I’ve been writing for almost as long as I’ve been able to talk.
First in broken, misspelled words, then in pushed-together sentences. Later came paragraphs, then chapters, then pages.
But always, despite syntax and grammar, whether in poetry or prose, there was story.
I am not yet the writer I thought I would be.
I have not published any books nor won many prizes.
But I cling to this truth: I am a storyteller.
In my life and in my words, there is story.
There’s this scene in — of all things — Sister Act II, when Sister Mary Clarence corners a struggling student, played by Lauryn Hill, in an alleyway outside the school where she’s teaching. She quotes a passage from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet. In the book, Rilke offers counsel to a young man trying to choose between a literary career and a life in the Austro-Hungarian army. He writes: “Don’t ask me about being a writer. If when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing, then you’re a writer.”
I don’t know if I’ll publish a book one day. My blog may never be read by more than handful of the people I love. My poems and long-forgotten scraps of story ideas may never see the full light of day.
But I know that when I wake up in the morning, I think about writing. I speak words in my head that I ache to put on paper. I stay up late, finishing blog posts and typing out scattered thoughts. I read everything I can get my hands on, eager to accumulate words upon words, desperate to, I think, by osmosis or some type of mental digestion even become half of the artist the authors I love have become.
For a while, there was this quote by Jessica Hische floating around the Internet: “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”
It took some time for me to decide if that was true.
Because, honestly, I spend a lot of time procrastinating by pinning things to Pinterest, shopping online, and coming up with clever things to say on Twitter. These things are fun, sure, but are they career-worthy? No. Those aren’t the activities I want to fill up my days with, those aren’t the moments I want to get lost in.
I wonder, though, if maybe deep down, her point is true. When I am writing, I lose all sense of time. The clock, the minutes, the seconds: They do not exist. I am alone with my words, and when I am interrupted, I am grouchy. Annoyed. Frustrated. My words and I have been interrupted. A point lost, a sentence broken. I breathe deep and begin again, and when I find the words I thought were lost, I rejoice because they have been found.
For me, writing is like breathing. I feel like that’s been said before, so I’m scared to say it. Instead, I’ll say: Writing makes me me. It makes me one with the creator I worship, brings me in tune to what He has made and what He has done. It brings me comfort in times of trouble, relief in times of storm, peace when there is chaos. It offers a relief, a haven. It is a prison when the clock keeps ticking. It is the cause for my restless nights, the dream that makes me want to pick up the pen and the keyboard again and again and again and again.
Writing is work. But it is the best work I have ever done.
And regardless of what I do or do not publish, whether my name becomes known to the thousands or to the dozens, I will keep writing.
Because I know what I knew way back when I was a little girl, sketching out story ideas on borrowed legal pads: I am a storyteller.
My life and my words are story.
Writing, for me, just makes it real, just puts a soul to the skin of the thoughts that reside inside my head.
I am a writer. Nothing could be more freeing, or more terrifying.
I am a writer.