On Being Human and a Writer Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links

multiple identitiesBeing human is complicated. And, being a human who writes adds a whole other layer of complexity to your existence.

Unlike animals who live simple lives that inhabit a single identity, we humans must constantly shapeshift between myriad roles, sometimes changing who we are multiple times over the course of a single day. In any given twenty-four hour span, I am mother, lover, daughter, sister, neighbor, mentor, and friend. I am a professional freelance content creator, an aspiring fiction writer, and a nascent entrepreneur. I am a caretaker, housekeeper, and accountant, a cook, laundress, and student.

We slip in and out of these skins in a matter of seconds, like chameleons adapting to the colors, textures, and shadows of a rapidly changing environment. With each transition, we must rebalance ourselves around a new set of expectations and priorities. We change our behavior and make choices based on new criteria, which are defined by a reordered set of obligations and responsibilities.

I wonder sometimes if writers, and perhaps actors, are better suited than other humans to the constant “costume changes” of life. We are, after all, used to creating characters and stepping into their lives as if they were our own. Our vocation requires that we regularly shift out of our own existence and preconceived notions, letting our words carry us to different times, places, and situations so we can see the world from a different perspective – explore, imagine, and experiment.

But, even if our writing does make us slightly better suited to the life of a quick-change artist, it also puts extra strain on our most precious resources: time, attention, and energy.

And so, I sometimes wonder if my life would be simpler if I didn’t write. I wonder if my days would feel more manageable if I didn’t insist on cramming this “extra” identity of “writer” into the limited number of hours available to me. I wonder if I would feel “lighter” if I could somehow turn off the part of my brain that is always running in the background – processing every experience and feeling through the lens of my writer’s mind, squirreling away story ideas, wrestling with my inner critic, and constantly bearing the heavy weight of guilt about the writing I’m not doing.

Because trying to blend and balance all these identities can be draining and frustrating. We cannot have it all. More to the point, we cannot have it all at the same time. As my dad is fond of saying, “You can have anything you want. You just can’t have everything you want.” Every accomplishment demands its pound of flesh. The road to any goal is paved with sacrifices and compromises. You cannot simultaneously pursue two different goals any more than you can simultaneously inhabit two different identities. One pursuit, one role must always take center stage while the others temporarily fade into the background.

Whenever I try to be and do two things at once, I fail miserably. When my daughter is home sick from school, for instance, I repeatedly make the mistake of trying to combine being a doting mother with being a dedicated freelancer. The result is that I am, in those misguided moments, terribly inadequate in both areas. There is no such thing as multi-tasking. We simply aren’t wired that way.

So we are left to try and figure out how to build lives that can accommodate all our identities and goals. Maybe we adopt a big-picture, phases-of-life philosophy that requires us to set certain roles aside for years at a time while we focus the lion’s share of our resources on another role. Perhaps we take a more granular approach that structures each week or even each day into separate blocks of time in which we can inhabit each role.

Whichever strategy we try, we will doubtless still have challenging, heartbreaking days that make us question the sanity of continuing to fight for our writer’s identity.

But even on my worst days, even when I feel like an utter failure in all my roles and am so tired and worn out by the effort of shifting back and forth that giving up seems like the sanest choice, even on those days I know in my heart that I turning away from being a writer is never really an option. Because being human is complicated. And being a human who writes is the only way I know to navigate the complexity of life.

_jamie sig

 

 

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What I’m Reading:

While I’ve been racing to keep up with client deadlines, I have had precious little time to inhabit my Reader identity, but I did complete two books a couple weeks ago that I haven’t yet had a chance to share:

Clariel by Garth Nix

book clarielHaving recently finished reading the third book in Nix’s Old Kingdom series, Abhorsen, I was delighted to discover that he had written a prequel: Clariel. I chose, as I did with the others in this series, to listen to this story via Audible. I was slightly disconcerted in the beginning because the audio version of this fourth book in the series is narrated by a different voice artist than the first three. I had so enjoyed Tim Curry’s performance, that it took me a while to get used to Graeme Malcolm, but I eventually came around.

I don’t have much experience with prequels, but I enjoyed this one very much. The protagonist is a complex character whose nuanced inner conflicts make it difficult if not impossible to draw hard lines between good and evil, right and wrong.

I recommend this whole series, and would almost say that this was one of my favorite books in the series. It doesn’t follow all the rules, and I liked that. I also liked discovering that Nix has a fifth Old Kingdom novel set to release this October. Goldenhand will continue Lirael’s story, and I can’t wait!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrick Backman

book grandmother sorryThis book took me by surprise. It was yet another serendipitous find at the RiverRun bookstore in Portsmouth, NH. I have the best luck there, discovering new books. Here is the description of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry from the publisher’s site:

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

This book has so many endearing and admirable qualities that it’s hard to know where to start. It left my heart feeling a little more opened and my soul feeling a little more comforted. It wove the magic of story and the complexity of love into a warm and protective blanket of understanding and hope. I am glad that I chose to purchase this one, rather than borrowing it, because I have a feeling it’s one I’ll return to.

