I am an inconsistent writer. Literature is my greatest love, but I keep it at a distance sometimes. I’m a very extreme person, and have a tendency to lose myself when I become too invested, so I work hard at maintaining balance in all areas: I work out, but am sure to have rest days; I read, but also make an effort to go out and spend time with people; I write, but also go to bed on time and drink neither coffee nor alcohol.
It’s possible to read that and think I’m on some straight edge high horse (I’m not straight edge), but I actually mention it because, a lot of the time, I feel hugely inadequate as a writer because I try to have a healthy lifestyle. I feel like a phony if I’m working on a story and stop to go to bed before midnight. I feel like a poser because I’m slow, working my writing into bits of time around my life, instead of fitting my life around my writing. I feel like less of a writer for not being dedicated enough, not submitting enough, not wanting it bad enough.
Spending my twenties trying to manage an old eating disorder, depression, minor anxiety, and general low self-esteem has made me careful and choosy: about habits, about routines, about company. I don’t avoid difficult things, but I monitor myself closely when I engage with something I know I can get lost in, and writing can be one of those difficult, losing things.
I prefer reading to writing, honestly. If I have a block of free time and I give myself the choice between reading and writing, I’ll choose reading almost every time. But I’ve started to count reading time as writing time. I’m coming to learn what I want out of being a writer, of writing--it’s not a book, it’s not an audience, it’s not catharsis. It’s just stories. I just want to write good stories, I want to always be writing better stories. I want to be inspired, challenged, and that’s what books do. Books like A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, like Marianne Apostolides’ Sophrosyne, like the story collections A Manual for Cleaning Women, The Thing Around Your Neck, and How to Get Along With Women, like Anakana Schofield’s Malarky--as I read each of these books, I wrote: reactions, quotations, expansions, responses. And each of these writers carved out a bit of space in my writing nook, to appear in tiny style developments in each new story I write.
I get a lot more enjoyment out of writing now, since I set aside most of the tangible writing goals I “should” have in mind and have started writing just to write. Mostly, I lurk. And sometimes, I write.
Nicole Brewer is a writer, editor, and publisher from Toronto. In early 2014, she co-founded the organization words(on)pages, which supports emerging writers with chapbooks, a literary magazine, and a reading series. Her stories have been published in Canthius, The Hart House Review, untethered, and other journals. She does not have an MFA, and can be found online at nicolebrewerwrites.com.