When I started ‘Confessions of a Coffee Shop Whore’ I wanted a home for my fiction. It did not take me long to realize that fiction was not what I needed to write. In fact, the harder I tried to focus on fiction, the more I became distracted by my reality. I was not sure how to write about my reality. I had always been a story-teller and that was not the same as being a writer.
I had never really identified myself as a writer. This is an odd concept to explain, so bear with me. For as long as I can remember, I have entertained myself with absurd little stories. These stories matured with me, gaining depth and complexity as I grew older and learned more words. Whatever I learned whether in school or in life invariably found its way into my little fantasy world. My stories became an embodiment of my education. My stories helped me make sense of the world.
I didn’t start writing my stories down until I was eighteen. I can actually recall that first writing experience. I don’t remember what I wrote, but I remember quite clearly my state of mind. I was in despair; violent, self-destructive despair. I was far away from all that was familiar and alone in an unforgiving and unsympathetic environment. The back of a duty roster became my confidant.
On the page I could separate myself. My problems became obstacles for my characters to overcome. In my stories I could say what was on my mind without fear or consequence. Still, I did not consider myself a writer. I was a sailor who liked to write in her spare time.
My characters became my best friends. They traveled with me, consoled me and they never pressured me or made me feel ashamed. People were not nearly as accommodating. When you are in the military, people and places are temporary and sadly interchangeable. True connections are few and far between; at least they were for me.
I wrote throughout my time in the Navy, tending toward the dark and sinister corners of human nature, nicely disguised in fantasy or science fiction. After signing my discharge papers and heading to LA I adopted the sunshine into my narrative, but soon I was distracted by school. Once again I was processing whatever lessons I learned by writing it out. I would twist and turn each idea until I could see it from every angle. I turned those angles into characters, and those characters began to have voices different from my own. They came to life, independent and complicated, and for the first time, unique. I was no longer the main character of my stories. Yet still, I was a student who liked to write in her spare time.
Spare time…such a common and unassuming pair of words, but ah, the illusion they create… There is no such thing as spare time. Time may be occupied by a variety of activities, but it is most definitely occupied. My stories gained life because I was living. My characters became independent because I became independent. My mind was active, synapses were firing, connections were being made, and input was producing output. My time was fully occupied, but still I thought I needed more time.
I thought that shifting into full-time writer status would be a breeze, after all, the creative juices were flowing, I had more ideas than I knew what to do with… if only I didn’t have that test to study for or that chapter to read… if only I had more time to dedicate to writing… if only. A few months after I was out of school the ideas dried up. I had plenty of time to write, but I had nothing to write about. No input, no output. And if I have nothing to write about, how can I call myself a writer? This is the spiral I found myself in last year.
I may have been blocked on my fiction, but I did discover something new about my writing. I discovered my voice again. Somewhere along the way I stopped needing a character to speak for me. Suddenly it became more important to speak for myself – to take back ownership of me – to no longer bury my thoughts in plot lines and dialogue. But that was not how I had envisioned my blog and I didn’t know how to adjust.
When my computer crashed I found it impossible to keep up with the blog. I had no theme, no continuity, no criteria from which to build a body of work. I was writing myself into circles and corners. In retrospect, writing for a self-imposed deadline, and then stressing about it, is rather idiotic. I was the worst boss I had ever had and I should have known better. I needed to step back and regroup… but I did not want to admit failure… (what plan am I on now?)
So, back to where I started with this thing. I am a writer who occasionally works elsewhere in a non-writing capacity. Not only does this non-writing occupation of my time help put food on the table, it also provides input to keep the output flowing. Fiction or not, I am writing.