Roommates and Writers

My roommate has been writing a lot.

Jeff and I first connected through Ultimate, when I guilted him into helping me coach the team at the middle school where we were both English teachers.  We became friends when we decided to critique each others’ writing.  We grew closer still when we went through simultaneous divorces, and our friendship was fully realized by a serendipitous lease in Austin’s Zilker neighborhood.

As I begrudgingly weeded our front yard the other night, Jeff made his way to the coffee shop down the street, laptop tucked under his arm.  He finished his latest work-in-progress this summer, and he’s been hard at work revising and marketing the first manuscript that he shared with me several years ago.

I wake at 6:00am every day to the smell of Jeff’s coffee brewing on the stove, and I know that when I take my dog out he’ll be cuddled up under a blanket, his face illuminated by the comforting glow of his computer screen.  He spent the better part of these last two summers pouring over his WIPs in our tiny kitchen, poised next to our driveway’s shaded window.

I admire Jeff’s talent; his diligence; his work ethic and discipline.  I respect (and sometimes envy) his whole-hearted commitment and naked desire.

Sometimes I feel guilty; mildly dwarfed by his determination; ashamed of my own writerly neglect.  I feel inclined to justify my scattered mind and my busy schedule.

And so it is that I’m forced to consider what I want.  I mean…What I really want.

It wasn’t so long ago that I resigned from my teaching job specifically to write full-time, only to step right back into a new position at a new school.  I was self-conscious then, too.  A bit reluctant to take what felt like a step backward – like I’d chickened out; copped out; failed before I’d even really tried.

I’m surrounded by die-hard, all-out, whatever-it-takes artists, and I’m awed by their loyalty their craft.  But I’m realizing that’s not who I am.  The cold, hard truth is that I don’t have the stomach or the discipline for constant struggle.  I’d make a crummy starving artist.  I don’t have extravagant tastes, but I do like the routine of a steady job and the reliability of a paycheck.  I use – and appreciate – health benefits and collegial community.

And perhaps most importantly, I’ve realized that writing is just one of the many puzzle pieces that I carefully fit into place in my life.  It fills a very significant need in me.  Would I love to get published?  Has that always been a dream of mine?  Of course.  But I don’t need that bullet on my resume to feel like a writer.  Every time someone tells me that they read my blog, I’m struck by surprise and joy.  Because I write for myself, and I forget that it’s public.  For better or for worse, I write for the love.  And for me it isn’t about how many people I reach, it’s about reaching anyone at all.

So while I’m inspired by Jeff’s surge in productivity, and I’m happy for him that he’s found such a palpable groove, he and I are different people.  We’re different writers.

And for me, right now, THIS is enough.