On writing as an act of survival

I wish I could tell you I write best at some colossal, oaken desk with a Tiffany lamp tossing multicolored shadows on charmingly worn paper. That was novelist-wannabe Taylor’s mental portrait of a “real” writer, anyway.

Writing owned a certain glamour then. It was something fancy, something many would aspire for but few would realize. I grew up throwing that little word in front of “writer” — “aspiring,” that is. Without the looming desk and the dim study, without the crinkled paper, I couldn’t be a “writer.”

When I reached college, though, writing became not some distant goal but a conscious act of survival.

And survival sure as hell isn’t always pretty. It means sitting on the floor with a fourth mug of Earl Grey at my side. It means mumbling, “Michel Foucault, I hate you. But I kind of love you, too. Damn it.” It means composing a cliché rant following some “end of the world” (but not really) heartbreak — and having the good sense to revisit it with my red pen and briefly abandoned logical self.

As I slowly traded my idealized portrait of the “writer” for my own messier reality, I let go of that little word altogether. I am not an “aspiring” writer.

I am a writer; I always have been. And I don’t need a gargantuan desk or a best-selling novel to tell me who or what I am. Writing is my source of income, yes, but above all it’s a source of survival and a state of being.

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