I pushed send on Chapter 15 with an explanation:  “as you begin to read and edit this, if you happen to notice a smell, that is my blood and guts all over these pages”.  

Often, thankfully, that’s not how it goes but anyone who writes knows exactly what I mean.   I’m my worst when I have time and my best in a jam and on deadline.  I write between my life mostly. At stop lights. Treadmill breaks. On notes while my car is filling up.  Nearly every early morning the fragments come together in a more devoted and intention space and pages eventually get created, then re-created, then torn apart and created again.

Every three chapters or so we have a meeting, the edited pages and comments lined up on the right in green.  I’ve learned to love green but it’s an acquired love.   We talk through some of the edits and comments, we rip apart a section here and adore another one down there.  But mostly we talk about other things like the thoughts and approach and vulnerability that creates the words.  The way they work together and move us forward. The why of what they are trying to say.  Inevitably, we talk about the craft of writing itself– the joy, torture, obsessive and orgasmic moments when it’s all lost, or found, depending.

I almost never share what this particular writing project is about to the outside world, even though I’ve been wrapped up in it for the better part of a year and have at least that far to go and have no free time, friends think I’ve disappeared and countless “whacha workin’ on’s?” hit me everyday and the money and time I’ve invested is ridiculous.  I’ve been exploring why I’m so quiet about it and have a handful of reasons I deem valid, the least of which is that if people began rooting me on or encouraging me or asking about progress, I’d die.  Something about writing is so solo, so deeply personal. So rigorous and sacred.   To expose yourself in this way, word after word, well, it’s just something that for me must first be done alone. Plus, I require the freedom to allow the work to make it’s own way into the world uninfluenced by anyone else’s desires.

I’m willing to do many other things but this writing is what I love, and hate, most.

I don’t work at it, It works me.  It’s something I can’t not do and believe me I’ve tried.

Within mostly every day and certainly every week I forgo numerous other things to continue my affair with this craft.

Does that make me a writer?

When people ask me what I do, do I say I’m a writer?

Does it even matter?

I think perhaps I’ll never pick up that label and instead just continue digging into my bones to find all that’s still left unsaid.

Our friend Cheryl Strayed while writing Dear Sugar says it best:

“how many women wrote beautiful novels and stories and poems and essays and plays and scripts and songs in spite of all the crap they endured.  How many of them didn’t collapse in a heap of “I could have been better than this” and instead went right ahead and became better than anyone would have predicted or allowed them to be.  The unifying theme is resilience and faith.  The unifying theme is being a warrior and a motherfucker.  It is not fragility.  It’s strength.  It’s nerve.  And “if your nerve, deny you”- as Emily Dickenson wrote, :go above your Nerve.”  Writing is hard for every last one of us– straight white men included.  Coal mining is harder.  Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal?  They do not.  They simply dig.  

You need to do the same, dear sweet arrogant beautiful crazy talented tortured rising star glow bug.  That you’re so bound up about writing tells me that writing is what you’re here to do.  And when people are here to do that they almost always tell us something we need to hear.  I want to know what you have inside you.  I want to see the contours of your second beating heart.  

So write, Elissa Bassist.  Not like a girl.  Not like a white boy.  Write like a motherfucker.”

More?