Saturday, February 23, 2013

Writing is My Rome


A few weeks ago I blogged about how this is not a good time for me to make yet another go at the whole writing career thing. Because there's not enough time and too much life going on around here and all the usual excuses you'll hear time and time again if you spend any considerable amount of time hanging around with wannabe writers aspiring novelists like myself.

But those excuses will never go away. There will always be too much life going on and not enough time. I've never met a single person who has enough time to do all the things they want, need, should, and have the vague inkling to do. If you know such a person, send them my way so I can con them into taking some of the random crap off my to-do list.

If you are such a person, pay no attention to the use of the word "con" up there in that last sentence. Have I mentioned that I bake a mean chocolate brownie cookie and am willing to exchange as many batches as you could ask for in exchange for a few menial little tasks like folding all my laundry for the rest of forever or keeping my kids' baby books up-to-date?

So why, if it's such a bad time and I'm pretty sure it's never going to be a good time, am I sitting here trying to write my way into the publishing industry? Because I must. I can't not write, and I have a strong enough sense of ambition (not to mention an almost desperate need to validation) that writing as a hobby with no professional goals or direction just doesn't satisfy.

It took me a very long time to realize this. I've heard writers say "I can't not write" before and I never really understood what it meant. I guess I heard that line and got it into my head that these people were bursting with intricate plots and complex characters that they just needed to write down or their brains would explode, a veritable geyser of words shredding their way out through the grey matter and splattering on the walls, leaving behind a drooling vegetable of a former writer and a big messy stain.

I've never felt the need to write with anything even remotely resembling that level of urgency and so for a long time I didn't think I was one of those writers who couldn't not write.

But I decided I was going to be a novelist when I was twelve-years-old. I let the well-meaning adults talk me out of that silly notion a few years later.

I had vague inklings of a writing career while I was in college, but let myself get distracted by... things one lets oneself get distracted by in college that I probably shouldn't discuss in detail here.

After a few years went by I decided maybe I'd write in my spare time, just for fun, and got caught up in the rush of NaNoWriMo and convinced myself that I could do this for real. Unfortunately, I ran out of momentum and let life get in my way again.

Some time later I realized writing made me happier than any of the other random careers I'd tried and I thought maybe I should start thinking about it with my grown up brain instead of those last clinging remnants of my twelve-year-old self's dreams. I took classes and read books and joined a critique group and even talked Long-Suffering Husband around to the notion of my quitting my job and taking on writing full-time. It wasn't too long after that that I had kids, and I let myself use them as an excuse to let everything else slide for a while. (Bad writer!) (And bad mommy, too!)

Now I am back once again, trying to find a way to fit narrating the lives of my imaginary friends into the rest of my world. Taking the mistakes I made last time (and all the other times before) and finding ways to avoid them this time. Hoping the mistakes I make this time don't knock me too far off course. Because, let's be realistic here; there will be mistakes. An overabundance of them, I assume.

I've been distracted by many things and discouraged in many ways, but nothing can silence that little voice in my brain that at the oddest moments will whisper write that idea down; you might want to use it later. Write that idea down, the voice says. Not remember it or file that away. Write. Always there is the impulse, the instinct, to write.

It seems I can't not write after all. It has nothing to do with impending word geyser explosion.* It's a quieter, though likely just as powerful, need than that. Something keeps bringing me back to the page, no matter how many times I run away from it. No matter which direction I try to turn, I always end up back here. All my roads lead to writing.

*I'm sure at least one of you wants that for the name of your [INSERT RANDOM MUSICAL ARTIST OR GENRE HERE] cover band. As I am sadly lacking in the cover band department myself and thus have no cause to lay claim to it, I'll be generous. Go ahead; have at it.

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