Woes from the Heart of a True Writer

I can’t be as cool as James and say that I got my books published this break (congratulations, James, that’s awesome!), but this doesn’t necessarily tamper my good mood at all. In fact, I’m happier now, nearing the end of Thanksgiving Break, than I have been in a very long time. Why?

Because I’m truly writing again. Inspiration struck this week–actually, starting Friday afternoon after my Shakespeare class, the last class of the day. Ever since that evening, I have literally spent every waking moment sitting in front of my computer screen and a pad of paper with a pencil, unable to break away from my writing world. At least eight hours of every day I’m sitting on the same spot on the couch, but my mind has taken me to the stars and the farthest realms of imagination. I certainly think this hasn’t been the most healthy vacation physically  since my eyes have been bloodshot since Monday morning, I have literally eaten nothing besides pieces of bread and dried fruit for the past six days (since I’m too absorbed and lazy to truly go downstairs into the kitchen to fix something to eat, I just haul up bits of the pantry and stockpile it in the loft, which has been my writing sanctuary), my legs are beginning to lose sections of feeling because of sitting still for so long, and I don’t think my friends and family had heard much from me for the past little while. Even when they do see me–like the first trip outside of the house in five days last night to go see my parents for Thanksgiving dinner–my mind couldn’t leave behind my writing world. I stood there in the kitchen unfocused and not engaged, unable to leave behind my characters and their adventures. My roommates had gone back down to Denver for their break and so for the full week it’s been nothing but silence and writing…endlessly writing…

This is how much of a dedicated writer I am. And it is a breath of fresh air–no, more powerful than that; it’s like finally finding Nirvana–to be writing again. I want you to understand how important this is, and how much of an enlightening revelation that I’ve been thrust back into my reason for living. Sorry for the melodrama–I’ve been writing a thriller for the past seven straight days, neck deep in a world I can’t quite seem to leave behind. For over a YEAR now, my writing ideas have run dry, like the caked-up end of a pen. The words never flowed right. I’d pick apart previous ideas, play around with new ones, re-edit manuscripts that shouldn’t be messed with, but never was swept away by a riveting new idea or motivation. That used to happen all the time. I punched out novels and manuscripts like I was a machine–good ones, too, as I look back on them. Full of promise and originality and emotion. But ever since this time last year my ideas were all used up, like a raisin that shriveled up in the sun. This newfound rigor of imagination and creation might dry up as fast as it came, but I can’t be disappointed, since I’d lived this rare moment of glorious passion to its fullest potential. I have 130 document pages of a fiction, thriller manuscript, which I’m not even finished with yet (that’s almost 400 novel pages in reading format, to save you from the math, as thick as the 3rd Harry Potter book. I also write in slightly smaller font–9 point TNR, instead of 12), that I punched out in roughly 60 hours. Sleep, write, stretch, write, sleep, write…maybe eat, write. Those have been my days. So, no trips to Hawaii or expeditions with friends to Las Vegas. Just total seclusion, solitude, silence. I took Franz Kafka’s quote very seriously: “I need solitude. Not like a hermit, that’s not enough, but like a dead man.” Despite the circumstances, I was never lonely, though I came dangerously close to permanently leaving behind reality. This is why I’m blogging now, to remind myself that I have to go to class again in only two short days…and  I have a lot of shit to do before then. So worth it, though.

All my life, I’ve lived to write. Literally. I would have gone insane a long time ago if I couldn’t get my ideas down on paper–as if the sentences and characters and plotlines were screaming at me from inside my skull and my fingers couldn’t flutter over the keyboard fast enough to get all of it down. I was only ten when I wrote my first novel. It wasn’t that great, of course, since my skills were nowhere near the “expertise” I have today (I don’t consider myself an expert–I’m good, but I’m not a master. There’s still so much to learn). Being a teacher will be great and all–I get all the benefits that come with it and I know that I’ll be good at it and learn to truly enjoy my job. I’ve always been an English nerd–what with reading so much and being interested in literature, it’s no wonder why I’m studying it in college. There are many other careers I could’ve been good at, too. But my true passion, the truest reason to my existence on planet earth–and I feel this all the way to my core–is that I am a writer. Being a teacher is just the bridge, just the method of getting from one side to another. I’ll be able to support myself so I can, in free summers and holidays and all the free moments in between, write. Write. Write. I am an author, er, well, at least getting there. And after reliving the awesome writing experience this break all over again I laugh at myself for ever doubting it.

