“Are You Going to Eat That?” or How I Fail As a Writer

When I was very young, I, like many other girls of a certain age, was given a diary as a gift. It was one of those diaries that had chunks of different colored pages, so maybe the first 50 pages were blue, and the next 50 pages were green, and the last 50 pages were pink. I used it to write my first story. It was about two girls who, in their boredom, ended up building a flying contraption that sent them to vastly different places. They met different people, different non-people, and found themselves in really zany predicaments. Each of the colored section was a different area that they ended up in. They made their way back home in the last few pages. I worked on that story for ages and showed it to my mom, who, like any doting and supportive parent, remarked something along the lines of:

“Don’t be a writer when you grow up. You’ll never make a living.”

It’s safe to say that almost no one got to see much of my writing after that. My tiny little psyche was so wounded from that initial rejection, and I lovingly carry that emotional baggage with me some thirty years later.

pen writing notes studying
Photo by Tookapic on Pexels.com

 

I never grew up to become the doctor my mother always told me to be, nor did I end up securing a career in a high-paying (or even “decently-paying”) field, but I also haven’t become a writer, either. I started and stopped a few times over the course of my life, but I never figured out how to get on that horse and keep riding. Something would always happen to kick me off for the last time, and I’d work on something else for sometimes years before returning to my first love and trying again.

As a tween and young teenager, it was the fact that people would physically take my notebooks to read (and vandalize, because childhood is brutal). I took it up again at the end of high school and all throughout college, carrying notebooks with ideas with me and composing poetry on the bus. Yes, I was that nerd! My first real webpage, Myslovitz USA, had gotten minor international attention, and I was learning Polish on the side for fun. (No, I’m not Polish. Nawet nie blisko.) Once I moved to Massachusetts, though, I didn’t make any of my creative pursuits a priority because I was living on my own and was, frankly, struggling to keep my bills paid. That was in 2005. I started a couple of blogs but would eventually abandon them and start new ones. I barely had enough energy to keep Myslovitz USA updated. I didn’t take writing seriously again until 2012, when I decided that – once and for all – I was going to be a writer, for real this time. I picked up the proverbial pen and threw myself into my work, spending anywhere from 1-3 hours every day working on a project called “And Let It Kill You”. I was certainly going to finish it, polish that turd, and end up publishing an actual book with my name on it.

Then I got wind that I was going to be fired from my managerial position for “insubordination” toward my boss, with whom I had a terrible working relationship. Cue me abandoning my writing career once again, this time in a time-sensitive panic to secure another job before I was left begging on the streets. Once I did find another job and became financially stable, I put a number of action plans in place to get back into writing, but my heart wasn’t really into it. I was tired. My internal nay-sayer asked me why I bothered; I have never been able to keep at it long enough to have anything to show for my time or effort. I was too old, now. It would have been cool to publish something back in my twenties, but at 31, 32, 33, who was I kidding? And I listened to that voice for another couple of years.

I became sick in 2016 with an illness that has significant effects on my day to day life. There is no known cure, though, in some people, it sporadically disappears. At the time, I wasn’t sure what the prognosis was; did I have a lot of time to spare, not doing what I wanted to do with myself? There was a very real possibility that I could lose my vision and/or hearing. I was not prepared for that! Does Emilio ever start living life for himself? Would Aaron ever see his dad again? Does Anne ever find out who Ellie really is? Why on earth did Ester shoot Xande in the face at breakfast? NO ONE WOULD EVER KNOW if I just let myself die (or go blind) and never finish up any of it.

It’d be really nice to say that I took my writing extremely seriously and have a ton to show for it, but that isn’t the case, of course. I did dedicate a lot of time to fiction writing, but, for whatever reason, I became extremely discouraged by both a lack of support and some privacy issues within a couple of months of starting. I had a few good days when I would be very productive, but my internal nay-sayer would come back at it to remind me that I am wasting my time, the critical feedback I had received recently was 100% true, I am no good at this, and I should quit immediately. I shut down Myslovitz USA, which I had been running since 2003. I got rid of most of my old blogs.

My internal nay-sayer is a bitch!

The other day, I decided to scroll through one of my older blogs that I did not choose to delete and came across an odd but kind of interesting piece of flash fiction. I liked it and wanted to read “the rest” so I looked at the tags to see who the author was, and to my surprise (and horror – damn, I have a terrible memory) the author was me.

“Are you going to eat that?” She pointed at the tiny impaled olive in my drink.

I fished the toothpick out of my glass and handed it over. In fact, I had planned on eating it, but I couldn’t find it in myself to deny someone so brazen.

Untitled, 15 Dec 2011

Initially, I was impressed with 29-year-old me and my ability to hook 36-year-old me in with just a few sentences. Who are these people? Where are they? Does the protag even know this woman? What happened next? At the time, I liked to write extremely short prose here and there, just to pass the time, or if I felt like writing but didn’t want to commit to a plot.

As I searched for more of my old works, I started feeling like a loser, though. What made me give this up? How would my skill level have improved if I had never stopped writing from when I first started? Why do I let people, including myself, talk me out of doing something I enjoy? The truth is, people can say whatever they want about being a writer, or specifically Cristina the Finest Nerd Czarina as a writer. Maybe I’m not qualified, maybe I am no good. Maybe. But I still enjoy doing it, and I am still walking this earth with some unanswered questions about my characters’ lives. I imagine all of them in this sort of fictional purgatory, eyeballing me judgmentally for just leaving them there. I should at least keep going for their sake. The problem is me and my anxiety and my relying on my internal nay-sayer as an infallible and honest critic of my work. But I don’t want to become 46-year-old Cristina, reading the unfinished works of present-day Cristina and wishing she had just kept writing. A bad writer, after all, is still a writer, and my goal was to write, not be the next big thing in the literary world.

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