Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Urge to Write

''There lurks, perhaps, in every human heart, a desire of distinction, which inclines every man to hope, and then to believe, that nature has given himself something peculiar to himself.'' Samuel Johnson

Warning:  this is what comes of noodling along on a bicycle, rather than zipping through traffic in a car with coffee, NPR and Fresh Tracks to drown out daydreams.  Sometimes an impractical idea takes root.

One of the big ideas that occurred to me while riding my bike was that maybe I should write a novel.  Oh. No.  Everybody wants to write a novel.

A 2002 survey found that 81% of Americans believe they should write a book.  It's probably a higher percentage now.  Let's see, 81% of 350 million is about ... 285 million of us.  So nice to have company. Once after telling my husband I wanted to write a book, he took me into a used bookstore and pointed out the dusty and forgotten piles of books and said oh so gently he couldn't imagine putting all that work out for a book that would then just have to compete with all those other books.

I went ahead and wrote one anyway.  It took 6 months.  Not six months of sitting down all day seriously composing, six months of dashing things off when I felt like it, making this! happen, and then this!  It was kind of fun.  Ended up with an impressive 250 page printout that the guys at the local copy store are still probably chortling about, since they got to have a peek at it. I sent them the file using the "web-based file hosting service" Dropbox.  Sending a newly minted novel via DropBox for someone else to print made me feel like a Real Writer and technologically savvy.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but enough said there.  Anyway, wrote the story, printed it, proudly took it home and told loved ones and closest friends, I wrote a book!

Unfortunately, it is a terrible book.  Even I can't read it without falling asleep.

What makes us want to write?  Is it because of a desire to, as Samuel Johnson says, distinguish ourselves?  Validate the sense of the importance of the one and only Me?


(Image from cover of the book Incredible Me, a really good book by Kathi Appelt)

So give it up already.

Well, what about the hundreds of pages of diaries, kept since childhood, filled with stories?  Boring.  Right?  And the Lifetime Dream of wanting to write?  And the high school teacher who said you have promise?  

In the months since "finishing" the book and subsequently discovering it unreadable, my bicycle ponderings about writing books continued, sometimes like this: Don't do it!  It's your ego that wants to write a book, and your ego has gotten you into trouble more than once! You aren't very good at telling stories, why try to write them? This is going to be really embarrassing, when you, gulp, FAIL.  Your life is fine the way it is.  You don't need authorship.

At the same time, the Jiminy Cricket part of my my mind is chirping away:  You can do this!  Makes no difference who you are! ... 

... and thinking about What Went Wrong, and what might be done to right it.

Signed up for an online writing class.  Found hundreds of people like me (81% of the population?).  Got some good tips: Structure. Cause. Effect.  (Also, first rule of writing: don't blog about writing.  Oops.)

In other words, even while I'm discouraging myself, the second draft is already underway.

Who knows what profundities might occur to me during the long, wet commutes this coming winter?  Perhaps the Great American ...  Well, never mind about that.  I'll settle for 285,000,000 new friends.


  1. Ouch. But it won't keep me from writing MY blog.


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