I Am Not a Writer

by Nate Andrew

During the past couple months, I’ve found myself writing whenever I can. Whether I’m scribbling random sentences or phrases in the margins of my notebooks in class or just a bit on loose-leaf before I go to bed, I’ve found myself writing more often than I have over the past few years. Sure, I’ve written some stuff here and there, but I haven’t written consistently since my early days at Marquette. The difference now is that I am writing for a conclusion. I am writing with the intention to finish, to find an end, and to accept that end.

I could always say, “I’m going to finish,” but the notion of ACTUALLY finishing a story, an essay, a novel, or a play, stepping away, and declaring it ‘finished’ has always been terrifying for me. It may be the fear of an inadequate outcome or it may just be pure unadulterated laziness. Either way, I think this fear of letting something go, letting it act independently from the persistent onslaught of self-criticism, is probably a common fear for a lot of people. And yet, we all struggle to acknowledge that it’s an issue. We fail to acknowledge that we, as writers (as people really), are our own worst enemies.

I don’t care how cliché it may be. It’s a fact. We sit there with the ability to manipulate words how we want, wondering if there are thirty better ways to say something than the one way we’re saying it. And in this unending quest for perfection, you can easily ruin something, taking all the personality and quality away from your beautiful masterpiece by revision. And yet, you need to revise. You need to revise that fantastical stream of consciousness that just spit two thousand words onto a page in one dramatic stroke of the pen. You need to re-read from the initial thought to the very end, which you just stamped with an emphatic and HARD period. You need to go in and butcher the beauty that is your thought process only to pick up the pieces and stitch them back together into something more beautiful. So, you do it. It may never seem good enough and it may never seem finished (truthfully, there will always be room for revision). But, there it is. It’s done. The pages have been written, you’ve given revision your best shot, and you’re supposed to be ready to move on and repeat the process again from beginning to end. You write. You revise. You write. You revise…you finish.

I’ve been in the process of writing something I consider to be the most significant thing I’ve written (for myself) and this prospect of finishing keeps creeping into my mind. I say to myself, “You’re going to finish. There will be a conclusion. This is going to have an end.” And I repeat it. Over and over and over again. I don’t care if it’s good. It probably won’t be. But knowing that my main goal is to finish and step away, I’m comfortable with that. I’m comfortable knowing that there is a distinct possibility that whatever I write might be absolute garbage. And I’ll still have a smile on my face when I finish reading through the pages for the last time having made no further corrections.

This comes at a strange time for me. I’m in no position for which I’m required to write and I’m probably busier now than I ever have been. Maybe it’s my improving ability to thrive with less than six hours of sleep or maybe it’s me shirking my other responsibilities. But I doubt it’s either. I hope that in my isolation, the pilot light has been relit and my passion renewed with the flame.

Something I heard around six years ago from one of my high school English teachers resonates now more than ever. She said to me, and I paraphrase, “You will always be a writer. No matter what you do, you will always be a writer.” I don’t know if I ever fully understood that statement until now. It’s always been a simple sentiment, but I’ve never been so far removed from calling myself a “writer” as I am now. Now, that I have no obligation to write, I find myself writing. Now, that I’ve removed myself from the debilitating self-criticism that left me with pages of unfinished nonsense, I find myself finishing. Now that I’ve dispatched the demons that hindered me in the past, now that I’ve acknowledged my fears and ignored them, I find myself untethered and unafraid. Now that I call myself anything but a writer, I am a writer.