When I was in college, I wanted to be a writer. I mean, I wanted to be able to pay my bills and live in comfort, which is why I did not get a BFA in Starving Artistry. But I wanted to be a writer. And, in my brain, I thought I wanted to write fiction.
I did actually take two fiction-writing classes. One was for writing short stories and the other was play writing.
Fiction does not come easily to me. Embellishing reality to hysterical proportions such as goes on inside my brain and spills into this blog sometimes is far easier.
Anyway, sometime during or right after college I kind of put the dream of being a writer aside. Even when I started this blog back in 2003 (Can you believe that I’ve been blogging for almost 10 years now? Actually, it will be 10 years in September. I wish I still had those older posts, which were lost during some server moves and whatnot.) I still didn’t think what I was doing was writing.
If you asked me even today I would tell you I am not a writer. I think I have a talent for a certain sort of expression that works best when written down. But I’m not a writer because I don’t really write. I’ll explain in a moment.
The title of this blog post comes from the advice given a lamenting young writer lady by Sugar.
The writer complained at length:
Right now, I am a pathetic and confused young woman of 26, a writer who can’t write. I am up late asking you a question, really questioning myself. I’ve sat here, at my desk, for hours, mentally immobile. I look up people I used to love and wonder why they never loved me. I lie facedown on my bed and feel scared. I get up, go to the computer, feel worse.
Now, I don’t agree with the whole of Sugar’s reply, but the bottom line of her sage advice is spot-on:
So write, Elissa Bassist. Not like a girl. Not like a boy. Write like a motherfucker.
See, one of the reasons that I gave up on ever being a writer is because of Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged. Non-Objectivists might roll their eyes at the reference, but I freaking LOVE that book. From page one it was a book that moved me and made me want to roll around in that world. I wanted to run up to the characters and give them big hugs. They would, of course, freak out and probably punch me for that. But I just loved that universe they were in and I loved the story and the way it was put together.
If you’ve ever thought you might want to be a writer because of your most favoritest book in the whole world, you might be able to relate to what I am trying to get across here.
I could never in a bazillion years write a book as good in my mind as my favorite book, Atlas Shrugged.
That is a fact.
My mother has probably heard me typing that and is presently running from the grocery store to zoom home and grab my by the shoulders so she can scream in my face. “YOU ARE SPECIAL, TALENTED, AND WONDERFUL! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU SET YOUR MIND TO INCLUDING WRITE THE BEST BOOK EVER IN THE WHOLE WORLD EVER!”
Actually, she doesn’t talk like that. I do.
But the fact is that I am not the writer Ayn Rand was or Jules Verne or Emily Dickenson or Jane Austen or Jim Butcher or Ginn Hale or… anyone else.
So, this notion that if I wrote then my first work should be the next great American novel is nonsense. It’s nonsense for a number of reasons, but that doesn’t stop me from imagining my name on the cover of a book that sends people into tears after the first paragraph and by the end leaves them changed forever and seeking to find something great and good within themselves. (I’ve had the same silly notion about becoming a painter as well.)
The fact is that if you’re going to be great or even passable at something you do have to work at it. If you’re serious about being a writer you have to write. You have to write utter crap. You have to write some thing that make you want to set your computer on fire. You have to write some OK things. You have to write things that don’t make your face burn with embarrassment on occasion. You have to start at not good and work your way up. But you have to write.
So, here’s something I’ve only told a couple of people: I’m writing a book.
It’s a novel. It’s not intended to be a work of great fiction. I’ve just had a story flopping around in my head for a while and I decided I should just put it out there. I don’t know how long it will take me to get it done… or even if I will ever get it done.
But it’s likely to be pretty bad. And I’m OK with that because if I seriously do want to be a writer, then I need to write. And I can’t let the fact that I suck at writing be an obstacle to me right now. Maybe later that will be an issue, but here at the beginning I’m just enjoying the exercise of working at it and trying it on for size.
And I’m not quitting my day job in the meantime.