I have this new chair. Actually, it’s an old chair I just had reupholstered for the third time in twenty five years, hoping I will finally like it. At the moment, people in my family are treating its new incarnation with restraint— it’s fine. I might not have chosen it. Not for me. The pattern seemed ordained when I saw it—a bold choice, a choice for life. Wearing it, my chair would declare itself: I have imagination, I have a sense of humor, I will not hide from the world, I refuse to be polite. Now that it’s in my house, I consider it, cringing—is it too loud? Will people think it’s weird?

When Kathe was five, she fell in love with a lavishly patterned gold coat. My mother, who had taken Kathe on the shopping trip, fought with her in the dressing room. That is a horrible coat. I won’t buy it for you. It makes you look like trash. Kathe dug in. She loved the coat. But the fight undid them both. Kathe, eyes watering, my mother resolute. Kathe had never heard such words before– you look like trash. We gave her the coat for her birthday, but it hung in her closet until she outgrew it, never worn.

I worry about my chair—do you look like trash? Will people disapprove of your exuberance, be offended by your noisy swirls? I creep around it, afraid I have made a terrible mistake, one I will have to live with for the next ten years. And then I remember Austin Kleon, who says, in a hundred different ways, don’t be ashamed of who you are. Put the book down if you don’t like it. Borrow from artists you admire, walk away from work that drains you. Two quotes in his latest newsletter, from Borges and another writer, both saying that you should only read what you love, and set aside the rest. Because we don’t have much time.

Two nights ago, the night before this exuberant, unapologetic chair arrived, I flopped into bed, script finished, and told Danny I love telling stories. I don’t really care about making art, or leaving a legacy. I just want to entertain people. I deeply admire writers who make art. And I often get confused by that admiration, think I should have loftier ambitions.

Maybe I need to climb into my joyful, ugly chair, and write.

Finished “On Writing.” Finally came to the conclusion that Stephen King is a congenial enough guy, but also a bit of a bully. Dispensing homey, kitchen wisdom that seduces with its lack of syllables and art— “cat got your tongue?” “wouldn’t shake a stick at–” The language is so friendly you might be tempted to think he’s your friend. But what he’s really doing, the subtext, is drawing a careful line in the sand, a circle around real writers, the ones who get it, or have it, and keeping everybody else outside.

What I have been doing: chewing compulsively through writer blogs— writers talking to each other, talking about writing, talking about their books, writers giving helpful advice. Most of them make me want to quit. Stephen King writes a nearly perfect book about writing and after reading it I’m ready to hang it up for good. Everything he says makes him seem so much smarter than I could ever hope to be, intimidatingly smart, his homey, small town dialect notwithstanding. And then he writes, if you aren’t enjoying yourself, don’t write.

My chest caves in with despair and lack of air. Some writers enjoy doing this. (Why? Because they were well-liked as children? Because they aren’t perfectionists? Because they have such huge egos they actually believe perfection can be attained, or has been attained, by them? Because they have practiced long enough? Because they have Aspberger’s?) However it happened, writing is so much fun for them that when they aren’t writing they share helpful tips, starting with, writing should be fun.

I am blessed to have a peaceful marriage, to a person that I really, truly, love. Steady, daily love, the good stuff, a person I am glad to see every morning after more than thirty years. I don’t have the same juju with writing, which turns out to be the great, unrequited love of my life. Every day has felt stolen, wrestled, cajoled, torn, cobbled. Every day I ask myself, should I have been a therapist? A teacher? A lawyer? I keep trying to change, but in the end, that’s the writer I turned out to be. Stephen King writes because he can’t not write, because he enjoys writing too much to stop. I fight to write, every day, against relentless doubts and fears. I write like somebody leaning into strong headwinds, trying to make it home without a coat or a compass. I write lost, and frostbitten, and terrified— when I am not hiding under my covers, taking a nap, planning alternate careers. I am not brimming with stories. I am a slow drip. I answer no to every “You are a writer if…” question on every internet quiz I have ever taken.

But still. There are all these years. I’m still here. Could we count those years for something?

I want to say, to myself, to all those other writers who might be out there, tormented and tongue-tied, not having fun, dreams buried under too many obligations and distractions and negative self talk: don’t give up. You’re still here.