Plain Ordinary Girls

Summer 2004

The other night was a no-cooking night.  If I had my way, every night would be a no-cooking night, because I abhor cooking with the heat of a thousand burning suns.  Baking=Awesome,  Cooking=brainsuck.  So I walk into a restaurant and order something to go.  The girl was all, “It’ll take twenty minutes to cook,” and I was all, “That’s all right, I’m going to the bookstore,” and she’s all, “Oh, I love the bookstore,” and you know how these conversations go.  Turns out that she wants to be a writer.  She had an epiphany the other night that she should write a novel about her life.

I wrote my first novel about my life when I was eight.  It was pretty short, as novels go, maybe ten typed pages, but I waxed on about family trips and the annoying failings of my little brother.  Our dinosaur of a computer crashed and  I lost The Life and Times of Mercedes, much to the relief of the literary community.  But I knew where this girl was coming from.  I’ve been wanting to write a “real” novel ever since that fateful experience.  At 16.  At 21.  By 23 I was certain that I missed the boat, that it was too late.  Finally at age 27 I threw all caution to the wind and wrote my first “real” novel.  It was a fantastic experience.

So I thought about her as I wandered around (and kicked my heels and spun in circles and burst into cheery song) inside of the bookstore.  Everybody has a novel inside of them.  But where’s the plan?  Where’s the kick in the butt that gets you going?  I wanted to write a novel for years, but it was too daunting.  Real Writers write novels, not Plain Ordinary Girls.

Real Writers are smart.  Disciplined.  Creative all of the time.  They speak opulently and with perfect grammar.  They sequester themselves inside of their office until something amazing flows out of their pen.  They never revise. Real Writers only read classic novels.  They’re born of grief and mourn the change in seasons.  They starve out in the forest, eating nuts, berries, and pencil shavings.

Real Writers often write in pencil.

Sheesh.  No wonder I didn’t think that I’d ever be a Real Writer.  Real Writers like I imagined don’t really exist.  Or if they do, they’re not making their way out of the forest.  It took me a long time to get over the fact that it doesn’t have to be perfect.  I was always waiting for the perfect time of day when I’d be uninterrupted.  I was waiting for the perfect idea, the perfect flash of inspiration.  I mean, I still don’t have an office.  Or a desk.  I sprawl on the couch with my keyboard on my lap.  My daughter watches Sesame Street and we discuss why Elmo doesn’t wear shoes.    But I’ve learned that Real Writers write even when it’s inconvenient.  They write while holding down families and jobs.  They aren’t mystical.  They aren’t at the top of some imaginary social strata.  Writers are Plain Ordinary Girls and Plain Ordinary Boys that made the commitment to write, that’s all.  There isn’t any magic involved.

It’s a good thing to know.  It took me far too long to figure this out.  I hope this girl that I was talking to realizes it more quickly than I did.


Pieces out: 28

Goal: 40

9 thoughts on “Plain Ordinary Girls

  1. I keep hearing the same stuff from you and others “…made the commitment to write…” I fear that it’s taking me too long to comprehend the word commitment.

    Also,I don’t think computers were around when I was 8. Or video games. We did have a B & W television, though.

  2. Berry munching pencil sniffers! That’s just so awesome!

    Thanks, Ray! :D

    Alan, for me, “the commitment to write” can mean a line a day. Or twice a week. Or whatever. On an ideal day when everything works well, I write from 9-11 at night. How often does that happen? Nearly never, except in November. Life keeps getting in the way.

    But I put it off for years. I’d write later. Later later later. And then suddenly life was passing me by. I finally dug my heels in and decided that, hang it all, I was going to write.

  3. Good stuff, Miss Murder. May I add my favorite King quote?

    “Practice isn’t painful when you love what you do…

    Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head. Even when no one is listening (or reading, or watching), every outing is a bravura performance, because you as the creator are happy. Perhaps even ecstatic.”

    As some of you know, this is the quote that made me realize my dream of becoming a successful musician was the wrong dream. It was a hobby I dabbled in, but I had myself convinced I would “make it.” It was my earliest dream as a kid, and I was too stubborn to let it go.

    When I read that quote, I hadn’t touched my guitar but once or twice—if at all—in nearly two years. Yet I wrote every one of those days.

    I shed some skin the day I read that passage in On Writing, and it was awesome.

  4. dude, now i am going to stand on my desk and shout out “Oh Captain, my Captain!”
    Or maybe I will quote Yoda (as is always appropriate) “Do or not do, there is no try.”
    Here’s to not waiting for perfect scenarios, but just doing. We ARE real writers. (but i still reserve the right to read only classical novels and grow a beard down to my waist whilst muttering prose into the wind)

  5. I’m still waiting to feel like a real writer!

    I suspect that even if manage to write sixteen novels and win fancy awards and become a professor of literature at a big-arse university, I’ll still feel like I’m just faking it.

  6. I can relate to this. I started trying to write a novel when I was in the fourth grade (though technically my first book was written as a class assignment in first grade). I’m really glad that novel was never finished, though very small bits and pieces of it have wormed their way into a certain world of mine. I’ve found that I don’t work well as a “committed writer”, though. I work well when writing is a distraction from something else. It’s what works for me, though.

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