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My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

 

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin writing heals

Here’s to embracing being human and a writer, crafting a life that encompasses all your identities and your goals, and never giving up on any part of yourself. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Photo Credit: Paris Seawell via Compfight cc

46 thoughts on “On Being Human and a Writer Plus Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links

  1. I can’t tell you how many times in the past I wanted to give up writing, because it was all just too much. Sometimes I even did give it up for a while. I might have felt relieved at first, but eventually I became unhappy again. I wasn’t writing. I decided I’d rather be a little stir crazy while writing, than unhappy because of not writing. Thanks for the post, and hang in there!

    • I’m right here with you,…. but I can’t quit because I’d miss my friends. Yes, they’re not “REAL” but I made them with love and they’re “REAL” to me!! Wow, I’ve gotta be a freak,… I’m a fanboy for my own characters!! LOL

    • I can relate, Tina. Even though I’ve never gone all the way to actually quitting, the involuntary breaks I’ve taken always leave me feeling … “hollow” and a bit unmoored from myself, if you know what I mean. Though being a writer sometimes seems like a huge burden to take on, I really do believe that it is so worth the time and energy it takes to make this practice part of who you are.

      Glad you hung in there & thanks for your encouragement!

  2. I feel that the writer identity is the one that suffers the most because of how busy our lives are. As a stay at home father, I find myself pushing my writing aside as I take care of the house, or trying to squeeze in time to spend with my family and friends. Within the last couple of months though, I’ve found that I needed to devote those precious couple of hours every day to be a writer. I feel that it helps me find the balance, even though it seems overwhelming.

    Anyway, thank you for sharing! This was a wonderful post.

    • You’re so right. And your comment made me think about the fact that, as writers, we need to remember that devoting our time and energy to our writing actually doesn’t take away (in the long run) from the other parts of our lives or identities. Writing actually helps us be BETTER at all the other parts of our lives. That wasn’t really clear to me until I read your post, so THANK YOU!

  3. I’ve been thinking about this post all day long! That rich inner-life of the writer is perhaps the ballast that keeps the writer’s “other” life moving as smoothly as it does. The imagined world is fed by the outer world–the world in which we move, laugh, love, care, shop, cook, garden…on and on…and that world is made easier by the imagined world…maybe it’s the creative loop that keeps our life cycle in tune with the larger space. When we feel absolutely used up, defeated, beaten down, we still get up for that next cup of coffee and that emotion we store away for future use in some future story.

    So thank you so much for the thought provoking post!

    • You are so, so right, Paula. I just responded to the comment above you with the head-slap observation that it hadn’t occurred to me that devoting our time and energy to our writing actually doesn’t take away (in the long run) from the other parts of our lives or identities. Writing actually helps us be BETTER at all the other parts of our lives. And I also agree wholeheartedly with what you’ve said … that the two halves of our lives – the tangible, “real” world and the world we create through our imagination and our stories – feed and support each other. You cannot separate them or exorcise one part.

      LOVE how much additional insight I find in the comments. Thank you!

  4. Yet again, poignant and beautiful. That last paragraph hit really close to home – I’ve been thinking a lot lately about giving up on my writing and going back to a “real” job. Thanks for talking me out of it. 😉

    • Thanks, Barbara. I’m blushing a little. 😉

      Even when a writer does have a “real” job, we are still writers. Though I write for a living, the work I do is commercial – marketing work like writing websites, branded eBooks, blog posts, case studies, etc. To me, that is my “day” job, and my “real” writing exists on the side. I actually wonder, actually, if I’d be better able to pursue my “me” writing if my day job was something completely unrelated. It’s an interesting question & one I never stop exploring.

      That said, whenever a writer can stick it out and focus almost entirely on the writing they really want to do, that’s something to treasure and defend until your last breath. Go for it! Don’t give up!

      🙂

      • I am fortunate enough that I landed a pretty good editorial contract, early on, and while it’s not exactly the same as my personal fiction writing, it DOES offer me an outlet to battle with my demons on an open stage – although in a much more literal sense than my fiction writing does. (I write about relationships and mental health, lol.) It’s been a bit of a struggle lately, moreso than it has been for the year I’ve been on the contract, and I haven’t had much time to work on my personal stuff, but your post was definitely a reminder that even the “impersonal” (i.e. work-for-hire) can be made personal when it becomes a part of who you are. I think that’s important, too, and while I’m not sure if that was the point you were originally trying to make, it’s definitely what I got from this. You’ve definitely reminded me to count my blessings – this truly is a beautiful calling.

      • Thank you so much for continuing the conversation, Barbara. What you said prompted me to search the archives of my marketing blog for a piece I wrote four years ago (can it really be that long ago?!?) about “doing what you love.” Thought you might find it relevant: http://www.suddenlymarketing.com/the-real-secret-of-doing-what-you-love/

        🙂
        And here’s to making the impersonal personal by doing each job the way only we can do it.

