I don’t know why I stopped writing. Okay, that’s not true. I do know why.
I stopped writing because I thought no one cared. I was writing with the hopes of always having someone say, “I loved what you wrote yesterday!” That hardly ever happened. Did they think it? Maybe. How often do you read something and reach out to the author and let them know how much you loved what they wrote? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
I stopped because the parts of my brain that are dominated by ego and low self-esteem were telling me, “Why go to all of that trouble if no one reads it? No one really cares if you write. I mean, you really aren’t a writer.”
I thought I always needed to be writing something profound, something that mattered, something that made people want to come back and read more. I was writing to please. Please others. I would sit down to write and found myself censoring my thoughts.
No, I can’t write that subject. It might offend someone.
No, I can’t write that word. People might judge me.
People think “bloggers” are self-absorbed. I shouldn’t write about myself.
I better be sure to be relevant, current, politically correct.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
And then I turned 42. My best and closest friends know what I’m talking about. I turned 42 and discovered that I no longer cared. I discovered that I no longer gave a shit. See! Just like that I can type a bad word, a cuss word, and I really don’t care if it is going to offend someone.
Because here’s the deal. My writing isn’t about you. I shouldn’t write for you. I should write for me. Sure, that cuss word might offend some. But for others, reading that word might make them laugh. That word might make others say, “Me too!” And just the possibility that someone might have a positive reaction to my honesty, to my being who I really am, well that makes happy.
I walk through my days seeing things, reading things, hearing things and I catch myself thinking, That would make a great column. You see, for a brief glimmering moment in my life I was actually paid to be something that had always dreamed of. I was paid to be a newspaper columnist. It was a humor column that ran every Sunday in a newspaper in southwestern Oklahoma for about two years. My column ran in my hometown newspaper that just…well….it just happened to be owned by my family. (Insert bashful emoji here.) This is something that I struggled with. Even though I rightfully earned my column (to answer your question: no, my father didn’t force the editor to run my column) it still felt…half real. I had an easy in. I had connections. It made me feel like I hadn’t fought hard enough. That it somehow didn’t make me a legitimate writer.
But being 42 and not giving a shit what others think of me has made me realize something: I am a writer. Am I Erma Bombeck or Judy Blume–two writers whom I idolize and would give anything to be? Hell. No. But that’s okay. I am still a writer because it’s something I love to do and there are even some people out there who’ve said I’m really good at it.
And here’s the thing, the most important part: if I’m not writing, I’m not even giving myself a fighting chance to ever become Erma or Judy. I have a feeling both of those women were standing in front of me today would fold their arms, shake their heads, and look at me and say, “Why the hell aren’t you writing? Quit giving a shit what others think. Sit your ass down and get busy doing something you love.”
Judy Blume would have no problem using a cuss word to make her point. I have a hard time picturing Erma cussing, but I know she’d be standing right next to Judy nodding her head in agreement.
Judy and Erma were real writers in every sense of the word. Judy and Erma both wrote about real things in an honest way. They weren’t worried about what others thought. They were just putting it all out there so others could smile and say, “Me too!”