“I don’t feel like a writer,” I say because I don’t. But I do have little scraps of paper with sloppy sentences and thoughts spread across them—something I always imaged real writers do. Didn’t J.K. Rowling write “Harry Potter” on bar napkins? Either way it’s something I never used to do but I find myself doing it now since I can’t remember little thoughts as well as I used to. These tiny snippets of sentences are littered everywhere throughout my apartment, in my locker at work, and in pretty much every bag or purse I own. I don’t feel like a writer because they are only sentences that I jot down, a glimpse of something that could become a good idea if I sat down and actually focused. I don’t feel like a writer anymore because writing is way more of a challenge ever since Fibromyalgia took my body hostage—holding my brain, my favorite part of myself, captive. I don’t feel like a writer anymore and yet I am literally typing this on my phone as I walk down Division running errands, dodging the people walking against my direction who are probably rolling their eyes going, “Oh my god, just look at what technology is doing to society, nobody looks at anybody anymore,” BUT LOOK I’M WRITING, I want to yell at them, yell at myself, yell at the world. I’M WRITING. I don’t feel like a writer anymore because sometimes I honestly cannot keep track of one sentence, especially if they’re long winded, and if you know me, you probably know that I have a healthy relationship with run-on sentences. I don’t feel like a writer anymore because I haven’t finished a new short story in god knows how long. I’ve started a bunch, though. A bunch of starts that have been abandoned because when I reopened the document to pick up where I left off last time, I literally cannot remember where it was going, and I get so frustrated that I hide that document in a folder that isn’t right on my desktop and in my face. So many starts to pieces that I swore I couldn’t forget because it was such a good idea and yet I have. Yet I do. Sometimes I try and just keep writing to see where it’ll take me, like maybe my fingers will glide across the keyboard like I’m playing a piano and it’ll just come back to me naturally. This never happens. The reality is I just become more frustrated with myself because I can’t stop obsessing about what it was supposed to be. I don’t feel like a writer anymore because I haven’t been querying agents for my novel lately, haven’t even submitted any work to be published, haven’t even been to many literary events, and what am I doing? The first two years of life with chronic pain I didn’t write at all. I was depressed and scared and constantly fatigued and always throwing up and my memory issues were even worse back then. I remember there was one point before I was diagnosed where I truly feared that I was experiencing super early Alzheimer’s. You know how terrifying it was to feel like I was slipping away from myself at 29 years old? Absolutely terrifying. I’m grateful that it isn’t that intense anymore but during exceptionally awful flare ups it can get pretty bad. I don’t feel like a writer anymore because I used to be able to spit out multiple, complete, fully told short stories a week and now I can’t even cough up—can’t even vomit—one at all. I remember when my thesis advisor told me that he envied me for my ability to generate such meaty material in such little time and I remember that compliment made me feel like a writer.
But what does it mean to feel like a writer? I still walk down the street and listen to the sounds unfolding around me and think of a vivid image and scene that could go with it. I still sit on the CTA with headphones on but music off so I can jot down overheard conversations in my journal to practice the flow of true human dialog. I still write down random ideas in a tiny journal I keep behind the bar with me. I still write messy poetry and I still sit down with the intention of writing stories even if I only get the beginning on the page. I have at least ten different beginnings to an essay about Fibromyalgia alone. I still read every single day. I still fall in love with the shape of a story, with the structure of a novel, the structure of a sentence, with word choice. These are all the same things I did when I did feel like a writer. Why don’t I feel like one now, then? I thought about this long and hard and I think I have finally come up with an answer. Guilt. Just like the guilt I carry all day everyday about everything else fibromyalgia has seemingly ruined for me. Guilt that the excruciating pain that never leaves my body has turned me into a bad friend. Guilt that I’m a bad daughter. Bad girlfriend. Bad sister. Bad teacher. Guilt that I can’t work as effective behind the bar. And now, newly identified, guilt that I can’t write as efficiently as I once could. Guilt so heavy I could jump into a body of water and drown. But I’m working real hard on letting that guilt go because the truth is I can do all the same things I once did. Every single one of them. I may not be able to do them the same way as I once did—but there isn’t one single thing I can’t do. Every morning I wake up and problem solve. I find new ways to exist with this nightmare. I find new ways to accomplish things that were once so easy I didn't even have to think like maybe from now on I need to do what I'm doing now-- sit down and write one full thing with a beginning and a middle and an end, without looking back or fixing anything no matter how sloppy or all over the place it is as long as it gets out. I stay grateful. Every day I work on letting go of the things that no longer work—the things that hold me back. And I will continue to let go of them in pieces, one by one, until I’m completely weightless and floating above the entire world.