When I was younger I fancied myself a writer, until one day I decided I no longer wanted to be one. In my mind, the writer's path was full of melancholy and despair, a pervasive sadness I was well acquainted with at the time. I did not want any part of it. I wanted a normal life. So I made the choice to stop writing, hoping the sadness would go away with it.
I oversimplify, of course. My decision to stop writing wasn't so conscious or deliberate. It was the result of a combination of self-doubt and procrastination. It also was influenced by relationship politics. My ex is a writer. He has published two short story books, good ones. Back then, so many years ago, he was still unpublished, ambitious and consumed with passion for his craft. Writing was his signifier, his thing. He would spend hours building the perfect paragraph, crafting the perfect sentence, choosing each word carefully. He told me once that he was glad I was there to ground him, lest he would spend his life with his head in the clouds.
Writing was just a fun, youthful game to me, a whim to indulge every once in a while when a clever idea hit me. It stopped being fun when I started comparing myself to my ex and his rigorous ways. I did not share his level of passion for writing. I did not practice every day. I did not spend hours thinking carefully about words before putting them down; my process was pretty much just spilling my thoughts on paper (or screen) haphazardly, tweaking minor things here and there.
The label of WRITER felt simultaneously self-important and constricting, a title I did not want nor deserve. When two of my stories were published in an anthology with other young writers, I felt both very proud and very guilty. Why was I being published and he wasn't?
Quitting writing did nothing to lift the sadness, of course. It was foolish to think it would, but magical thinking is not logical.