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My epiphany: it’s about the writing, stupid

After almost two and a half years of writing full time, I’ve finally realized that I need to write. It’s not about being published for me, it’s actually about the stories and the writing process. If I go several days without writing anything, I get antsy. I feel like something is missing, like I’ve forgotten something, left something behind. This Saturday morning, after nearly three days of going without writing something meaningful (by which I mean something that wasn’t a blog post, a tweet, a FB status, or an email), I woke up in a sour mood. I really felt I needed a vacation, a long vacation somewhere by myself without the baby, without my husband or the rest of my family. All those writing retreats I’ve been hearing about were sounding pretty darn good (if a little unrealistic with an 8 month old who is still breast feeding). But then after doing some motherly duties and handing the baby off to Daddy, I went for an ambling walk to the coffee shop down the hill.

On the way, I thought about things. Writerly things. About my projects, about my critique group, about my writing life in general. A story idea kind of formed in my brain, pushing away all those cloudy gloomy thoughts. Then, it hit me–I don’t just want to be a writer, I need to be a writer.

I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to me before. My first novel had kind of written itself (with more than a little help from my co-writer) as I found myself squirreling away time during medical school and residency to finish it. I’ve mentioned this many times before, but one of my fondest memories of my surgery rotation in medical school is of reading Jane Austen on my Palm V in the hospital between surgeries instead of reading Surgical Recall (and, come to think of it, I actually received a better grade in that rotation than most of my other ones where I only studied in my spare time). And how many times have I gotten out of bed to write something down, even when my daughter was only a few weeks old?

On twitter, I saw someone complaining about how hard rejection letters are for a writer. And yes, having received letters both good and bad about my writing, I know that submitting your writing to a stranger can be scary and frustrating. But what I’m beginning to realize is that it kind of doesn’t matter. If you want to be a writer, then be a writer and write! Does it matter that your work may never be published? No. (If it really, really does, you may need to re-examine your motives. This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme.)

I write because writing makes me feel whole and sane again the way nothing else does. When I have a story in my head, I have to write it down even if it’s is completely nonsensical and stupid. Of course, I will continue to try and get published. I do like to share my writing with others (um, duh, that’s why I blog), and I do want to make a living out of writing because, let’s face it, you can’t survive in this world without some kind of income (thankfully I’m married and my husband passionately loves his job). But I now have a different outlook on things. I can make time to write without feeling like a failure just because I’m a “pre-published” author as many writers call themselves. I have the luxury of allowing myself to tinker with a story without worrying that an agent or an editor won’t get it. I can write whatever I want, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

And realizing that feels pretty darn good.

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