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Once I Became a Writer I Forgot How To Write

For most of my adult life, I’ve fantasized about being a writer. I would find myself in my head scripting something that just happened, something that was about to happen or something that I wish would happen. I would “write” in the shower and while driving. I would find myself staring off into the distance writing a love letter about my kids or a story about my anxiety. I would write about things that made me angry or things that made me sad. I worked really hard on one piece that I called “The Casserole” about what happens when people die and how awkward everyone gets. I showed it to no one.

I applied once to Real Simple magazine and wrote a piece about how I became a vegetarian after life as a meat lover (it wasn’t published).

I even went as far to write a blog about being a vegetarian. I would develop recipes that fit the story I wanted to tell (and not the other way around) and would work on it endlessly—abandoning a shower, making dinner or other tasks that seemed too mundane to begin when writing was so important. But then the laundry piled up, work got hard, I had a baby and writing seemed frivolous and selfish.

I went years without ever writing more than a crappy text or the occasional awkward Facebook post. But the “writing” in my head never stopped. I would find myself constantly storytelling and thinking to myself “I want to write about this.” Instead of writing, though, I drank. I spent most of my day waiting for “happy hour” and then rewarded myself for being an adult with a few drinks every night. Sometimes more, sometimes less, but once I started drinking there was no more “writing” in my head. Instead, I felt numb.

But then I mustered up the courage to stop drinking and when I did, the words came flooding back to me. Writing became my greatest coping skill. I opened my laptop and let it all pour out. The clickety clack of keys on the white blank page was music to my ears and I had never felt so whole. I did so much writing that I had enough content for a whole book. Then I did the crazy thing of finishing it, publishing it and marketing it.

I was an author, a best seller at that, and all of my writing dreams came true.

Days after my book was released I would show up to my favorite space seeking the sound of the keys, waiting for the ideas to unfold before me but nothing happened. I would write a paragraph here or a sentence or two there. Some things about being alcohol-free, thoughts on anxiety, ideas on sober parenting, and more. I even tried to write a piece on why I loved Alexis, David, Moira and Johnny Rose from the famous show Schitt’s Creek so much. There was no flow, not that much to say, no ability to get creative. It didn’t help that every single person I talked to wanted to know what I planned to write about next or what I was working on. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that it was a fluke. I’m a fake because my second book hasn’t come to me yet. I can’t think of anything to write about. I’m all dried up. It kind of felt like people asking me if I was planning to have another baby as I passed over my swaddled newborn for them to hold.

I wondered how this could even be possible. I was finally a published author and I couldn’t put together a single piece of writing? I wasn’t really looking for it to be a great piece of writing. Just something that would make sense, open the tap and get the flow to return. But nothing came. Not a thing.

I decided to do the only thing I knew best and googled “why can’t I write anymore.” Loads of articles showed up. Apparently, there were a slew of things I needed to do to get back on track. I could try writing in a different place, go outside more, talk to a friend, get more sleep and see a therapist. None of these solutions seemed to be the thing I was searching for so I shut down my laptop and scrolled social media, feeling jealous of other writers, authors, bloggers and artists who were able to put out their work with such ease and grace.

Then I went to my library and got a bunch of books I had on my reading list, all of them memoirs or books about memoirs (my favorite). I went to my local bookstore and got two books by Buddhist Monks hoping that maybe a little inspiration would ignite. I read some articles I had saved in my email and two books that I signed up to read as a member of an Advanced Reader Team. I couldn’t wait for a time during the day that I could crack open my books. I carried them with me in the car and read a line or two at stoplights. I snuck in a few chapters while waiting on my kids' spaghetti noodles to boil. I rushed my kids to sleep at night and excitedly crawled into my bed turning to the page where I had last left off and reading well past my bedtime. I had dreams about the stories that were unfolding on the pages and found myself telling people about this “great thing I just read.”

Then slowly I noticed the slightest shift. Something was starting to happen.

One day I was driving and some words started coming in. My thoughts were all jumbled but I wondered if I could maybe write about not writing. Then I sat down and wrote again, the way I used to write. I didn’t have to stop every third line and try to force something to fit. I didn’t need to google ideas or try to find some topic that was relevant to everyone else. I didn’t stop once to check my phone or click over to look up a recipe for dinner tonight. I let the words out and the keys sang to me. I felt like a concert pianist must feel when she practices her favorite song. It was glorious.

I’ve since realized a few things. For one, the path is the purpose. The process of writing is the good stuff. It was not the best-selling book (although I’m happy and proud) and not the famous blog post that everyone shared that makes writing “worth it.” It’s the small surge of excitement I feel when I know I’m in the zone and my hands are moving freely. It’s a quiet applause done only by me, in a secluded room, when I know I’ve written the thing I wanted to write.

Trying to write for someone else is a writer’s death sentence. It was what paralyzed my writing for the last several months.

Next, I realized that reading and writing bring me great joy. I forgot that for a bit. I somehow turned them both into work and felt the pressure to “achieve” instead of the pleasure to enjoy. Once I started to do my favorite thing again, read, I was able to do my other favorite thing again, write. They go hand in hand.

Finally, writing is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more I do it. If I want to be a writer I must show up day after day even when there are no words coming to me, even when the inspiration is in the toilet and even if the only completed words I can get out are my grocery list. I still have to show up. Showing up to write is the only way to ever get better at writing.

So here I am slowly remembering how to write again and hoping that even if no one relates, I will have gotten the job done of putting myself back out there again as the writer that I am.

Get Samantha’s book, Alive AF: One Anxious Mom’s Journey to Becoming Alcohol-Free here



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Samantha Perkins

Samantha Perkins

Author of Alive AF-One Anxious Mom’s Journey to Becoming Alcohol Free. Founder of Alive AF blog. www.spaliveaf.com