I’ve been itching to share this week’s post! It’s another of those searingly honest essays in which the writer opens up about how hard it is to actually sit down and write. Don’t be fooled by the heading—it’s not only about feeling like an imposter, but about despairing and procrastinating and dreaming and ultimately remembering that …
‘… I cannot pour from an empty cup.’
As a keen observer of her surroundings, Kirsty finds inspiration for her writing in the ordinariness of everyday life. She is currently working on her first novel, Her Mother’s Daughter, whilst also raising a bubbly baby boy with her husband, James.
When away from the writing desk, Kirsty is likely to have her nose stuck in a book, trying her hand at a craft, like knitting or sewing, tending to her veggie garden in the beautiful Barossa Valley, or riding her Thoroughbred gelding, JJ.
She has a BA in Communications from the University of South Australia and is working towards a Masters in Creative Writing with Macquarie University. A passionate student, Kirsty also attends classes for anything from German language lessons to Calligraphy, whenever the opportunity allows.
The Imposter in the Attic
Sometimes when I read other people’s blogs or short stories, or hear about how their writing journey progressed from poetry to flash fiction to novels and everything in between, I get a little bit jealous. Sometimes when I follow a new writer on Twitter and hear about how they’ve just nabbed a publishing deal for their debut novel, a small voice at the back of my mind seems to stand up and shout, ‘So, what are you doing?’
I’m sure I’m not the first person to feel this way about my trickling approach to writing. Though my brain is full of imagination, I can be logical too. I know not to compare myself to others. I know I should just focus on my own work and eventually, the rest will come. But sometimes I get so caught up in my own pity party that I despair at the thought of ever finishing my manuscript to a point I’ll be happy with.
More than this, it feels like I spend most of my time fictionalising my writing life than actually living it.
‘Who am I to call myself a writer when I choose to watch an episode of Glow instead of writing another 500 words on my manuscript?’
I grew the idea for my novel from a tiny seedling, watering and tending to it each night before I fell asleep, for at least four years before I got up the nerve to write that first draft. I was so proud of myself when it was done that I celebrated by not looking at it for about six months.
I quite often think about how much I enjoy writing. How I envy other people who seem to have all this time to just write, as if my life is somehow more chaotic and stressful than every other writer on the planet. But why am I thinking about it when I could just be writing?
I picture what my book launch will be like. Who I would invite and what food they would serve. Will I read out an excerpt? And what will I wear? At this rate, I’ll never even get to have a book launch.
I imagine the elation I will feel about finishing the very last draft and sending it to beta readers, editors or a publisher. And then what will I do while I sit, waiting anxiously by my inbox for some feedback? Yet with every draft I complete, it just needs one more revision…
I attend workshops and courses, listen to podcasts and read books about writing to make me feel like I’m actively pursuing this long-harboured goal of being a published author. How many times do I need to be told that the most important thing any writer can do is just write.
And after all of this, sometimes I actually stuff all those excuses into a cupboard and just sit down to write.
As I sit here typing this, I’m realising how much time I actually spend procrastinating and how easily I find other things to do; when I hear from other writers that they couldn’t possibly survive if they didn’t write Every. Single. Day, I realise that I just don’t feel that way about writing.
It makes me feel like an imposter. Who am I to call myself a writer when I choose to watch an episode of Glow instead of writing another 500 words on my manuscript?
How can I say this is what I want to do with my life when I choose the comfort of my day job over the insecurity of freelancing?
What right do I have to claim that I’m a ‘writer’ when I’ve only worked on one thing for what feels like the last 100 years because the sheer thought of starting something new feels like giving up or procrastinating further. Or maybe I actually just don’t have any other ideas?
How can I say that I’m passionate about something that I actively try to avoid most days?
But then, when it all gets too much and I think about giving up all together, that logical little angel hiding inside the chambers of my heart floats up to my brain and envelopes it in a warm hug, and I remember to breathe.
I remember that I have put my heart and soul into my manuscript and I owe it to myself to write it well instead of rushing to finish it. Because it will be a better story for my patience and constant redrafting.
‘I picture what my book launch will be like. Who I would invite and what food they would serve. Will I read out an excerpt? And what will I wear?’
I remember that as a child I collected notebooks, wrote poems, stories and a full novella, as well as keeping a diary. Not because I felt I had to, but because it felt wrong not to.
I remember all those times an award-winning debut novelist tells the crowd how they spent ten years working on this one manuscript, because it needed that much time to become the award-winning novel it is now.
I remember that I am an adult and I have responsibilities. That being sensible about paying one’s mortgage doesn’t equate to not being ‘serious’ about writing.
I remember that I have a young family and our time together is precious.
I remember that I cannot pour from an empty cup. So taking time out to watch TV or read a book is just another way of refuelling. Maybe it’s time that I could be using to write, but would that writing be any good if my heart and mind weren’t in it?
There is no one definition that can ever fully encapsulate what it means to be a writer. We are all, each of us, different. But we do have one thing in common: no matter how much or how little, how often or how infrequently, we all write.
I hope this piece has inspired you to write for Writers in the Attic. The topic is anything to do with writing—your writing life, what writing means to you, or what has influenced your writing. 600-1000 words is a good length, and I acknowledge the time and effort involved in writing these pieces by sending a small gift as a thank you.
Please keep the essays coming!
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