April 21st, 2004


returning and writing

So I kind of let this go. Maybe because unemployment isn't really having an effect on me yet. It still feels like a long vacation, probably because I still have plenty of severance to live on and so I haven't had to curtail spending yet. It's really been a life of ease so far -- planning to travel (I'll be visiting my brother in Nashville in a couple of weeks!), going to baseball games, reading, watching Netflix movies and playing Final Fantasy 7 in the afternoons. There's just no angst to get out of my system yet. I'm sure once I actually start seriously looking for work and/or running out of money I will feel differently, but I'm not there yet.

But I want to get back to writing in this journal. I keep thinking that I ought to, and not because I need to destress or anything. I need to get back into the practice of writing. I haven't done any real writing for so long, and I miss it. I did apply for one job last week, a freelance position as a writer for an architectural firm. And I felt real dismay when I realized that I don't have a writing sample that's less than 4 years old -- papers written for library school. When I mentioned the position to T, he had no idea why I would apply for such a thing, much less be excited by it: "You're not a writer."

But the thing is, I am a writer. At least, I always was. There was nothing else I wanted to be when I was a kid. I was going to be a famous writer who wrote books for a living. I've been a writer since I knew what writing was -- in elementary school, when everyone else was writing sentences using vocabulary words, I was turning them into stories (and thank god for the teachers who let me do that). Then as I got older and realized how few people made a living writing fiction, I started to think about more practical writing careers. For a little while, I was going to be a journalist, then somehow I hit on the idea of being a lawyer, and that was my plan all through high school. I took a detour through architecture in college, but after a year of studio it was clear to me that I'd rather read and write about buildings than design them. My love of research drove me to library school, and curiosity about the Web sent me to a dotcom, but somehow, I need to get back into writing.

Even though I rarely put pen to paper anymore (or fingers to keyboard), I'm still always writing, composing text in my head. Sometimes it's like I'm a reporter, taking notes about the events that occur around me. Parts of this entry were composed while I was wandering around downtown today and considering the possibility of starting this journal up again. Other days there are bits of fiction popping into my head, the vague story ideas that exist as story fragments, a few of which have been written down. These are often triggered by music for some reason -- somewhere I have an outline based on images, characters, and stories suggested by the R.E.M. album "Automatic for the People." Or I'll write bits of academic papers on cities, buildings, movies, or television as I observe them. Almost none of this ever makes it beyond my head, but the process is very much like writing. It's not just thinking, because I'm also figuring how best to express the thoughts -- fixing the grammar, coming up with turns of phrase. No one else ever sees the words, but it's still writing.

I'm familiar with two advice columnist that discuss writing on a regular basis: the now-defunct Mr. Blue (Garrison Keillor's advice column for Salon.com) and The Vine (written by Sars of Tomato Nation). I have seen the same question from dozens of writers and wanna-bees in both: how do I become a writer? They have different ways of expressing their answers, but the gist is the same: the way to be a writer is to write. And this is where I have fallen down on the job. I don't write any more. Oh, sure, I put the occasional well-thought out post on a message board or on my email chat list, but those are the exceptions -- I generally stick to basic communication in those media. This is my chance to let go, to write something real. Even if it's just observations about my daily life, it's still a place to start, a way to get back in the habit. And then maybe, someday, I can make those childhood dreams reality.