I have known I wanted to be a writer since I was three years old. There has been nothing else I have ever wanted to be. For that reason, I spent the last six years -- the years that have made up my independent adulthood -- actively not being a writer.
The reason, of course, is that I have been terrified of failure. If I failed at teaching (which is what I have been doing for the past six years), I would just be failing at teaching. That would be OK, because I never really wanted to be a teacher. If I failed at writing, I would be failing at writing: the only real thing I ever wanted to actually do.
This year, I started to dabble.
I dusted off old files and articles that I had written years ago, when becoming a writer was a big dream and not something I actually had to go and do. It wasn't scary then, because failing at that point was just a part of the process. I wrote a lot in high school in college -- several pieces for publication every single week. Sometimes things went well, sometimes they went badly. I look back at that period and think, "Huh. I was on the right track." I even had a piece published in The Nation, which I will never get tired of bragging about to people.
Five months ago, I dismantled my personal website and transformed it into a literary magazine -- the kind I want to read. It's just essays and humor writing and comics, because that's all I care about. If life could just be The New Yorker I would not complain. I realize that by writing that sentence I am putting myself among a certain type of person: 45 years old, lives in Manhattan, identifies as liberal, has scads of money. I don't care. I like to read The New Yorker anyway an I'm not apologizing for it.
Things have not gone badly with this project. It's called Neutrons Protons, and people submit to it from time to time. Last month I brought on a staff of five more people, and I look at them and their biographies and don't quite understand how I got so lucky. They are people who have been published all over the place, and make brilliant art all the time. We sit in living rooms having big dreams about what a modern literary magazine like this could potentially become. And you know that if six people are all dreaming the same dream, there's a lot more likelihood that it will come true than if it's just one person. Right?
But I'm writing less.
I spend a lot of time reading and grabbing at things on the Internet and making business cards and thinking about writing, and occasionally I journal, but I don't really WRITE.
So here I am, making a portfolio, and with it, a commitment to write every single day, in a somewhat formal way.
I want to be a writer, and now I am going to go about being a writer. That is a terrifying thing, and every time I've had an opportunity to do it I have climbed back down, back into bed, back to sleep. "No," I have said over and over again. "Too hard."
I have said that for too long.