What do you do when chasing a long-held dream begins to feel like you’re trying to shove your feet into glass slippers two sizes too small?
Do you let it go, accepting that you are no longer the same person who originally dreamed that dream? Do you try harder to push yourself toward it, convinced the problem is only your gremlins chattering away?
These are the things I’ve been asking myself now that November is over and the 50,000-plus word novel I’d planned to write during NaNoWriMo did not come to fruition, as the Muse led me in other directions last month.
In elementary school and beyond, my teachers frequently commented that I was a talented writer. This showed up in notes on papers, in my report cards, in parent-teacher conferences, and so on. My family took notice as well. There’s a long line of storytellers in our family, including my late grandmother, who forever influenced my drive to tell stories myself.
Somewhere along the line, people began assuming I would become a novelist. I began to assume I would become a novelist. Becoming a novelist seemed like the Holy Grail, the land of the brightest and best, and, for most of my life, I was a perfectionist and over-achiever. (I’m now recovering from that.) If a brass ring dangled in front of me during my marriage to academia–kindergarten through undergrad, really–I didn’t even consider how high I’d have to jump to grab it, I just jumped and jumped and jumped again until my fingers found purchase and pulled it loose, with little regard for my well-being or what I really wanted.
I’ve spent at least half of my life jumping and reaching for the brass ring labeled “Write a novel,” never truly considering whether it was meant for me. I can write, I love to read novels, so it would follow that I’d write them, right? I’ve spent a lot of my time berating myself for not grabbing that brass ring, but it hasn’t helped and only hurt. I get tired, and have to stop jumping and grabbing. I jump and the ring seems to rise higher, out of my reach. With every failed attempt, I curse what, until recently, I assumed was laziness and writer’s block.
The thing is, last year–or maybe earlier–I realized that, at the very least, my writing had shifted. I wasn’t, and am not, blocked as a writer, though my devotion toward the goal of writing a novel sometimes blinded me to that fact. I write nearly all the time. I write sometimes for work. I write in my journal. I blog. I have a small notebook with ideas for blog posts and other nonfiction. I have poems, a few promising beginnings of short stories, and, in a purely-for-fun vein, fan fiction, littering flash drives and my laptop’s hard drive. Nearly every evening I tell stories gleaned from my time at work, frequently working in wit with which to regale my family. No, I am neither blocked nor lazy as a writer.
I simply needed to figure out that novels are not the only legitimate forms of writing. I needed to give myself permission to allow my writing flow freely into whichever form it wishes, even if that meant letting go of a long-held goal and dream.
Therefore, I am hereby freeing myself and my writing. I am letting go of my quest to grab the ring labeled “novelist,” and opening the door to any and all possibilities.