Originally published September 2005
In a few weeks, I’ll be two years old as a writer. Two years of conscious commitment to writing.
I’ve got three monsters under the age of 6, so the terrible twos are all too familiar. The “baby” turned two in June. Several times this summer she has caught me unaware. I’ll look at her and think… Who is this little person? Not a baby, no, she’s a child. An independent, strong willed child, yet at the same time, she’ll turn away and hide her face against my shoulder or leg. Confident and strong, she climbed to the top bunkbed yesterday and gave me heart failure. But the next moment she’s afraid to try something new. I never really know which way she’ll act until she does it.
I think in a lot of ways I’ve gone through these same things as a writer. That first year was glorious. The rush of finishing not one but two full-length novels. Seeing some moderate successes. Waking up and burning with excitement, the need to sit down and put those words on paper. Toddler-like impatience when anything kept me from doing what I wanted to do. My job? Dishes? Laundry? You’re kidding, right?
Like any reckless, impudent child, I believed I could do anything. I could climb to the moon if I wanted. I could write anything and everything if I set my mind to it. I was invincible.
And then I fell and scraped my knee. It wasn’t a huge injury at all. Just a bump in the road. But it was enough to scare the child writer in me. I needed to hide my face for awhile. I needed my pacifier. I started carrying my blankie around. I kept quiet, afraid to say too much and look foolish. Mostly I was ashamed that I fell in the first place. Didn’t I know these things could happen? Did I expect it to be a cake walk? Instead of picking flowers alongside the road, I should have been doing something useful, more important, more…
No, maybe I should just stick to flowers after all.
Long after the Band-Aid was no longer necessary, I still remember that injury. I have been afraid to try again. What if I split my head wide open next time? What if I fall and never get up? What if everybody SEES me fall again–how embarrassing would that be?
Eventually, though, I missed playing too much to hide with my blankie. I started writing again. One thing–safe. One thing–crazy. If I needed solace, I knew where to go. If I wanted to feel the rush of exploration again, I had that, too.
Recently, I noticed something. Even the familiar safety I expected is no longer there.
Somewhere, somehow, I grew into this gangly clumsy teenager, pimply faced and all knobby knees and sharp elbows. I look at my work and think, my God, what happened to that sweet, pretty little baby? Look at how awkward and sparse this is! Where’s the childish glee? The headlong rush of words? The capering play and laughter?
Once I grew a little, I learned I couldn’t go back. There’s a little bit of innocence lost. It doesn’t matter how much I long for the carefree days of heedless writing and boundless joy, deep down I know I really don’t want to go back there. I can see the childishness. While there is a definite charm and sweetness in that writing, it’s clearly immature.
The problem is that I don’t like where I am now, either.
The gangly teenager writer is struggling to figure out how in the hell these learned skills and ability work together. Instead of running, I trip over my own feet. Instead of singing confidently, my voice breaks at the oddest times. The more I understand, the less I know with surety.
Even the safety net doesn’t feel safe any longer. I wonder if I’m butchering it. While I know exactly how I want to eliminate some of the immature writing, I’m not sure that what I’m doing now is really any better. Part of me wonders if perhaps I should leave well enough alone. Maybe I should let that beloved work remain a child with all its sweet innocence.
And so I trudge onward, stumbling and blushing as I go. I work on my writing every night. I’m working through the growing pains. I’m trying not to be too dependent on external confidence.
The mother in me looks at that child writer with amusement and aching love. This too shall pass, and before I know it, I’ll look back on this awkward year of growth and remember it fondly.
Well, one can certainly hope. In the meantime, I’m a bull in a china shop. I’m a two-year-old writer; watch me bust everything all to pieces and throw a temper tantrum.