16 years ago, back when I was newly married and utterly lost, I decided, somewhat randomly, that what I wanted to do was be a writer.
Being otherwise directionless, I spent a great deal of time longing for genius writing talent and reading books about writing, occasionally interspersed with brief bouts in front of my Mac, staring at a blank screen.
It was painful. I was young and impatient, and horribly self-critical, and it didn’t occur to me that writing might be a skill that a person had to spend a great deal of time honing before being able to do it well (and that, indeed, it was something that I could get better at).
In fact, it was so painful that I actually started making art to procrastinate, which is how I accidentally ended up becoming a calligrapher and visual artist.
But that’s not what this post is about.
What this post is about is my pocket journal.
In my reading about writing back when, the Professional Writer Experts all said that if you want to be a writer, you must carry around a pocket journal at all times, so that you can jot down ideas whenever they strike.
Ever the good student, I dutifully carried around a pocket journal. But it felt like I rarely had any ideas to jot down.
Clearly (I thought), I just wasn’t cut out to be a real writer. And as my focus shifted to art, I let the writing thing drop.
Oh, I actually kept writing – in journals, in letters, in emails – but none of it was with a self-identity as a Writer. It was just stuff I felt like writing, not stuff I was getting paid to write, or stuff I was writing to impress people with my Writer-ness.
So therefore (I thought), it didn’t count as real writing.
Years later, I was involved in a relationship with a man who made his living as a freelance commercial writer, and wrote personal essays and fiction on the side. He never left the house without his pocket journal and favorite pen, and he scribbled frequently in and with same.
He was clearly a real writer (Writer). The pocket journal, as much as the body of work he’d created and the checks he received in the mail, determined it.
So what does it mean that now, 16 years after I wanted it so badly, I suddenly find myself consistently reaching for my pocket journal and scribbling away?
I bring it on walks with me (walks being, in fact, one of my most consistent muses). I carry it in my purse. And I write in it. Regularly.
Perhaps I needed to find my genre. Perhaps I needed to notice and validate the writing I was already doing.
Perhaps I was really a writer all along.