"I was starting to wonder if I was ready
to be a writer,
not someone who won prizes,
and was given the time and space to work,
but someone who wrote as a course of life.
Maybe writing wouldn't have any rewards.
Maybe the salvation I would gain through work
would only be emotional and intellectual.
Wouldn't that be enough,
to be a waitress who found an hour
or two hidden in every day to write?"
~ Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty
I don’t need crumbs. I need the whole dang cake.
I’m having a self revelation of sorts, and I wouldn’t exactly classify it as profound. You see, I don’t like unfinished things, at least in relation to myself. They make me anxious. And that’s a whole problem in itself, isn’t it? Because I am the textbook definition of “Unfinished” if there ever was one. But particularly with regards to conversations, I have a low threshold for unresolved tension. I want to wrap things up in one night, one fight, one conversation, one blog post. I don’t want to spend months or years trying to finish, living with the “let’s pick this up again tomorrow” mantra. I don’t want to pick this thing up tomorrow, I protest. If I’m going to get any sleep, have any peace in my gut, we’ve got to wrap this up tonight.
And I think that, more than anything, may be why I’m not writing a book. Yet.
I’ve grown so accustomed to this comfort, this immediate gratification, of sitting down to write and publishing the post the same day. And then, bam!, it’s on to the next post. The next idea. The thought of having to slog through day after day, week after week, month after month, and maybe year after year of finishing the conversation I’m having in the form of a book? It’s downright overwhelming, like telling someone who only ever hikes up their driveway to go climb Mt. Rainier. I know it’s not for the faint of heart and I question if my heart is stout enough to endure.
Am I brave enough to pick up the crumbs, bit by bit, until one day they resemble a cake?
In all fairness, though I question my strength and tenacity, I have to concede that somehow, I’ve managed to see beauty and meaning in the unfinished conversation that I’ve been living these past five years. I found myself suddenly employed as a barista at Starbucks, and then... never left. I’m still there, Master’s degree and all, and it still gets under my skin some days, how I don’t have the “next step” figured out yet. But mostly, I’m happy to be somewhere that, at the very least, affords me the schedule and relative lack of stress (I leave work at work) to pursue writing. To live a life that lines up a little more closely with my priorities (“career as my identity” not being one of them). My blog is not well read, even after more than four years, and still I keep writing, because I just can’t shut up.
Somewhere deep inside, even when I doubt it, even when I’m anxious and insecure, I must believe that I was born to write. And the success of it lies not in the book I’m working on (or not), on the number of readers of my blog (or not), or the number of places that publish my writing (or not), but in my unwillingness to walk away even though I have little to show for it.
Hear me now, shouting from my proverbial driveway:
I HAVE LITTLE TO SHOW FOR ALL THIS WRITING, PEOPLE!!!!!!
(That actually felt kind of therapeutic.)
Have you noticed how everything in life that’s hard and worthwhile and complex seems to turn on a “But”? But I can’t stop here and pitch my tent. But if I want to challenge myself to continue becoming, to write the journey of unfinished and maybe never see the wholeness, I’ve got to be willing to live in the discomfort. I’ve got to set out beyond my driveway and fix my sights on the path up the mountain. One step, and then another. One day, and then another. Follow the trail of crumbs, hopefully to the cake. Risk ending up with nothing more than a bowlful of crumbs.
But - I’d be different for it. I’d have to be.
* * * * *