“Anybody can fall in love, falling in love isn’t shit. But somebody please tell me how to stay there.” — Savon in Love Jones.
It was the fifth grade and for homework we were supposed to write a story that used all of that week’s spelling words. If memory doesn’t fail me, ubiquitous was one of them. Mrs. Williams, my Slimfast drinking teacher who had glasses with a library chain, read my story to the entire class. At the end, she looked at me over the tops of her bifocals and asked if I’d ever thought about being a writer. I hadn’t, but I always did thereafter.
This is the story of my first love.
But, like any love—like the love the married character, Savon, is talking about in the movie Love Jones—it’s a love I’ve been trying to figure out how to sustain.
I remember writing that story, remember it not feeling like homework, remember that I would have written ten more that night if it had been required.
If you are lucky enough to have found the thing in life that burns in you, you may have also found yourself burned out, doubting that the vision you have for the life you want is ever going to happen. And when I say you, I mean me too.
I knew in fifth grade that I wanted to be a writer, 10 year old, chubby-cheeked me knew it. I read voraciously, I worked on youth newspapers, eventually I worked on my college’s newspaper. I got a job in book publishing straight out of college. Life kept getting lived.
It was only in 2007 that I left my full time job to work in a furniture store to write, to do what I realized I wanted to do nearly two decades before.
For years, I had talked about writing, but hadn’t done much of it. When I left book publishing, it was because I had finally found the courage to write. I started going to workshops and writing short stories rather than just talking about writing them. I applied to an MFA in Creative Writing program and went to grad school. There, I learned from my professors and from my classmates. I wrote many stories, even an entire collection of them. I’ve made progress and I’ve also worried and wondered over not having made more progress.
Am I just not committed?
I don’t get up at 5am to write. I don’t always write every day. I haven’t gotten rid of my television to minimize my distractions. I don’t submit my work nearly enough and I’ve been working on a novel for the last three years that sometimes I worry will never be finished.
But, the love hasn’t gone away. Even the worst writing day—when every sentence I write sounds terrible, I start to think all my ideas are stupid, and I read every Facebook and Twitter status of writers who are living their best writing lives—is a thousand times better than the worst day at my 9 to 5. And the best days? Those have no compare.
I fell in love a long time ago, right now I need to stay there.
It might be time to recommit myself, but it also might be time to reframe the way I’ve been thinking about what it means to be committed.
Commitment in romantic relationships can be beautiful and hard. Commitment has good days and terrible ones. But, commitment isn’t ultimately about counting the days, but counting the years. Commitment is a choice that you keep making over and over and over.
My commitment to writing, or your commitment to your travel business or your psychology practice or your vintage clothing store, is no different. It is hard, but it is beautiful. You will have good and terrible days. But if you love it, then you are in it for the long haul.
If I rethink my commitment, then this is what it looks like:
Be a good partner to myself
I have disappointed myself many times: set goals that I didn’t reach, reset the goal and still not reached it. And this I often branded as a lack of commitment. If I wanted it bad enough, I would have done it. But in a committed relationship, partners will disappoint each other innumerable times and it doesn’t automatically mean that there’s a lack of commitment. A loving partner would forgive the disappointment and also have enough love, trust, and faith to believe that the relationship is made up of more than just disappointments. A good partner is also supportive and encouraging. Some days I’ve stuck to my goals, written every day straight for thirty days, sent out the stories just as I said I would and still, the novel isn’t finished and the literary journals reject my work. What then? Some internal cheerleading and some respect for the emotions I have about that. Or sometimes a push, because a good partner also challenges you. You can do this. You will do this.
Remember the good times
In a committed relationship, there is an ebb and flow. Sometimes you’re deep in love and sometimes you aren’t. I called my mother once, who is working on forty-six years of commitment to my father, and I asked how they were doing. She said, “I hated your father this morning, but now I love him again.” I hate writing some days, but then I love it again because I remember that when it’s good, it’s really damn good. I remember my victories, the short stories or essays I’ve written and love to read. I’ve been reading the opening to my novel over and over again the last few days because I’m so in love with those words. It helps me to see that even if it’s a day when the words aren’t coming, they will again.
My love isn’t like anyone else’s love
I am not a 5 am writer. I may never be. But, I can get lost in words for hours on end. There’s this stillness that comes when I write, this center of calm that isn’t duplicated with any other work I do. Almost every time I’ve told someone the plot of my novel, I get weird looks, but that’s okay. My creativity and my writing are all my own. My parents love the song Love Ballad (go for the lyrics, stay for the red suits) in part because of the line “What we have is much more than they can see.” The dream you have, no matter what it is, may be much more than anyone can see, but is that going to stop you from committing to it?
Believe in my love
And if other people aren’t always going to believe in your love, you must. Other people will think that you should give up on your dream, might even tell you that you’re not talented enough to achieve it or that some person somewhere else is much more talented. You have to know what you’ve got. You have to stay committed. You have to be willing are you to hold onto that even when it’s hard, even when it would be easier to give up.
How deep is your love for your dream? Are you ready for commitment?