I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. When I was a little kid in primary school, I wrote a Halloween-themed short story. It was for a local something, maybe a competition. I don’t remember if I won, but I got a certificate with a werewolf on it. I still have it. It’s packed in a big, plastic container filled with school mementos. The box sits on the top shelf in a closet of what was once my bedroom in my parent’s house. I don’t remember anything about that short story, but I’m sure it was fantastic because all stories written by little kids are awesome in their way. Plus, I got a certificate with a werewolf on it as evidence of the story’s greatness. I never wrote another piece of fiction again.
That might not be true. In the fall of 1996, when I was 18 or 19, I took a course called Narration and Description at uni. Surely that involved creative writing. The only evidence I have are my college transcripts, which say I got a B in this class. The only thing I remember is that my professor seduced the boy I liked and had begun seeing. Later, when I bumped into her at a night club, she apologised, but called the coupling “inevitable”. The relationship didn’t survive the semester.
In high school, writing was largely about research. I wrote some clever research papers. There was the one about the extinction of dinosaurs in 10th grade, but my magnum opus came in 11th grade. I wrote a paper about the Artemis archetype and female literary characters. I was 15 and it was brilliant. At uni, as an English major, writing was mostly about what we thought about the books we read. Outside of the classroom, I wrote for newspapers. Then I blogged, wrote for other people’s blogs, and wrote a lot of business documents. With a few exceptions, I’ve been paid for almost all the writing I’ve done outside the classroom. Yet I have never identified as a writer.
A writer is a person who uses written words to communicate their ideas, but, let’s face it, it’s a loaded word. “Writer” suggests an occupation. It suggests publication. There are people who write, writers, and “real writers”. I don’t know who gets to decide these things or how they arrive at their conclusions.
I’ve wanted to pen a novel since I can remember. “Of course you want to write a novel,” a friend said. “You’re an English major.” Of course.
Last year, in 2016, I decided to commit to this project. I spent months turning the thought over in my mind and stewing in all the reasons I should not attempt to write a novel, the number one reason being that I don’t write fiction. I am a person who writes, but I am not a writer. The urge to write is hard to suppress. There are ideas out there floating in the aether searching for someone to bring them to life. They move around you, brushing past you, sometimes through you, pushing and pulling.
Despite this relentless tug, what finally made me decide to take the plunge is the fact that there is some truly awful writing out there. The producers of those works have the
audacity confidence to call themselves writers. So, why not? Being a writer is not like being a king (or a president).
That was it then. The idea from the aether came to me and I said yes. I would write a novel. Then I spent the rest of 2016 procrastinating and taking baby steps. Not even real baby steps, more like the baby steps of a tiny fairy baby, a lazy one that sleeps a lot.
This year has been different. One day, I sat down at my computer and began writing. The idea began taking shape – a deformable form with soft boundaries and a lumpy surface, but a shape of some kind nevertheless. It will be terrible for a long time and then, hopefully, it will be better.
I was not ready to talk about this. I’m not ready to talk about my work in progress. It’s in its infancy – hungry, sleepy, full of soft spots, and startled by loud or sudden noise. I’m fragile too. I’m not ready for the reactions, questions, expectations, and projections. But one of the reasons I blog is to document and to process. I enjoy reading illuminating comments from readers. There’s something strange, mysterious, and feral about writing a novel. I don’t want to miss out on exploring that process. Also, the research is interesting and I want to share it.