I am a writer.
Say it again.
I am a writer.
That’s more or less my daily mantra these days. I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I was 8 or 9 when I made my first real attempt at writing a book. It was called The Magic Rollerskates and it was about a girl who bought a pair of skates in a secondhand store. After she cleaned them, she put them on, laced them up, began to skate…and promptly left the Earth as she flew. I think I made it about 50 grueling, hand-written pages into that book (complete with illustrations) before it got lost in a desk drawer in favor of whatever it is 10-year-old girls end up doing on their own time. (Angsty diary entries, maybe?)
A few years later, I ventured into a joint writing effort with my cousin. We were older, wiser, and knew that a lot of the great authors liked to team up from time to time, so we were going to do the same. This time the subject matter was one of my absolute favorites – time travel. But, newsflash! Working with a partner is harder than going it alone. I’m pretty sure we never even made it a full chapter in. It seemed as though I was in love with the idea of writing more than I was with the actual writing itself.
And therein lies the crux of every writer’s dilemma.
We don’t write because it’s easy, because words, stories, and characters flow through our fingertips into the keyboard keys and onto the screen. We write because we have to. It’s in our blood, in the very essence of our being, whether we want to admit it or not. And being a writer who doesn’t write is like being a duck without water. Miserable.
I grew up, of course, and focused on other things – school, college, a career, but I never lost that passion for writing, that dream of completing a book and going on to write another. In college, I began my third quasi-serious attempt at a novel. Romance this time, but with an adventurous kick in the deep jungle of the Congo rainforest. Elements of magic had not been ruled out and remained a distinct possibility. I made it three and a half chapters, about 75 pages, before my interest waned. I had stacks of research, drawings, notes – an entire folder filled with the information I needed to carry on with the story, but the story had stopped speaking to me.
In retrospect, I realize that this wasn’t the case. It wasn’t that the story had stopped speaking to me, but that I had given up when it got difficult. Writing is hard. Let me reiterate that. I’ll even give it its own paragraph.
Writing is hard. (I can still hear my high school calculus teacher’s voice, “Rocks are hard. Writing is difficult.” Whatever. You know what I mean.)
As a kid, I thought that writers knew everything about their stories, and I felt that I could just never quite figure it out. I knew the beginning, certainly, and I knew where I wanted to end up, but how to get there… Well, there weren’t even chirping crickets in my head for that one. Complete and utter silence. Simply put, “the middle” of the book scared the bejeezus out of me. In fear of writing the wrong thing, my terrified imagination ceased to work when it came to filling in the blanks. So instead of the wrong thing, I ended up with nothing.
Guess what? Editing nothing is a whole lot harder than editing the wrong thing. I have only recently figured this out. (“Recent” being the last ten years or so.)
It’s taken me a long time to finally say both to others and to myself, “I am a writer.” My novels haven’t been picked up by an agent or publisher (yet) and the only published writing of mine exists in the form of blogs I’ve ghost-written for others or in my own travel blog from a 2015 cross country trip. Nevertheless, I AM a writer.
And if you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing you probably are, too. So let me give you some words of encouragement. Don’t give up. Don’t let that unknown monster of “the middle” scare you. Repeat after me.
“I am a writer.”