I am currently reading Therese Anne Fowler’s Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Fictional or not it is always a fascination of mine to be taken into the world of some of the great writers. The appeal of writing and writers is that it is such a vulnerable act that humanness bleeds through everything they commit to paper.
A topic part of the book explores through Zelda’s eyes is how one knows whether or not they are a writer. Zelda asks Scott about this question and he says he knew he was a writer because without it he would cease to exist. Through our writer’s workshops, which is comprised of 100% women, many struggle with whether they can attach “writer” to their identities. We have many preconceived ideas about what a writer is. We categorize and often venerate or glorify what it means to be a writer and stop ourselves from attaching it to ourselves. One workshop, we had a homework assignment where people were required to tell total strangers that they were writers. The assignment was difficult for many and they felt as if they were lying or fraudulent. The strange thing was they thought of themselves as writers enough to take a writing workshop. I am guilty of the same thing. One of the main things I tell myself is that I am not a writer because I am not published. I have tried to abandon this limitation in my writer-self by asking myself who would I be without writing and would I be okay if I could never write again? The answer is that I would not be okay without it. This is my mode of self-expression over painting, sculpting, singing, acting etc. When I received my first rejection letter, I asked myself if I could call myself a writer then? This is only when I think about other people’s perceptions. Perhaps others will not accept me as a writer until I am published. When I am alone, in silence, in connection with the deepest part of myself, I am a writer. I am a writer because I write. Yes, there are days when I will choose picking up dog poop over being with my pen, but ultimately I need writing like I need air.
For the past two weeks and going on a third, my husband has been working twelve hour graveyard shifts trying to get High River, Alberta back up and running after the worst flood they have ever seen. I see him for two hours a day and I have taken on twice the load at home, especially when it comes to being a parent. I have no time to write and the time I was able to steal away, I needed babysitters to help. After two weeks of this, I felt as if I was going insane and falling further and further out of touch with myself. This is because I need writing in my daily life (at the very least every second day). I need writing like I need to shower.
Perhaps this is the question we, questioning writers, need to ask ourselves: Can I function without writing?
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