“It’s a job, you know,” I tell my husband for the fiftieth time. He lies on the floor in his pajamas, our three year old climbing on his head and whining for him to put on her Calico Critter’s pants.
“I know,” he says.
“It’s like your homework. You’re working hard toward something but you aren’t getting paid for it.”
“I know.” He takes the Calico Critter and puts its pants on. “Go take your time.”
“Why do you have to say it like that?” I grasp the banister. “This is a serious thing. It’s not like it’s a hobby.”
“Go upstairs and close the door and write.”
I want to say that this doesn’t happen EVERY time my husband offers me kid-free time to write, but it does–I’m sure part of it’s a mom thing–and I feel bad for the guy, because he has never once shown that he doesn’t take my writing seriously. My husband has been supportive from the very beginning. He’s read every draft of every book I’ve written. He believes in me, even when I don’t, and talks me from the ledge when I have a huge stack of manuscript edits in my hand and am headed for the trash can.
But still, every time he tells me to go upstairs on a Saturday morning, I pace around the living room and tell him why I need this time.
It’s not only Saturday mornings, either. It’s when I tell my husband I’ve given myself a deadline and that I’ll need a bit more time to work. It’s when I tell him I’m participating in NaNo and “a lot of authors got their NaNo books published!” It’s when I go on and on and on about my main character like I know her personally and he doesn’t say anything for a while. My face grows hot and I zip my lips and I feel like the whole world is looking at me: the thirty-year-old with seven manuscripts and no three-book deal.
I have good moments and bad moments and meh moments. The good moments are when I can stand at the top of a mountain and scream: “I’m a writer!” And whoever says otherwise can suck it.
The meh moments are when I’m lecturing my husband in the living room.
And the bad moments are when I’m a writer! becomes I’m a “writer.”
These bad moments can pull me under at any time, like when I put my daughter down for “quiet time” after lunch–an opportune time to get some work done–but instead of resting she’s jumping and down on the bed and telling me to look at her goofy faces and asking to go pee every five minutes. I close out of my novel and think: what kind of mother am I? To put on Nemo and make my daughter take a break in the middle of the day?
That evening at dinner, I’ll tell my husband it’s over.
“I’m done writing. It was a nice dream, but I’ve been writing for fourteen years and if it hasn’t happened yet, it’s not going to happen.”
And then, at rock bottom, the words appear:
“It’s time I grow up and get a real job.”
A few weeks ago, somewhere around one of these rock bottom moments, my husband and I were talking casually about god knows what, and he brought up my writing “career.”
Career? I thought. He thinks it’s a career? And of course he does. He always has.
It’s not my husband I’ve been lecturing.
Somewhere, somehow, sometime between birth and now, I’ve come to the conclusion that writing is a hobby and not a legitimate career. Sure, there are books on the shelves, but those are written by authors. Those books are there because authors are good at writing. Me? I’m still having panic attacks at 2am because my word count is too high. My word count, for crying out loud.
Did society do this? Should I blame the way I’ve seen others look at me when I tell them I’m an aspiring author? Did I overhear my mother say these words when I was a kid, as she worked tirelessly on her own novels?
Whatever the reason, I have only myself to blame now, for listening and letting the words munch on my amygdala.
I would love to say that it’s all become clear now and that I’m going to change my ways, but I can’t even make myself that promise. I can only promise myself that I’ll try. I’ll remind myself that I’m working toward something. The dream is big, and it’s a tough nut to crack, but a tiny, itty bitty part of me still believes I can do it.
And that’s the part of me that takes it seriously.
I plan to hold onto it like a kite string, even on the stormiest of days.