Occasionally, my husband will bug me with: ‘So where is your best selling novel? Why haven’t you written it yet so we can live a life of luxury and I don’t have to work anymore?’
I guess some people might find this obnoxious, but I find it funny (it’s partly down to tone). I also like it because it reminds me of my life dream.
I had several years of childhood existential angst where people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I never had answer. What did I want to be? (Note to adults: don’t ask kids this. They don’t know. And if they are sure they want to be a sparkle princess firewoman, they’ll tell you.) Then in 6th grade I did a story writing unit and on the bottom my teacher scrawled ‘This is great! You should be a writer.’
Thanks to Mrs. Garwood, suddenly everything made sense. Hadn’t I been scribbling and composing stories since before I could write? I even had some proto-fan fiction drama in a notebook: a hilarious crossover between The Legend of Zelda and The Little Mermaid. I don’t know how offhand that comment was, but it changed my life.
I devoted my life to becoming a writer. Well, kind of. I was never a tortured artist who was consumed by her art, but I did everything I could to be a better writer–I penned my first (terrible) novel at 15, and wrote one complete sequel and half of another. I took the creative writing electives at high school and majored in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing in college, damned be the expense and impracticality. I kept filling up notebooks with further novel attempts, planning out a family saga in four parts–but I never finished the first.
It turns out that writing is pretty easy. Finishing a piece of writing is hard. Figuring out what makes me finish something is harder still. After about five years post-college dithering with one novel, I discovered that fan fiction was an actual thing. No, I was not weird for spinning further stories about my favorite books–or if I was, I was in very good company on the internet. Inspired by the fact that I wasn’t alone and a renewed spark of inspiration for the Narnia books which had fired my imagination so much as a kid, I churned out a good half dozen multi-chapter and short stories in the space of three months.
I also met my a writing partner, someone who was as caught up as me. We started writing fan fiction together, and I abandoned my serious literary attempts to write about fully copyrighted characters. We mused often about how we would go somewhere with our stories, but at the same time, we were having so much fun we didn’t ever want to finish. We did some good work and I honed and thought about my writing skills, but I never seemed to finish much of anything.
Yet all through these years since I had been told I should be a writer, I never doubted that I would be. I would write, no matter what. Even if I wasn’t producing, I knew that one day I would, and that was enough. After all, I spent every night writing for two plus hours as my writing partner and I spun stories for ourselves. There couldn’t be more dedication.
Then things started to change. I met my husband and started building the dream I didn’t think would come true–getting married and starting a family. My writing partner had a kid, then I did. We didn’t have as much time for writing, and then the fights we had been having from such an intense friendship and creative partnership became too much to get past. I got a job teaching, and marking and planning took up a lot of my time outside work. I did manage to write a play and even get it performed at a small am-dram company, but lately, I struggle. Instead of the absolute certainty that one day I will write a best-selling novel, I start to wonder sometimes: do I have to? I’m already so happy.
This line of thought scares me. I always swore I wouldn’t be the type of person who gave up on their dream, yet here I am, sometimes on the verge of doing so. It is hard to fit in writing when I have one kid–very soon to be two, and a job that is full time and then some. It’s easier to mooch around on Facebook and BuzzFeed at night instead of plodding through typing to find my inspiration. But actually finishing is hard, and I’m teetering on an edge, given my present feelings and my past history. I always thought that without writing and achieving my goal to be a published author I would feel incomplete. What’s scary is to realize that incompleteness wouldn’t be a gaping hole but more of a niggle that I could live with.
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