Eight days ago I finished my 30 Days of Writing challenge. The point for me in doing this challenge was to get back to work on one project I started, oh, almost ten years ago and to kick start a new project. Neither project has a deadline or a real concrete end in sight. My goal was to write content and then see where the projects are going and then decide where to go with the material I have.
And I did this. I wrote - a lot. And it felt good. It was kind of freeing to not think about word counts and deadlines, about how to write with a particular publication or audience in mind like I usually do.
I felt very much like a "real" writer during my 30 Days.
But at the same time I felt a little panicked. Like I didn’t know where I was going. Like much of what I wrote wouldn’t be worth a second look. And a little bit like, "uh, what's the point of writing if I don't actually get some of this content refined and published?"
Yeah. Well. What IS the point of writing if no one is going to see my material? If I write and write and write then realize (horrors!) the stuff I've written isn't worthy of refining let alone publishing?
Maybe it's enough that I like to write. That I've always written. That I find comfort in writing. That I want to write because it feeds me in many ways. That it helps me figure things out.
I'm reading a book now by Laura Munson titled This is Not the Story You Think it Is...A Season of Unlikely Happiness. Munson wrote a piece for Modern Love in The New York Times in 2009 (Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear). I read the piece and loved it. So did thousands of others and Munson ended up getting her memoir published out of the deal. She’s getting attention! People love her work! She’s a writer!
But guess what? Munson was a writer long before her essay and memoir caught people’s attention. Like for twenty years. In that time Munson wrote fourteen other books, novels, all unpublished.
"Fourteen unpublished novels! Seriously?" Yes. "But why keep writing then?" you might ask. I suggest you read Munson's entire bio on her website to find out. Here is an excerpt that hit me:
"People ask me how it is that I could have spent the last 20 years writing so devotedly when I’ve not met with big-time publication. The answer is simple: I am obsessed with writing. You have to be obsessed if you are going to live the writer’s life. Years ago when I announced that the precarious and non-lucrative field of writing was my true passion, someone asked me: 'If you could look into your future and see that you’ll never be published, would you still write?' Without batting an eyelash, I said, 'Yes.' That’s how I knew I was hooked."
Okay so I'm not Laura Munson. And I'm not comparing myself to her or claiming that I'm a writer as hooked on writing as she is...but I am a writer who feels like I must write, who is obsessed with writing at some level, at least.
But, this is the difficult part for me, I'm also a writer who wonders if I'm a writer. A "real" writer. I've had dozens of stories published but wonder if I would have kept writing if I never got anything published? I wonder how I'm going to keep working on my two big projects that don't really have an end in sight and that, in the end, no one may want to read anyway. I wonder if I should get some other job that actually pays money so I could go to Italy, say, or just be able to pay a bill.
I wonder a whole bunch of things about my writing. I really don’t know where I’m going with my writing or where I’m going to end up. But the point is, I believe, to keep my wonderings (perhaps wanderings might be a better word) somewhat at bay and to keep writing. And, for now, that is enough. Right?