- You’re not supposed to think of yourself as a writer. Think of yourself as a journalist or a content creator or as any other marketable term. Writer? Nobody knows what that is. Nobody thinks it’s a real thing that an adult person should be. We’re all writers, right? We all write. What makes you think you’re special? What have you written lately? Enough to justify us using that title – writer – now, or were you last a writer some months ago? You might as well tell people you think you’re a yeti.
- You’re not supposed to write anything for free on the internet because doing so devalues the craft and vocation of writing.
- Even if you abide by the previous rule, you’re not supposed to expect much pay for writing because there will always be others doing it for free on the internet
- You’re not supposed to make and critique things under the same name since your own work will never measure up to the high ideals you espouse. (And what if it did? What would there be to strive for then?)
- You’re not supposed to call the things you write ‘songs’ if they lack an instrumental part. Call them poems, even if they’re written and sung to a tune. (Oops.)
- Don’t sing if you can’t sing. This should be obvious. (Oops.)
- You’re not supposed to do only one thing. Multi-tasking is the name of the game.
- You’re not supposed to be more than one thing, because then you become hard to categorize. Don’t be more than you are now because that will almost certainly make some of the people around you uncomfortable.
I was born to these and a thousand other not-supposed-tos. They’re my native tongue, the psychic operating system to which all subsequent patches and updates have been applied. That’s not an unfortunate state of affairs, but a human one. We learn the don’ts before the dos. Some of us internalize rules and rule-based thinking more than others.
Beyond that, I was also born of the not-supposed-tos: I came along at that point in a marriage after the writing was on the wall but before the wall collapsed. Not supposed to go, not supposed to stay. Not supposed to divorce, not supposed to stagnate. If not for a history of people putting up with more than they should and staying past the point where leaving made more sense, I wouldn’t be here at all. I owe my existence to a messy, complicated negotiation of not-supposed-tos: some held, others eventually discarded.
You have to discard some. If you mind all the not-supposed-tos, there’s nothing left to do without feeling bad all the time.
So I write, even when I wonder if I’m supposed to. I write selfishly – for me – then I prune and curate the most comprehensible of it for you. I hit ‘Publish’ like I’m pulling the lever on a slot machine: Maybe this, this, will be the one that starts a streak. Maybe it will hit someone in exactly the right way. All it takes is a few people to set off a chain reaction, and then I’m reaching people I never could have reached by any other means. There’s no limit to how far thoughts can travel online. No limit to where this might lead.
Is that expecting too much? Taking this whole experiment a little too seriously? Putting too much faith in the mysterious workings of the universe, and in readers already overwhelmed by the abundance of things to do, read, and share on the internet?
Yeah, it probably is. And I’m not supposed to.