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What Flipped My Switch

Writer. There is a point in every writer’s life when they have to decide whether they are ready to profess this title or not— an excruciating decision fraught with doubts. If you’ve made the official declaration already, you know what I mean. Until that moment, we tell people “I write” instead of “I am a writer.”

This trepidation is based in fear. There isn’t a degree you can wave in the faces of naysayers and declare “See? I told you I’m a writer!” Nothing gives a stamp of approval making it official. The initial fear is that someone will say, “Um, no you aren’t,” as though they have the authority to determine who you are. They aren’t the boss of you.

It is for this reason alone that many writer’s hide their talents until published. But weren’t they writers before the publishing part came along? Absolutely. One can’t happen without the other.

The secondary fear, should we move past that first hurdle, is having to prove it. Not only feeling that we have to prove we can write, but that we are decent at it. We writers worry about this well before we tell anyone we are even thinking about calling ourselves by the name. The fact is, if you’re writing, then you’re a writer. It can take years to grow skin thick enough to get past these two daunting fears and more forward to the next step, but it is possible. It requires believing in yourself.

The next step is this– Some internal maturation creates and on/off switch, and one day, you flip that switch to the on position. The impetus that pushes us past our previous fears and makes us able to cross this juncture is different for each individual. But from that point on you decide you are a writer.

So I ask, what flipped your switch— what made you a writer?

I’m a writer because I bought a desk.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but there’s no getting around the truth of it. Be what it may, that was the turning point for me— an overly-priced Pottery Barn corner desk that I had been drooling over for three years. Three years.

Oh, how I coveted it, yet I still tried to find a more reasonably priced one that I “could deal with.”  No hand me downs with someone else’s bad energy would do.  What if it reeked of failure?  If anything I owned was to reek of failure, it should at least be my failure.

I could see myself sitting at that particular desk, writing.  The image was burned on my brain as if it had already happened and I was remembering the experience.  I knew where my coffee mug would go, could see the post it notes and inspirational quotes I would put on the walls.  I smelled the ginger candle lit on the edge and heard my playlist “Mellow for Writers” playing low in the background.  Yes, I really have that playlist. Don’t judge.

The only thing I couldn’t picture was the chair, and how could I buy my dream desk if I had no chair to go with it?  At least, that’s what I told myself. For years.

Last December, smack in the middle of the chaos that is holiday shopping, the urge to own my desk became overwhelming.  This was, in part, the fault of my husband who had recently started encouraging me to leave my speech language pathology job and follow my dream of writing. I had been arguing the practicality of the matter— see “fear” above.

Knowing it would not be a wise choice to make such a large purchase during the middle of the biggest spending time of the year, I showed my friends the desk, I talked about the desk to my husband. To their credit, they tried to help, texting me photos of desks that they stumbled upon in their shopping adventures. We were on a mission to find an economical option.

However, nothing lured me except the almond-white cabinets and weathered pine desktop of this particular siren.

So, I made a Christmas list, and I’m not a Christmas list maker. I’m not even a regular list maker. I created the list, with the sole purpose of putting the desk on it. I knew I’d never get it— with four kids to buy for, my husband and I are the last ones who get the big gifts. But then something unexpected happened.

I found the chair.

I will preface this by saying, Crate and Barrel during the holiday season is a confusing maze featuring display after display of gizmos and gadgets that entice me away from my shopping companions. Next thing I know, they’ve gotten themselves lost.  Trying to rectify this exact situation, I turned yet another misleading corner promising me success in my quest of finding them, and there it was. Not my husband or friends, but the chair. I looked at that tweed seat and the words I’m going to write my first novel in that chair flooded my head.

This discovery was the only fuel I needed to light the literary fire beneath me. Inspiration ablaze, I put the chair on the Christmas list, not hopeful of getting it, but not caring that my chances were slim. After all, it was cheaper than the desk, skirting the edge of the possibility zone.  I waited until both Yule and Christmas came and went, just in case either implausible gift came through. Neither did. Still, I looked at the corner of my bedroom and imagined the desk there, complete with chair and my quirky Chat Noir lamp.

In the past, I would have allowed not getting either gift to be a portent and let the whole dream disappear. It would have been the perfect excuse and I would have let fear win. Again. Instead, I felt the words Not Again resonate within me and determination gripped my heart in its fist. I knew, this was the time.

In the early hours of one final December morning, I went online, opened my own account, and bought the desk.  That is the instant I became a writer.  No more visualization, no more lack of commitment, no more waiting for someday.  At that moment, I made the choice, I invested in myself.

I decided, I am a writer.

I bought the chair too.

3 Comments

  1. I guess the desk is really not so bad. Edward Abbey needed the backwoods of Canyonlands national park for his “Desert Solitaire” inspiration, so you are somewhat frugal there.. You start to wonder about the tools being so important. I enjoy being a guitar player but it sure would be difficult without a guitar. I suppose you can be a writer without a desk or a chair, but can the same be said for the lack of a pen? What did a writer do before the invention of a writing implement? Scratch in the dirt, I suppose…and then pray for a day with no wind.

    • I do enjoy writing long hand using a quality fine point pen in my leather bound journals, but I would be lost without my Macbook. The flexibility with editing is a life saver. 🙂 However, I already had the Macbook before my desk, so that wasn’t the impetus. And yes, a day of no wind… or rain… or snow, I suppose. 😉

  2. If you come and visit Grand Canyon, I can almost picture 50,000 words of inspiration resulting from that. Something to think about!

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