I am a writer who isn’t writing.
Does this make me an imposter? Well, yes. A writer writes.
But on the other hand, is writing a little bit like being a genius? As Lois McMaster Bujold has her character Professor Vorthys say, “All the geniuses I ever met were so just part of the time. To qualify, you only have to be great once, you know. Once when it matters.” Having written, I’m a writer.
That’s not a very satisfying answer, though. It smacks of self-justification and resting on my laurels (which are rather small and unpublished). What am I doing in my free time that prevents me from being a writer on a more regular basis?
I’m a YouTube viewer and a ukulele player.
I have to admit, being a YouTube viewer is highly unsatisfying. It’s often very fun in the moment, but I don’t retain much. And it is such a lottery – for every five minutes of information and education, I get at least five minutes of utter pointlessness that looks like it is going somewhere, but winds up nowhere. I like YouTube, and I’m going to keep watching it. But do I want it down there in my obituary: “She watched a lot of YouTube”? No. I do not.
Being a ukulele player, on the other hand, feeds my heart. I’m going to admit to you that on a shallow level, it’s the kind of geeky cool that I’ve always aspired to be. I practice several times a week, and I can see my progression as a player. This week, my call to practice is, “Hey, I’m getting better at that Bb chord!” I like the challenge of getting to a goal – and I can see the goalposts. I can envision a day when I am good at playing the Bb chord.
Plus, when I’m doing it, I feel great. I love how the different parts of the music interplay with each other and form a united whole. I like the sounds. Even a mistake can sound pretty cool – and I’m proud that I can hear the mistakes and fix them. I am totally enamored of the entire process, even though I’ve been playing 18 months – I should be past the honeymoon period, but it still feels like true love.
That’s how I feel about writing, sometimes. That’s how I want to feel about writing all the time – enjoying how the parts fit together, and even liking the mistakes because they show my progress.
There is a difference, of course. With the ukulele, I’m putting together the pieces that someone else has already created. It’s a matter of gathering skill. I don’t think I’ll ever be a ukulele composer, because I simply don’t (at least at this point) hear original music in my head.
With writing, I hear that original prose. I want to capture it quickly, and preserve it for myself and for others to enjoy. To a certain extent, there’s nothing new under the sun, so what I’m doing is taking different elements from everything I’ve read and all my life experience, and putting them together in tasteful ways. But it’s not preassembled with options like my ukulele music is. It’s all options – no plan except the plan I make. Too many days, I lack the focus to put the parts together well, so I give up and leave the parts in a box in the basement with my Girls.
But anyway, this much I know: if I don’t write, I will feel like an imposter, and every blog I post will feel like a hollow sham. If I do write, I’m a writer. It doesn’t really matter much this month if it’s coherent, linear, plotty or succinct — I’m still on a first draft. I’m vowing to spend the next two weeks to writing the juice, for at least 15 minutes every day (and with the option to spend at least an hour on writing at least four days a week). Then I can pick up my ukulele, work on that Bb chord some more. Who knows? I might have a little time left over for some fun with the late shows.
A writer writes, and by gum, I’m going to write this summer.