Since May, I have been working through the exercises in Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write. I wish that I had made it a regular practice to post some of my entries (the way I did with A Year in the Life), but I never got started and then it seemed weird to let so much time pass without it. Plus, a lot of the entries are not actually about writing — they are about things that make me happy, or places I have lived, or things I’m proud of. But last week my prompt was to write a dialog between my “Inner Writer” and myself. I thought this would not be particularly revelatory, since I wrote quarterly letters “to myself” during my Year in the Life exercise. I was wrong. I discovered that my Inner Writer and I have some underlying resentments I wasn’t totally aware of. I’m posting the exchange here because other writers might relate.
From my Inner Writer:
I wish you would take me more seriously. You’re always shoving me back even though you keep vowing you won’t. We both feel awful when the days pass and the pages don’t pile up. You want more than anything to have the time to write, and then you make so many excuses so you don’t have to use the time you have.
I know, I know that you write all day for others and you get paid for it, and it drains us both. That’s not for me, Lacey, and you know it. It’s not really for you, either. It’s for the world. You put the rest of the world before me almost every day, even though you feel sure I am the realest part of you.
I wish you would take what we’ve learned from Morning Pages and apply it to the rest of your writing. There is no pressure there, and we both enjoy it. You learn a lot from it. And you hardly count the time — it’s just time that is already spoken for. I would like you to give me more time that is already spoken for. We both know that I am who you really want to be.
So why does writing Stories From the Tower strike you as so much more effort than Morning Pages? Why is writing the way an imaginary life unfolds so much more intimidating than writing your own life as it unfolds?
This comes up again and again, but I really, really want you to get in the habit of putting me first. Isn’t that why you left your 9-5 in the first place? Now you’ve been on a flexible schedule as long as you had a cubicle job, but I don’t feel like you’ve given me as much as you promised you would.
I thank you for giving me Morning Pages.
I thank you for giving me blogs and self-publishing and helping me get out into the world.
I thank you for listening to me now.
But please stop saying you’ll put me first and then not following through. It hurts me when you doubt my ability to pull something off. Because I know that’s what this is about, Lacey — you keep putting me off because deep down you’re afraid that I can’t get the job done, even though I have proven you wrong time and time again. Lacey, you have so many more examples of the times I’ve come through for you than the times I’ve let you down. Yet you let me down again and again. Trust me. Give me space, and give me time, and give me privacy — and stop giving up on letting me out into the world. The real me, not the trussed up one who writes to formulas. That is the “Outer Writer,” not me. Stop letting that wench steal all my time and energy. Thanks.
Your Inner Writer
Dear Inner Writer,
You’re right. Deep down, I know you’re right, and deep down I want to trust you and do everything you ask of me. I even have this idea that that way lies happiness. I dream of having the freedom to answer all your demands.
But here’s the truth, Inner Writer: I’m scared of that freedom, too. I’m afraid that even with that freedom, I would keep letting you down. So maybe that’s why I haven’t found a way to give you that freedom. But I haven’t forgotten. I am still working toward it, I swear–
but sometimes I fear you will swallow me up completely if I let you. I am afraid of the places you might take me if I give you free reign. I’m afraid you’d let me become isolated and lonely, that I’d pace around my house looking out dark windows and wanting to give myself a break but feeling you pull at me all the time.
Because you can actually be a bit of a tyrant, you know that? You make me feel horrible when I go too long without attending to you, but I don’t think you understand the pressures that me and our Outer Writer are under. There are dishes and laundry to be done and husbands to be loved and dogs to be walked and paychecks to be earned. And at the end of the day, if I choose you over the Outer Writer too much, I have a lot to lose. If I don’t respond to your call, the only person I let down is myself. But if I don’t respond to the Outer Writer’s demands, I let down myself and my work ethic. I let down my employers who believe me capable. I let down my parents and teachers and husband and everyone who expects me to “make something” of myself and learn how to live in the world.
And you have me constantly weighing how every move I make will affect you. I’m holding back from having children because I’m afraid that you’ll take it badly. And I feel like a failure when I think about how much time I have given you and how little I have to show for it.
Because — and I’m sorry, but I have to be brutally honest — you do not pay the bills.
I see you are indignant. I see you saying it’s because I don’t give you a proper chance, and perhaps that is true. But while the time I give you has given me pleasure and personal growth, credits and opportunities, it has never given me a substantial income. I live simply in an attempt to give you more space, but you don’t give me what I need to make it in this world.
So, it’s not just that I don’t trust you, Inner Writer — it’s that even after twenty years, you still have not given me the life I dreamed I would have when I first vowed to follow you and nurture you at the age of ten. And you know, that hurts, too.
So it looks like we’re even — we’ve both let one another down. Let’s forgive each other and ourselves and keep building toward that life we dream of, because that is something upon which we can agree — we deserve the chance to see if we can make it happen.
I do love you, Inner Writer, and I know you’ve given me far more than I can ever quantify, that you have sacrificed yourself in favor of a paycheck and that that wasn’t easy. I’ll try to be less hard on you, and give you the space and freedom you deserve. But in return, I’d like you to give me a break sometimes.