offer for a job editing textbooks, and I felt that I could already hear the funeral march playing for my creative life. I thought the moment I became bored would be the moment I became boring.
So I just kept waiting tables for a summer post-college before finding a job at a bakery. I was waiting for my creative iron to become hot, not knowing that it was me who had to strike it first to make it so. (Yeats, anyone?)
For five years I was a professional baker, obsessed and amazed by the the idea that a handful of basic elements– butter, sugar, flour, eggs– could come together and create a small representation of joy: a poof of frosting standing in as a symbol for someone else’s very special day. Always someone else’s.
Maybe it was these service jobs, or maybe it was fear itself, but I found it easier to play a supporting role in other people’s lives instead of a starring role in mine. I got just enough gratification from being an accessory, and I didn’t bother to write anymore at all. I just wanted to be there. I found my own value in being around other people’s creativity, not caring that it wasn’t mine.
Sometimes the words built up inside of me and I scribbled them out, but I didn’t put in the work. It was easier to serve others than to take a deep look at myself.
Arbitrary and Reckless Adventures
So I partied like Zelda Fitzgerald. I clung to the artists, writers, and musicians; I wore the avant-garde dresses, and I drank a few too many retro cocktails. I ran from the gnawing guilt that I was, in fact, not special at all.
I desperately and recklessly created arbitrary adventures to prove myself wrong. I hung out in green rooms, I climbed up fire escapes to parties in warehouses, I rode the back of Vespas.
And then one morning after never going to sleep, or maybe heading to my 5am shift at the bakery– I’m not sure which– I heard the first birds come out and chirp, “You’re wasting your life. You’re wasting your life.”
I realized that I had been doing anything to recreate that connection I felt in my writing classes. And then someone entered my life who treated me better than I realized I had been worth. I felt a sense of calm drape over all the rough edges, and then I didn’t need to wear ridiculous clothes anymore or avoid my own creative thoughts.
Zelda Fitzgerald once wrote that, “By the time a person has achieved years adequate for choosing a direction, the die is cast and the moment has long since passed which determined the future.”
Zelda is wrong.
It’s true, I don’t have the same frustrating release as inspiration, but I refuse to be too lazy.
I finally have the discipline to twist my adventures into the story I want to tell. It hurts, because a lot of my discipline comes from pretending I was always the person I am now, and ignoring all those “new adult” years of indecision (and bad decisions).
Now everything is aligned, not by chance, but because I forced it to be so: I have my stories, my discipline, and my support. The only doubt left is that I will discover that I never had it in me after all, that the interviewer was right and I am just not good enough.
But even that doesn’t matter now in the face of my biggest fear of all: wasting more time. The only solution is to write.
Now is the time to write.