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