Writing Life Wednesday – December 4, 2019

I am a writer.

Those are words that I have struggled to say for almost my entire life.

As a teenager, I wrote voraciously.  As a lonely child, writing gave me the chance to create worlds full of people that I wanted to have in my life, but were not available.  I had pages and pages, handwritten and then typed and then printed, of story fragments and journal entries.

Three things happened to put the kibosh on my dreams.  The first happened when I was in middle school.  A family member had found a folder of my writing and handed it out to everyone to read at Thanksgiving.  I don’t remember what the story was, but I remember I walked in one everyone reading it and being greeted with laughing and a chorus of, “Isn’t that cute?”  Before that moment, I had no qualms about telling people I wanted to be a writer.  After that moment, I kept my dreams to myself.

My senior year in high school, I had a choice of taking AP English, which might give me college credit, or College Writing, which guaranteed me college credit.  I took the latter and I still regret not taking the former.  While I did come out of that class with college credit, I also came out of it with a crushed writer’s soul.  Instead of having a teacher who would nourish the writing goals of her students, I had a teacher who seemed to want to be anywhere except in a classroom.  Her acerbic manner was not reserved for me alone, and those of use who found ourselves on the wrong end of her regard could not figure out what it was about us that was so unpalatable to her.  It wasn’t until many years later that I accepted it had nothing to do with us, but everything to do with her.

Finally, college happened.  College was great–it was fun, but it was also hard work.  While I wrote nonstop in my four years at William and Mary, my writing was limited to the many, many papers that came with my History and English classes.  My dreams of writing fiction became buried under a mountain of education demand and, as any writer can tell you, it’s a muscle that will atrophy without use.

At one point, I had the opportunity to take a Creative Writing class.  My mind was telling me that this was it, this was my chance to resurrect my dreams.  But something inside of me was paralyzed with fear and I ended up registering for something else.

For many years after that, writing was just something that was back in my mind, something that I used to do.  Then, I came across some old papers from high school–ironically, from my College Writing class.  When I read through what I had, I was shocked.  It was good, surprisingly good.  In my memory, I remembered the laughing adults and the critical teacher, but in my hand I had proof that they had been wrong.

Angelou quote

For a few years, a story had been bouncing around in my head and I would work it over and over, thinking that, maybe, I should give it a try someday.  Last year, I started it in NaNoWriMo.  While I met my word count, I only made it about halfway through  my story.  I decided to take a few days off–and “a few days” turned into “roughly 335 days” and it was almost November 2019.  I looked at what I had written and decided that it was now or never.

On Thanksgiving morning, I finished my novel.  Well, I finished my “shitty first draft” of my novel, which is a stream of consciousness work that will never see the light of day.  It will, however, serve as the first step to something else.  Today, I started the hard work of character building and, once I’m done with that, I’ll start outlining what I have.  Then I will write a true first draft, and then edit and revise and rewrite.  Then I will probably edit and revise and rewrite again.  And again.  And, at some point, I will be able to present my story to the world.

I started this blog to document my writing life and it has been almost a year of Saturday Snapshot posts.  But I’m ready now to step out into the world and say it.

I am a writer.

Footnote: I wrote this on the evening of December 1st.  As soon as I went to bed, I realized this sounded familiar and, hey!, wasn’t this pretty much what I had written in this blog’s first post?  The next morning I looked it up and it was…similar, although not identical.  My first instinct was to edit something, but then I realized my best course of action was to remain vulnerable and accept that it took 11 months for me to get my act together.

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About Melinda