  5. never ever rethink being a writer. I wear many of the same hats you do and I would gladly give up a few of mine–but not writer (or mom or wife or sister or friend (my parents are no longer here)–the others are all in question–your talent should not be questioned……..

    • Thank you for the encouragement and support. And thank you for not giving up your own writer identity.

  6. I’ve just had a 2 week offline break. No laptop, no smartphone, no news. No writing. I’m refreshed and relaxed for the first time in ages. I’m procrastinating getting my next posts together, and your post is what I needed to get going again: writing’s tough in all senses, but worth it on so many levels. Thanks!

    • Welcome back, Bea!! I’m so glad that you are feeling refreshed and relaxed, and I’m a little envious that you were able to take such a complete hiatus. I sometimes daydream about unplugging that way, but it doesn’t seem as if my life (professional or otherwise) would permit that. I suppose if I really wanted to, I could find a way. It’s amazing how much our technology drains us while serving us. I have found that even when I go just one day without any technology (though I am rarely parted from my iPhone), I feel more … “grounded” and in touch with my own thoughts.

      Yep … I should definitely try this hiatus thing. 😉

      Good luck with your next posts!!

  7. Once upon a time, I stopped writing. For 10 years. I was plagued with an undercurrent of unease and could never figure out why. Until I started writing again. It was like coming home. I haven’t stopped since. Yes, it’s challenging occupying many roles but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. Even though I have to slip into the skin of an interstellar explorer now. See you in the stars.

    • “Coming home” … that’s exactly what writing feels like … even when it’s a struggle. It just feels “right.”

      So happy for you that you finally figured out the root cause of your unease, and were able to find your way back to your writing … and the stars.

      Good journeying!

  8. Or…you can have whatever you want, just not at the same time…it’s funny how we evolve. I always thought that I was the kind of person who liked to go just one thing at a time. But actually, I don’t :). I’m a terrible multi tasker – I don’t mean that so much, as in I like to have a few things going on at the same time that stretch and exercise different parts of me. Yes, sometimes things can get a bit crowded and intense, but usually that’s temporary, or just a sign that I’ve signed up for too many things, and I need to dial it back a bit. I never think I want to stop writing, although sometimes I get dispirited with a particular form – blog, book, essay. Still, I write.

    • “Still, I write.”
      That pretty much sums it up, right?
      No matter what. We write. Even if we get dispirited. Even if there doesn’t seem to be enough (any!) time. We write.
      Thank goodness that the crowded and intense stretches are usually pretty temporary. Now, the trick is just to be able to remember that fact, even amidst the chaos. 😉

    • True. Animals have a different set of worries and concerns, and I certainly wouldn’t want to have to either kill to survive or worry about being eaten. There is, however, a certain singularity of purpose in an animal’s life that can be appealing.

      If I WERE an animal, I think I’d want to be a pampered house cat. My cats live SUCH a life of luxury. 😉

  9. Pingback: Short and Sweet Advice for Writers: Remember. The World Runs on Stories. | Live to Write – Write to Live

  10. Reblogged this on Mister Journalism: "Reading, Sharing, Discussing, Learning" and commented:
    Being human is complicated. And, being a human who writes adds a whole other layer of complexity to your existence.

    Unlike animals who live simple lives that inhabit a single identity, we humans must constantly shapeshift between myriad roles, sometimes changing who we are multiple times over the course of a single day. In any given twenty-four hour span, I am mother, lover, daughter, sister, neighbor, mentor, and friend. I am a professional freelance content creator, an aspiring fiction writer, and a nascent entrepreneur. I am a caretaker, housekeeper, and accountant, a cook, laundress, and student.

    We slip in and out of these skins in a matter of seconds, like chameleons adapting to the colors, textures, and shadows of a rapidly changing environment. With each transition, we must rebalance ourselves around a new set of expectations and priorities. We change our behavior and make choices based on new criteria, which are defined by a reordered set of obligations and responsibilities.

    I wonder sometimes if writers, and perhaps actors, are… (Please read more of this blog post!)

  11. Astute observation about writers able to be Quick change artists able to deal with the costume changes of life. Writing to many helps sort things out – a settling…and besides how else can a writer quiet the stories noisily demanding their turn on the page?

  12. ‘I am mother, lover, daughter, sister, neighbor, mentor, and friend. I am a professional freelance content creator, an aspiring fiction writer, and a nascent entrepreneur. I am a caretaker, housekeeper, and accountant, a cook, laundress, and student.’ Yes. Yes. Yes. We are many faces, many situations, many masks and YES – we can only be one at a time and most importantly, let each presence fill us up each time. Reblogged, because I relate.

    • Hello, Elizabeth.
      Thanks for sharing & I’m glad to know I’m not alone in feeling the presence of all these “faces.” It can be a challenge, but how lucky are we to have such rich lives?

      🙂

  13. Pingback: Many Masks – Elizabeth Stokkebye

  14. Pingback: Writer’s Weekend Edition – A Crisis of [Writing] Faith | Live to Write – Write to Live

  15. Pingback: Friday Fun – 2016 Favorite Books and Movies | Live to Write – Write to Live

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