June 7, 2020
No one seems to think I’m a writer. But what else could I be?—I wonder. Spending so much time in front of my computer, or with my nose in a book (or with my head in the clouds), I don’t think I’ve got the headspace to be anything else.
Good-intentioned folks tell me constantly what I should be: a salesman, an actor, a nurse, etc. Their concern is appreciated. And I know they think they’re helping. What they don’t know, though, is I’ve repeatedly tried—or at least tried to convince myself—to be all those things before. And yet, I still sit down every day to write.
In college, I wrote a column for Pepperdine’s student newspaper about this same conflict of identity; except that old gem included some unfortunate metaphors about making cheese and being a pianist. Yes, I know—but I truly believed I was a writer then, too.
There’s just something magnetic about taking a simple idea—a word or phrase, sight or sound—and turning it into something tangible. Something to be shared and potentially enjoyed by all—or in my case, tolerated by few and ignored by most.
To be fair, there are a select few people—one in particular—who want, even ask to read all the junk I keep cobbling together. True story. And the rarity of this unwavering support tends to startle, move, and force upon me equal servings of humility and inspiration.
“Write without pay until someone offers pay,” Mark Twain once said. “If nobody offers within three years, sawing wood is what you were intended for.”
This is maybe the most inspiring quote I’ve ever read about being a writer. But it might not seem so to everyone. It says different things depending on how you read it. Some may interpret Twain’s words as “After three years, if you can’t make a living as a writer, give up.”
But not me.
To me, Twain is saying “If you can spend three years doing something as tedious and unrewarding as writing, for free no less, it won’t matter what you do after that. You can do anything, even saw logs. But you’ll still be a writer—even if no one else thinks you are.”