I’m in a shitty mood.
This makes zero sense. I just got away for the weekend with my best friend. The high today was 75 degrees. I spent the day homeschooling my kids at an outdoor coffeeshop – sipping a latte, reading a Pulitzer prize winner and kicking my kids under the table to remind them to focus on their Latin and not on the daffodils in full bloom. My little girls spent hours playing outside, laughing and giggling and NOT begging me for a single snack. My husband even brought me flowers and he’s cooking dinner.
I feel like I suck at my job.
It doesn’t much matter what your job is – not doing it well, hurts. I’ve got three jobs: I’m a homeschooling mother of five; (if you don’t think that’s a job, try it) I teach piano lessons to about twenty students; and… I write.
That ellipse is intentional.
A few years ago I met a woman at a Mom’s Club playdate. After the customary, “Which kid is yours? How old?” we moved onto “So, what do you do?”
She looked off to the side, then down to the floor. “I’m a writer,” she said, like maybe it was catching.
Now this particular woman happened to be a published novelist, not that that’s what required to call yourself a writer. As Amanda Palmer says, “When you’re an artist, nobody ever tells you or hits you with the magic wand of legitimacy. You have to hit your own head with your own handmade wand. And you feel stupid doing it.” Even so, you’d think a novel that someone had actually published and people had actually bought would stand in as a magic wand in a pinch. But maybe on that day, not so much.
And that’s the thing about writing, at least as far as I can tell. Being a writer is not like being a mother. You can be a mother even if you’re sitting on a beach, sipping sangria, without a child in sight. But it’s hard to call yourself a writer if you aren’t, well, writing. The little bitty fact that you get paid to write, when you manage do it, doesn’t seem to make the title easier to claim at all. Actually, it just sends shivers of inadequacy up your spine as you wait for the Fraud Police (FP) to show up. And those fuckers ARE.EVERYWHERE. They flash their badge on each rejection slip, peek out from behind every non-response to a query. They’re lying in wait beyond the flashing cursor at the end of every unfinished sentence. Worst of all, they lurk in the corner of every new idea, whispering that you’ve said that before, that everyone has said that before. Kinda makes it hard to do anything. Especially anything involving, you know, words. Unfortunately, writing involves a lot of words.
So that’s where I am.
I’ve backed myself into this corner where I feel like everything I say has to be profound, and yet I feel plumb out of profundity. I want to tell you about how Celia has a knack for getting stuck any place getting stuck is an option. The FP say that’s lame. I want to tell you about my anxiety over this appointment on Friday where we’re getting ADHD medication for Grey. The FP say that’s old hat. I want to tell you how bittersweet it is to be facing my first 4th year birthday party without being pregnant. The FP say that’s pathetic. I’ve got a million things I want to tell you and the FP are riding my ass about all of them.
And maybe that’s what it comes down to, for me at least. Maybe writing as a J.O.B. is less about putting down words (though God knows, that’s hard enough) and more about putting down the FP. Less about being good and more about protecting my right to be absolutely terrible. Showing up ready to defend to the death every innocent little idea. And when it comes to the Fraud Police, the pen truly is mightier than the sword.