From time to time, I ask myself, why do I have a Twitter account? I am not good at tweeting. I seldom have anything cool or clever to say that can fit in 140 characters. I examine the meaning of life, more specifically, the meaning of my life, in long-winded sentences strung together to form essays (blog posts) that may or may not be considered relatable by the half dozen or so readers I have. What is the point, I find myself wondering. And more often than not, I reach the conclusion that this is entirely self-serving. I am a writer, so I must write, and because I have written something, I must force it down somebody's throat. Yep, that's how it goes. If I am to be completely truthful, I don't write for myself. I write to be read. And so in the midst of these crises, I am overtaken by an unkind urge to write something like this: Are you out there? Are you listening?
When I don't write -- and I can speak to this honestly and accurately today because I have not written much for the past few weeks -- I start asking myself these questions (and more). Why do I write at all? Et cetera, et cetera. Many years ago, I attended an all-day publishing workshop at Stanford. Joyce Maynard was the keynote speaker and her book Labor Day had just come out. She said during her speech, "If you are indoors attending this workshop on this beautiful day, you're a writer." Her conviction and the resulting happiness in the crowd have stayed with me these many years. When I start to question myself, I think back to that day, how I raced past the oval to the small registration desk, the talks I attended, the things I learned. And yet, even today, my own belief wavers. What does it mean to be a real writer? Over and over we hear from celebrated authors, "Show up. Write. Do the work." And what if you don't show up, don't write, don't do the work -- are you then relegated to being the hobbyist writer?
Even if I side-step this question of whether I am a writer, a real writer or not (or more accurately, a poet), there is another layer that must be excavated before tranquility is achieved. Why do I write? Why do I feel so strongly about this part of my identity? While I am passionate about my career, do I bring this level of intense devotion to it? I don't know. Does it give me the same level of distress, and conversely, the same degree of relief? Absolutely not. And coming back to the reason for writing -- is it simply to be read? To create something? To share? Catharsis? Is the way I look at the world so important or so unique that it must be documented and posted on the world wide web? Who even cares? And over and over, I come to this: I wake up every day wanting to be bigger than myself. I don't mean that in a self-pitying way, and moreover, it has nothing to do with my 5-foot-1.5-inch frame. I want to conquer fear and hesitation and regret, and I feel like I accomplish some of that by sitting down to write. But this still doesn't explain why I feel compelled to share what I write, why I meticulously detail the number of poems I send out to magazines, the number of rejections, the number of acceptances. Why I whisper into the empty space around my desk: Are you out there? Are you listening?
Photos by Rebecca McCue