Earlier this year, I wrote an essay in class centered around my writing career and on the book This is Not a Writing Manual by author Kerri Majors. I thought it would be neat to share it with you.
For years, one of my ultimate dreams has been to write and publish a novel. I didn’t know when, and I didn’t know how, but I knew that I wanted to. However, I guess I’ve just never been brave enough to do it. Writing is about pouring yourself out onto the page, and allowing people to see that much of you has always been rather daunting. So when I started this writing process, I wanted to know if I could handle it. In my focus question for the endeavor, I asked what the mental and physical effects of a long term writing project would be on an individual and her peers. The memoir This is Not a Writing Manual by Kerri Majors answered a portion of this question, but a lot was left unsaid. Despite this, it has still helped me greatly with my project, and I felt it a worthwhile book to read in relation to my own life.
Majors’ book not only explained her experiences as a young writer but also the experiences of people around her, demonstrating in detail how writing affected her life as a teenager. For instance, Majors talks about how she had “been known to get up in the middle of the night or early in the morning” because her “muse [wouldn’t] let [her] sleep” (Majors 8). Not only would this affect her demeanor the next day, but it also kept her holed up in her room and away from her family. Although writing is important to me, I’m not sure that I would be able to handle that on top of a regular life; however, I have done things similar to this in the past. At least now I know that it’s part of the trade. Also, Majors talked about how writing her viewpoints caused animosity with those around her. When she was in high school, Majors wrote “a scathing critique of the war in Kuwait that temporarily lost [her] a few friends” (Majors 39). In her life, it seems that writing not only contributed to insomnia, but also to a rift between herself and her peers. This makes me wonder how writers cope with this sort of individuality that makes them willing to express their own opinions and beliefs, even at the cost of valued friendships and readers. Surely, although Majors lost sleep and friends by investing so much into her writing, she gained wisdom beyond her years. [interjection: I wrote this essay in about 45 minutes during a class period. just going to put that out there before you judge me too harshly.]
Although this book explained many of the negative effects on a writer, it also explained how everyone can benefit from this profession in a different way. I use the term ‘profession’ here loosely, because what I really learned from Mahors’ book was that writing is more of a lifestyle. She goes on to explain that “for some writers, the surest way to inspiration will be to get a job that is not obviously writing oriented” (Majors 119). Because no matter what, I will be writing for my entire life. There were too many parallels between her life and mine to ignore, and this is what her book showed me, even more so than answering my focus question. After reading her anecdotes, I realize that my question is much too broad, because the true answer is that “it depends.” It depends on the type of person you are, and the passion you bring to the table. A social person like Majors can make writing a joyous experience for herself and those around her; however, a guarded person such as myself finds sharing harder, and allowing others to read my work makes the whole room tense. Majors says that “in order to leave your ego at the door and write what needs to be written, you have to be very, very brave indeed” (Majors 54). Writing bravery is different than war bravery. The latter relies on a split-second decision whereas with the former, the celebration (or ridicule) can last months as new people see and experience your work. With all of this in mind, I believe that I really don’t need to change what I’m doing, because then I wouldn’t be being myself, which is, in turn, being brave. But I am going to emerge from this project knowing the physical and mental effects of the writing process have yet to appear for me personally. Whether that will be positive or negatives (or hopefully both), I can’t wait to discover.
Overall, I guess this book didn’t really answer my question; however, it did help me learn that my question doesn’t necessarily have an answer. I was looking at writing analytically, as I do with most things in my life, when, really, I needed to approach it from the side. To look at something laterally is to see its cross-section and see every single part of it. I had always thought of writing as more of a project, and not as a way of experiencing the world. This book helped me learn both the benefits and consequences to a writer’s lifestyle, and it helped me see that I can continue to write without abandoning my other wishes of the world. It’s the writers life for me, for, in the immortal words of the great SARK, “I am rare and wonderous!”