“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.”
― Mark Twain
“Smoking kills. If you’re killed, you’ve lost a very important part of your life.”
― Brooke Shields
To me, writing is a lot like smoking. I pick it up, I dabble with it, I put it back down again, I hide my habit from friends and loved ones, I tell nobody about it, I binge for weeks, and then I suddenly quit, for months at a time. Dozens of half-written pieces sit in my desktop, like the half-gone cigarettes in the ashtray of a failed quitter.
Then, someone reminds me I have written before, and the secret is out. The shame begins, the irrational over-explaining of why I don’t do it anymore, and I am reminded of a very important part of my life, and I ache to get back in to it.
Recently, two people whose opinions mean the world to me, “shoulded” me in to taking another crack at writing. Like a nicotine fix, the second I started typing again, there was a rush, and a little self-consciousness, and not a little irritation at myself for getting back in to what I had long considered one of my most self-indulgent pastimes. I was very reluctant to write again.
Two other people, to whom I give too much power for their opinions, have told me recently that I am selfish, that I “always” make “everything” about me (beware anyone who uses the words “always” and “everything” in reference to people). Writing felt like good medicine for me, but I questioned it’s value. Was I being too self-involved? Had my writing came to feel too self-referential? Well, isn’t that the point of a memoir? I stopped.
Over the past few months, after tragedy heaped upon tragedy washed through my life, I realized writing wasn’t self-indulgent, it is a form of self-care. To paraphrase Meg Worden, self-care is the least selfish thing in the world, because it requires that the world doesn’t take care of you.
So here I am, writing, again, like I might die if I stop. I heeded the “shoulds”, cut out the “all-about-you’s”, kept what works, and threw out the rest. Sure, it fosters more isolation, more social awkwardness and more “in-your-head” time than is good for me, but it’s a very important part of my life. Writing, for better or worse, is a habit I have, I may as well come clean and admit it. Who knows? Maybe someone will catch some second-hand inspiration too.