I don't have any tattoos. I don't own a single sassy t-shirt. My ears are only pierced in the most conservative, standard way—and I haven't even worn earrings for years!
I'm usually fairly quiet in person (unless well caffeinated). I'm a born rule-follower. The type of girl who will round up abandoned shopping carts and roll them back to their corrals.
Not exactly anyone's idea of a rebel.
Except for this one little thing.
This vocation I have. This habit of writing down everything, everything. Of taking notes on my own life, the lives of others. Of asking myself hard questions on paper. Of drilling down, of drilling deeper, and then turning that material into scenes and dialogue.
I look like a quiet mild-mannered girl, like a very nice citizen ... and then I go to my desk and pull out my novel and blow stuff up.
Novelists can make people nervous. Have you noticed? People don't always trust novels or the writers who devise them. They don't always know what to do with us.
I'll have people tell me this point blank: Oh, I would never let *my* daughter do what you're doing. You're a quiet person, and quiet people scare me. I won't read fiction. I've never read a single novel. I will never read anything you write, sorry.
A really good novel puts you inside someone else's head: the writer's. The characters'. It's mind travel. Pretty sketchy, right?
It's a dangerous thing to do, to submerge yourself in a gripping novel: just hope you don't drown in it. Right? It might change your life. It might turn you inside out. You gotta be careful.
Mmm. A life full of words. It can be quiet. But also very, very risky.
But sometimes, I slip out of this warrior mindset. Know what I mean?
I start treating my work like it's a standard office job. Like I'm a paper pusher, filing things, double checking things, making graphs, keeping everything nice and tidy. I can forget, just a little, why I'm really here.
And that's when I need this quote. I need it to ruffle my feathers, to fire me up, shake the paradigm, and get me asking questions again:
I love this quote. I love it because I'm no one's idea of a rebellious person, and yet I'm doing this incredibly daring thing of writing novels.
I need this quote to remind me of what I'm up against. To remind me not to slack off on the tension in the story. To remind me to put my whole heart into this thing. To remind me to show up, day after day.
It's a dangerous thing that we're doing—this telling of secrets on paper. (Normal people don't DO this. Have you noticed?)
And no matter what kind of writing you do, if you're telling the truth, you're being edgy. Rebelling against anything that would tell you to be silent.
It's part of the calling.
And—if you want to take this idea as far as possible, and I totally will—rebellion is all over what we do.
We don't have normal jobs. We don't have to keep normal hours. We do something for the love of it first, until we figure out the money end of it. We're engaging in a career with no guarantees. (SUPER weird.)
We devote ourselves to a craft that it takes a lifetime to learn. (Which takes some serious pluck.)
We tell secrets—our own, our friends', our families'. We go everywhere, watch everything, and take notes. We write down what we hear at restaurants, at grocery stores. And if you cross us, we'll write you in, just for revenge.
We get to figure out everything that makes us odd, that makes us unique, and then stick it into stories. Fill whole volumes with it.
We get to pick our fights. To choose the flags we carry.
We don't even have to rebel against all the same things everyone else is mad about on Facebook or on Twitter. We can rebel against rebellions!! We get to listen close to what's going on, and find the injustice we care about. The thing that we need to shine a light on.
We're in a vocation where we can always innovate, always tell, always fight.
Sometimes the fight is in the story; sometimes the fight is the fact of the story itself. (Even lighthearted stories can stand against darkness, after all.)
We spend our days crafting things that other people are scared of. I mean ... whoa.
It's a big responsibility, lionheart! Are you feeling that too? It's a weighty thing, this life of words. A wonderful one, but a challenging one too.
And I go back to this quote to remind myself: Don't slack. Don't settle. Keep that fire going.
The writer who is a real writer is a rebel who never stops.
— William Saroyan
Find out what it is that you're meant to expose with words, with story, and keep on fighting.