Today I wrote about railroads. This morning, I was a mom. I picked up my contacts, grabbed a coffee at the local Caribou, and sang Disney songs to my five month old son all the way home. We played with stuffed animals, read books, talked at length about Twitter, and changed a diaper or twelve. Then he napped, and I became an expert on the history of railroads in America. During his second nap, I was an expert on iOS 10. On his third, I was a fictional advice columnist, offering colorful guidance to young witches and wizards. Now he’s asleep for the night, and I’m taking a moment to write as me…or try to.There’s a reason I was only ever able to finish a book when it wasn’t mine. I took pride in them, the books I wrote for other people. I took pride in the manuals and blog posts as well, but it’s really the books that concern me, because it’s the books that elude me. When I’m a freelancer, I am a version of myself best suited for whatever project is at my feet. I am a dog breed expert, recruiting guru, or romance novelist. I know the answer to every question, and I am obsessed with deadlines. But when I’m me, I’m doubtful and insecure. I second guess every line and every second guess.
If there is a muscle for writing, then that muscle is paralyzed. Sometimes I feel it when I read something I’d written in the past, something for me, something I’m proud of. I feel it humming like a phantom limb. I almost think I can walk again. But then I remember that until a week ago, I hadn’t written anything for myself in over a year. Not a blog post. Not a sentence in my novel. Not a word that wasn’t a tweet.
But today I wrote about railroads and iPhones and magic. To date, I’ve written dozens of blog posts on technology, education, and health. I’ve written over fifteen eNovellas (so to speak) on everything from relationships to child rearing. And I’ve written exactly thirteen novels, most within the past year, none with my name on them. Don’t get me wrong. I love my job. It’s inspired me to a level of writing productivity that I had never before known. But when I sit here and cringe out every word that I write for me, I feel like I’m not a writer; I just play one on TV.
Reprise: After writing this, I looked back on the post I’d written two Augusts ago about how glorious it felt to write for a living. Even in my current frustration, I wouldn’t change a word of it, and I certainly won’t stop writing for others. But I might suggest that if you’re really passionate about sharing something of yourself, then you need to find time to do exactly that. Accept no substitutes.