Renaming Myself

It took some time before I uttered the words. It was much like new lovers who hesitate to speak a risky “I love you.” It was a courageous declaration.

A couple of years after I’d begun to write for public consumption, I had to submit an updated “bio” for an introduction. After reviewing my extracts, my friend urged me, “Don’t forget, add that you are a writer.”

I contorted my face and mostly pushed the description away.  I paused, gulped, wrote, and erased. Finally, I included, “Maryhelen is a writer.”

This daring title has been challenging to embrace.

Inherently, the bind with telling others that you write is that it’s often followed up with inquiry. Unlike my years of “I am a homemaker,” or “I work in ministry,” which landed like a dead weight with minimal response, declaring myself a writer is met with curiosity and commentary.

“What do you write?”
“Can I read something you’ve written?”
“I love to write, but I could never publish.”

This interest has been intimidating, as I have struggled with my own vulnerability and expertise.

Proclamations I have heard over the years have also prevented me from embracing the title of writer: “Writers read, writers write.” And my personal assumption: “Writers need to know structure, grammar and punctuation.”  I no longer believe this now that I see what an editor can do, but still, these presumptions have stalled me from embracing my identity as a writer.

As a result of the coaching program I participated in last spring, I have imagined a new goal—to use my passion, voice and pen for the noble work of writing. I have committed to grant attention, time, and discipline to this holy work. My goal was to begin in the fall, and it’s October, folks!

This endeavor requires daring fortitude.

The actual discipline of routine writing is the most challenging for me.

Experts insist that writers need to have a rhythm. This intention requires energy, time, and the restraint to say “No” to diversions that have held my attention for years. Saying “No” to something good is difficult.

For me, saying “Yes” to writing regularly is an intimidating commitment that involves putting other activities on the sideline. I hope I can maintain this new pattern.

I have begun to believe I have a writer inside me. I am hesitant and unsure about the title, but it is burgeoning, none the less. To create a cadence of writing, I have to dare to stay put.

In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott shares some instructions on writing and life: “I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so…Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises.“

I have come to a precipice in my writing journey and I hope I am surprised by the adventure. I have great resolve.

This fall, I embark on a daring quest: to live in a pattern more conducive to writing. To be more “official,” I have set a regular space to write in my office, and another at a coffee shop near my home. It’s my hope that I can combat the isolation and distraction of household business.

To stay the course, I am creating a helpful plan. I am crafting a writing calendar to set personal goals. I have topics I wish to pursue, and I am seeking a writing group or partner. When it gets hard, my goal is to show up. Time after time. Words on the page. I will dare to stay, and trust it will turn into something meaningful.

If you catch me in the next season and you hope to make plans, I may be available as usual. But hopefully you’ll hear me say more than once, “I am sorry, I have to say no.”  Watch closely—perhaps you will detect a bit of delight on my face when I continue by responding without hesitation, “I have work to do. I am a writer.”

Maryhelen Martens has been gathering and connecting with others since she was a young girl growing up in rural Wisconsin. She is a lover of whimsy and play, beauty and depth, all of which she experiences in her relationships. While her emotions and voice were shut down for decades, she is finding them again and using them in healing groups, story coaching, and writing. She’s always been drawn to water and sunsets and more recently to the desert and sunrises. She’s curious about that. Mother to three authentic adults, Maryhelen lives with her steadfast husband Keith on the shore of Lake Michigan.