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Monday, August 3, 2009

Taking it to where I'm not Sure I can go

Prior to six months ago, when the topic arose I used to say: “I like to write”--looking down when I said it, afraid that if I looked up condescension would reflect back at me. "Sure, humor the little woman, why don't we?" The truth is though, in my former recruitment, non-writing job, I could lose myself in the simple task of crafting an email, a short memo or a letter—anything that required words and a clear message. I read each piece out loud to myself, or to who ever sat across from me, editing, changing, massaging--improving. Sure, there were other responsibilities in my position that I enjoyed, but it was the same with the “in the background” mouse of me, the one who secretly scribbled in her spare time, nothing but the action of writing and re-writing, could open its yawning mouth, take a huge gulp and swallow me whole.

Then, recent history occurred, and I found myself visiting an outplacement counselor each week. You may remember that this spring, at his prodding my goal was to develop a personal marketing statement. Exactly who am I, and how do I want people to think of me? I muddled around with that for a few weeks, “I’m a business professional with strengths in communication and writing…” hedging my bets, purposefully unclear.

Always, always, my shortcoming has been an ingrained lack of confidence, so inside I called myself an “erstwhile” writer, or an “aspiring” writer until finally, exasperated, I forced myself to edit my statement to say, “I’m a writer and business professional…” Putting that in print was a Neil Armstrong “man on the moon” step for me, and yet as always, the print portion was the easy part.

A few weeks ago I met a former executive from the old company (who left voluntarily years ago) downtown during a walk. Her five-year-old twins are about to start Kindergarten; she’s arrived at a point in her life when she needs something new and here I was, in full blown redefinition mode--so we discussed our prospects. She asked the inevitable question: “What do you want to do?”

Just for the record, and I’m emphatic here, I hate, hate, hate answering that.

I took a deep breath. I looked at her directly in the eye and with a stammer replied: “Well actually, ummm, ahhh, well, I’m a writer.” Weak, weak, piss poor, rotten. I actually stumbled over the words. I got on with it though, “I’ve had a few things published and whatever I end up doing next, the major component has to be writing. I will always pursue the creative aspects of writing, but I’m identifying ways to use words that bring in an income too.”

I struggle with this. On the inside now, I AM A WRITER who would love to toss the “business professional” out into the rain. On the outside though, I waffle and fluctuate, lacking focus and direction, and drive to another state where someone may train me to write grants because at least I’ll be using words. I make statements (in writing) about becoming a freelance writer, and then do nothing about getting business cards, opening up a bank account, or moving forward because here is the real deal.

We are talking a perfect world here. I haven’t the courage to say it out loud and honestly, I don’t know if I can get myself where I need to go, but I want to write. I want credentials. I want credibility. I want to believe in myself. I want, no, I need to take writing courses. I love this blog; it rewards me, makes me feel clever, and offers me a goal. But to improve, I have to learn to delve deeper, scrape down to the pure essence of me, to bubble it up and skin it and lay it out there in the sun where it can stink and smell and harden and crack under professional criticism. I can’t continue to rely on the flaking surface cells that fluff off of me that you read each day. I have to challenge myself, to sweat, to grind, to cry over it and get down to the untapped blood vessels and bones and sinew and bile and undigested contents of me.

I know this. And yet, for the moment, I’m frozen--rock solid stuck and scared. How do I balance this desire, with my obligation to my family, my daughter’s pending college tuition, the economy that is pinching and picking at us, and with fairness to my husband, who is so everlastingly and blessedly patient with me as he gets up and goes to work day after day?

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