Habit Is the Precursor
I’ve written a post a day for over a month now. I’m not sure if that’s an accomplishment or it’s sad that I think it’s an accomplishment. It is, however, the first time I’ve kept a commitment I made regarding my writing in over twenty years.
In 1996, the year I graduated high school, I moved to Montreal to go to school to major in Creative Writing at Concordia University. I was Class Writer in my senior year, had written all of my young life, and even had a story published when I was in sixth grade. But, to be honest, I hadn’t really thought of making a career out of it. I wrote angsty stories about moody people. I wrote flowery and flippant sentences that, when you read it, felt like wading upstream in a mud slick. M, the teacher I wrote about previously, gave me the idea because her daughter attended Concordia for the same major. Since I had no clue what I was to do with my life when I was eighteen (hell, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life), and M hadn’t ever steered me wrong, I decided it was my best choice.
The next two years of university before I dropped out were a crazy period of lust and love, sex and drugs, definitely some rock ‘n roll, and one stupid ass American in a province where it was legal to drink. Most of my assignments were handed in late or not at all. I remember eking out a thirty-page story the night before it was due. The comment from the professor? Trite and predictable. Did you write this all last night?
What can I say? Everyone had my number. They knew I wasn’t there to write. And, after being fired from my RA job, what was the point in going back? I didn’t need school to be a writer. I needed experience. I needed to feel what my characters were going through. I needed to run wild before my mind became wild. And then? Twenty years passed by in a flash, just like that.
Here’s the thing though. Over those first ten out of the twenty years, I considered myself a writer. It was my identity for so long. It’s sad and pathetic how delusional with myself I was. I wrote, a story here, a story there, maybe four or five stories over the course of those ten years. I didn’t journal all that much. I look back now and wince in embarrassment with my declarations of writer-dom.
It wasn’t until I moved back east in 2010 that I started to realize I didn’t have the right to call myself a writer. I called myself a developer, a programmer, an engineer. There is something creative and elegant in writing code but there are strict rules. You can only push so far. Being a writer, claiming that identity, is still something I wanted. I began writing more, first in my journals, then venturing in short stories and some attempts at a few novels. And then, the end of 2017 came and I realized I would turn forty in 2018. Shit got real, real quick.
All these wasted years saying I wanted to do something and then not doing it. Why? What was I thinking? It got to the point of being unacceptable. Was it fear? Was it laziness? Was it just all talk, no walk? I don’t know. I want to reclaim writer as an identity. I’m not there, not yet. I don’t think I deserve the label of writer. I know they say you have to think of yourself as a writer, you have to own it. But, I’ve got more than a few years to make up for lying for so long. Maybe if I ever publish a story or win an award or someone asks for my signature on the cover page of my first novel, I will be able to call myself writer.
In this first month of writing consistently, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster. I sometimes wonder why I’m doing it. Is staying up late and losing sleep worth it? And, I just push those questions aside and get on with the habit. I’ve learned that my brain starts firing when I have the habit. Ideas and characters explode and come to life. I listen more intently throughout the day for snippets of conversation. Or I think about how to describe sunlight through bare trees. I’ve stopped thinking about code, which is a welcome reprieve.
It’s getting easier to just sit down and write. I understand that inspiration is never going to just come to me. But, if I sit down, every day, there will be 750 words at the end of my session. Sometimes it’s shit, sometimes it’s halfway decent. Eventually, I’ll write something worthy of your time to read it. It may be a few years.
If I want to claim writer, then I must keep the habit, regardless of how I feel.