I don’t mean to gloat. I’m sure that’s what I’ve doing this whole blog, but it was necessary. I’m proud of myself! I feel superhuman. (By the way, just to relate this post somewhat to education, this is how I want my students to feel after writing something for my class–no matter how short or “bad” their writing is, I want them to feel accomplished like this. Trick is how do I get them there?). To put it into perspective, though, a true writer is not arrogant. In fact, their humbleness is almost annoying. I don’t know where I fall on the spectrum of authors, but all the masterpieces created in the literary world were from authors who wrote for nobody. They didn’t possess insecurity, exactly, but their writing wasn’t out to prove anything or to compete with something that existed. They wrote solely for themselves. Selfish, maybe in a way, but not arrogant. J.D. Salinger, Franz Kafka, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, almost all the significant Pulitzer Prize winners or authors of the greatest stories did not write for a specific audience. They wrote stories like “Catcher in the Rye” or “All the Pretty Horses” or “Beloved” thinking at first that nobody was going to ever see them. That’s what makes them so powerful–they’re not trying to do anything, and yet they move us in such profound ways. I don’t compare to these authors. My sphere of writing is nowhere near the skill and finesse of these immortal literary authors. I hope to be, one day in the far future, but for now I’m still an apprentice. Maybe not even that–maybe I’m just a wannabe. See, that’s the thing about authors. They are their own number one fan and worst critic. It’s kind of like being a parent…not that I’d know that, but I can sort of imagine. I’m about bursting with pride at my silly little manuscript I wrote this week–I could jabber on for hours about my hopes and dreams and obstacles about it. But I will also never stop wanting to improve it, as if it’s never quite good enough; it could be better. I only want it to succeed, but there’s always a part of me that’s prepared for it to fail.

It’s so funny. Writers like me will spend hours upon hours of turmoil and energy and tears towards their work, be so flippin proud of it, imagining its title as the Pulitzer Prize winner. Unrealistic ideas like that plague me whenever I write–but it’s also what keeps me motivated…the concept of “maybe, just maybe.” But no matter how proud we are of it, we will never admit it, waiting for it to be shot down like a blind, fat duck trying to fly. My manuscript is my baby, and yet I won’t be surprised if I end up burning it in a trash can a few weeks from now. As authors, we won’t stop the flow of compliments or criticism. “This story is fantastic, I was completely blown away!” one person says; our response is: “Thank you so much! I know, I’m so proud of it! I really might continue the series…” The other scenario plays out quite different, the one of criticism, and yet flows the same. “I feel that this story needs some work. There are too many technical errors and the plot just doesn’t flow,” and our response is: “I know, this story f***ing sucks. I’m gonna start again.” Same conversational flow, different versions, all for the same stupid story.

As for this thriller I wrote this week, I’m not sure if anyone is ever going to read it. It doesn’t matter to me–what matters is that I wrote it in the first place, and that it exists somewhere. Just a file on my computer, a few sketches of the characters on my notepad, but it exists, even for only my eyes. For now, that’s good enough for me. And considering all that I’ve been through this last year with my infuriating writer’s block, more than I ever hoped for.

Anyway, that’s my speal. For those of you who bothered to read through this, I’m flattered. Thank you–it couldn’t have been that interesting of a blog post, and so appreciate the unspoken encouragement. And so for your entertainment, my picture notes continue. Stay tuned for more between now and finals. These are from last week (read my previous blog for more pictures):

-Natalie

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One thought on “Woes from the Heart of a True Writer

  1. alexdenu says:

    Post excerpts of your story on the blog!
    I think it would be so awesome to see the fruits of your labor, and to get a peek and this work that you seem so passionate about. It really is surprising to read through this blog post and actually feel the enthusiasm and excitement that you have for your writing, even if your not writing it for anybody I wanna see it! It’s really exciting to be able to feel someones passion through their writing, so thank you!
    Alex

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