Saturday, January 30, 2021

I Am a Writer

Several days ago, I participated in a Zoom coffee break with the online community of writers that I recently joined. We took turns sharing what we were reading and writing and how our work was going.  The people on the call discussed how they were rewriting a particular chapter of a book draft or going through notes to flesh out details of a character or exchanging emails with a publisher. 

I felt so intimidated. Out of place. I wrote a blog post and I was reading a really good book. (I just finished the book yesterday, actually. It's titled Writers & Lovers and it's by Lily King and it's amazing. I actually hugged it when I closed the last page. It's the fourth book I've finished in 2021 because reading is bringing me so much joy this year.) Is that what I'm supposed to tell everyone? That seemed so inadequate. I was wasting the time of these real writers by sharing my updates. I didn't belong there. 

But why not? What makes someone a REAL writer, after all?

I have told people that I want to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was in second grade, my friend Kimberly and I wrote lengthy petitions asking if she could spend the night or at least stay at the house long enough to watch Silver Spoons. In third grade, that same friend and I used my parents' typewriter to create several editions of our newsletter entitled "People Are Funny." In fourth grade, I won my class' weekly creative writing contest seventeen times. In fifth grade, I founded the newspaper at my elementary school. It was called The Harrison Bugle and I was editor-in-chief with around ten other student writers who stayed after school to work on articles.

As I moved into middle and high school, I would sit in my backyard with a notebook and write about everything - my parents, the girls at school who intimidated me, what would happen when I die, how I felt about my boyfriend. In fact, the name of this blog, "Notebook and a Blanket," comes from those hours spent on the grass in my yard.

In college, writing papers was my favorite. I always started with a legal pad and pen before eventually walking to the nearest computer lab to type it all up (yes, kids - in those days I did not have a laptop in my dorm room and had to go to one of the communal computer labs, either in the basement of the neighboring dorm or in the back of one of the parking garages). I loved the feel of the pen in my fingers and the paper moving beneath my hand. I even wrote my entire senior honors thesis about the fragility of Russia's new openness following centuries of authoritarian rule on paper over the course of many months and slowly moved it to a computer screen chapter by chapter. I wrote letters to the campus newspaper. I worked on political campaigns and wrote material for the candidates. I interned at the White House in the communications department and worked on letters that eventually were signed with the president's name.

When I worked as an academic advisor at University of Maryland and Boston University, I created newsletters for faculty and students and it was one of my favorite parts of the job. As a high school government teacher, I made my students do SOOO MUCH writing and this isn't even English class (imagine that being said in the tone of an unhappy 17-year-old). Being able to communicate your knowledge of any subject in written form was important to me, so I made them develop that skill as well. After becoming a mom, I spent several years doing freelance writing and editing work until my divorce required a job that had a reliable and bigger paycheck every two weeks.

And now? I have this blog. I make lengthy posts on Facebook. I use both of those platforms to write about politics and parenting and music and random observations. In the journal pictured above, I write about fears and hopes and doubts and desires that aren't for public consumption. I read a lot, finding inspiration to write more by spending time immersed in the craft of others. I have four decades of a passion for putting words together. I long for the opportunity to share what I create with more people, and I'm working on ways to make that a reality. 

I don't write all of this to share my writing resume stretching back to 1982. Instead, I want to lay it all out and confront myself with the question of why I still struggle to say out loud, "I am a writer!" Is it because my name is not printed on a book cover or I don't have any articles that have been read by thousands of people? Are those really the qualifications?

And here is the more general question. Why do any of us resist owning our talents? Why are we hesitant to proclaim, "Yes, I am a ________" and not couch it in justifications or then backtrack?

Because here's the thing. I often feel out of place where I live, more so in the past year than the other eighteen that I've lived here. That can be lonely. I question how well I nurture relationships with friends and family. I worry that I fall short in many areas of my daily life. But I know this - I feel most alive and most comfortable when I am putting words together to create a mood or express my opinion. It's art. I think I'm good at it. And that should be enough! 

Even my son, when I told him I was writing a piece tonight about my how I really want to be a writer, said, "Aren't you a writer already?" He is wise. He affirmed me with a question I needed to hear. 

So here it is. I've decided tonight, on January 30, 2021, that it's time to stop telling people "I want to be a writer someday" or "I really wish I was a writer" and take ownership of who I already am.

My name is Sarah Moore. And I am a writer. I guess I've been one for a long time. 

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