For years I kept Charles Bukowski’s poem “so you want to be a writer?” pinned to my refrigerator. I would read it every day before I wrote. It was part of my process. An affirmation. A prayer.
I needed that voice to burn through me and provide a sense of belief that someone outside of my skin was pushing me forward. I needed to believe that I was not alone.
But I was.
You asked me to tell you whether you should keep writing or not. You said, “Read what I’ve written and tell me if I’m a writer.”
I said, “I can’t tell you that. Only you can tell you that.”
This is what I tell myself. I tell myself: You are the only one who can make you stop writing. You are the only one who can tell you if you are a writer or not.
What you are craving is validation. I understand that. I do. It doesn’t help, though. Well, it helps temporarily but it doesn’t help in the long run. Validation is fleeting. Validation does not stop you from doubting yourself.
I would image that even the most successful and well-known writers suffer the same doubt. When they sit down to the page, they are seeking the same thing. They are looking for someone to say to them, “Keep writing. You are a writer.”
They come back to the page again and again for this same reason and there are many days when they feel like they have failed or like they have not been heard. There are many days when they receive no validation at all.
As for me, all of my words are piled upon the words of rejection. No. Not good enough. Not for us. Not the right words. Not the right message. Not the right writer. Not a writer. Not good. No good. No. No. No.
There have been yes’s but they are fewer and harder won. The yes’s have never come as easily as the no’s have.
When all of it piles up and I am struggling with time, I have the difficult conversations with myself. Should I keep doing this thing that hurts me and sometimes takes me physically, emotionally, and mentally away from my family? Should I? Why do I even want to?
Always I come back to not knowing why I want to but knowing that I have to and have always had to, whether anyone else cares if I do or not.
And yet, I know there was a time many years ago when I was just starting out that I wanted someone to say to me, yes, you can do this and you should do this. I also know that someone did say it to me.
But not until I allowed myself to be fully and completely vulnerable.
The walls of a fortress leave us cold, unmoved. It is only when we spy the crack and find our way through the walls that we are able to understand how it is you want us to feel. Every fortress has vulnerability. Show us yours.
Vulnerability is the key.
The solace you seek in your words is available to you but only when you are willing to break yourself open.
Only when you are willing to expose your dark heart.
Only when you show us your vicious scars.