Saturday, December 29, 2012

Am I still a writer if I'm not writing anything?

My netbook waiting for me on my messy desk

That is the question that has been running through my mind lately, along with all the other unanswered questions about where our lives are going.

I went into NaNoWriMo ready to kick butt. My story was planned, my plot made sense, my characters were well developed. It should have been easy to write, but it wasn't. My plot unraveled and my characters started to annoy me. Thinking maybe I was trying to squeeze a sequel out of characters that simply didn't have one in them, I switched stories halfway through and kept on plugging. Having something totally new to write about worked for awhile, but I never really felt passionate about that story, either. While I could see it's potential it was as if I was viewing it through plexiglass. I could see it, but not access it. On November 30th I crossed the finish line and technically "won" Nano for a second time, but it was a hollow victory.

Although I have sat myself down in front of the computer every single morning since with the intention of writing, and have, in fact, blogged regularly, I still haven't been able to get my fiction writing back into the groove again. Eventually it occurred to me what my problem is; I can't be a fiction writer right now because I'm too busy being the protagonist in a story that isn't over yet. The kids, their issues, the uncertainty of our lives are the threads of the real-life story that I'm living. Getting through the plot twists that pepper our days with tension is taking all of my creativity and imagination with none left for fictional characters. Until this is over (whatever "over" ultimately consists of), there is simply no other story I can possibly think about or try to tell.

In answering this question I realized something else, too. By middle age most of us are well entrenched in ourselves. We know who we are and what we're about. We've left the angst and questioning of our earlier years behind and, for better or worse, we simply are who we are. Self-awareness is supposed to be one of the perks that make up for thicker waistlines, graying hair and the emergence of wrinkles and I liked to think I had it. Turns out I thought wrong. I went into 2012 believing I was one person and I'm leaving it realizing that maybe I'm not that person after all. This year has been so intense, has pushed me so far beyond my limits, I truly believe it has changed who I am, and not necessarily for the better. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that my perception of who I am has changed. Either way, certain things about myself that I thought were true and absolute were not. It is very sobering to look into yourself and see somebody you don't like looking back. Creating fiction is great when writing, but not so great when living, so I console myself with the thought that at least now the things I know about myself are real, even if some of them aren't pleasant.

As uncomfortable as some of my self-discovery this year has been, as all-engulfing as the children and their needs and the uncertainty of our futures are, having all the superficial things removed has had it's benefits. One thing that has come into sharper focus as other things have been stripped away is the fact that I am, essentially, a creative person. I am a writer, whether I am writing right now or not. I am an artist, whether I am creating art right now or not. These things are not choices I've made or attitudes I've cultivated, they are the elemental components of who I am as a person.

Over the years I've done many things that I've wanted to do, many others because I've had to do them and still others because I thought I should do them. What 2013 will bring remains unknown, but I intend to do more of what I want to do, what I need to do, which is to create. While I would like to ultimately create words or art, for now I'll focus on creating healing and change in the lives of three hurt little kids.