For years, I called myself a writer but never showed my work to anyone.
Everything I did was private, a secret.
I kept a journal and wrote until I finished it, then opened a new one and started scribbling in it. Sometimes I wrote by hand; sometimes I typed on a laptop computer. Whether I wrote by lamplight or candlelight, on a desk or on a velvet pillow, the urge to write always came over me just after sunset.
As the twilight faded and yielded to the deepening shades of night, my desire to write intensified. It invaded me.
Like a night-blooming flower unfurling its petals on a balmy evening, the urge to write overwhelmed me, clinging to me like a fragrance I could not escape.
Like an alarm clock ringing in my mind, the desire to write always struck me at night. As soon as the sky darkened, a gong went off inside me, as though saying, It’s time. Pick up a pen or turn on your computer, and write. Now.
Most of the time, I did write. While the neighbors tucked themselves into bed or settled onto their couches, mesmerized by the blue-white flicker of their TV screens, I wrote. And I wrote. And I wrote.
I wrote until I filled up a giant storage box full of journals, all different colors, shapes, and sizes. When I opened the mirrored closet door in my bedroom and peeked inside, I noticed the multicolored journals spilling over the box’s open lid, winking like jewels in the darkness of my closet. I felt like a greedy, yet cowardly dragon lording over some incredible hoard of ideas.
Writing was my dirty little secret I did in the dark, late at night, all alone.
But some nights, I ignored the urge. Or I took a break. I watched TV, watched a movie, read a book, surfed the Internet, or listened to music. Sometimes I did a lot of these things on the same night.
Some nights I did nothing at all. When I did nothing, I felt—depressed. Devoid. Empty. As though I had no purpose.
When I did write again, I felt rejuvenated. Invigorated. Flat-out excited. Only when my eyes started to droop and I yawned did I stop and go to bed.
The next night, when I picked up from where I’d left off, I couldn’t wait to begin.
Writing was fun yet forbidden. It was still my secret.
For many years, I kept it a secret. (I like secrets.)
Until one day…
I got mad.
I was sick and tired of waiting for just the right moment. I was tired of waiting for everything to be perfect.
I spent years reading other people’s blogs. And it occurred to me not too long ago that I started reading Neil Gaiman’s blog when his youngest daughter, Holly, was just a wee one. Now she’s off to college.
I spent so many years waiting to “perfect” my craft that I never did anything with it.
Yet I argued with myself. I said, “Hey, I write every day! I’m making progress!”
Then my inner voice retorted: No. You write in your private journal every day. Then you lock it away in your filing cabinet and keep it there. No one reads it. No one knows it exists.
“But I still write — every day!”
No, you don’t. When was the last time you worked on a short story?
I couldn’t keep lying to myself.
I thought, Time is going by. And there’s nothing I can do about that.
But I also knew that I could do something about the way I managed my time. I had control over my time; therefore, I had control over myself. Once I realized this, I knew that I had absolute control over the future of my writing.
I relaxed. All I had to do was write. As Stephen King would say, “One word at a time.”
So that’s how I write — one word at a time.
I’m not perfect. (Who is?) I make mistakes, I don’t always hit my own unrealistic deadlines (write a book in three months!), and some nights I’m so tired that I don’t make my word count.
But I keep writing. No matter what.