I’ve written enough partial manuscripts that if you combined the pages, they would be comparable to the length of the entire Harry Potter series. I had a sticky note on my vanity mirror in high school: PUBLISH FIRST NOVEL BY AGE 21 which genuinely felt realistic. I knew Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein when she was nineteen (she was also married and with child by that point but that’s a whole other issue). Bret Easton Ellis was writing promiscuous, hilarious satire in his early twenties and then there was Helen Keller – published by twelve years old while also being deaf and blind. At fifteen, I was reading shit like The Picture of Dorian Gray and As I Lay Dying, forcing literary culture down my own throat in my small hometown where everyone looked and acted like each other. I thought for sure I’d be seasoned enough to pump out a best seller at a young age but I didn’t factor in my refusal to commit to anything or the amount of brain cells I was about to obliterate between the ages of seventeen and twenty.
In kindergarten I wrote a poem for aliens, asking them in an ABCB rhyme scheme to kidnap my sister. I still remember the embarrassment I felt when my grandma read it and she almost cried tears of laughter out of pure, loving amusement. After she died almost twenty years later, I found my plea to aliens tucked in a folder along with an extensive archive of my childhood work. This folder held a moving sonnet dedicated to the VFW that I’d written when I was around six or seven after spending an afternoon there with my step-grandpa, helping him peel back pull tabs. I also discovered a pretty dark poem that I’d written to my grandma when I was young, telling her that if she ever died then I’d have to die too because I’m not really alive in a life without you. (I stand by what I said, though. Her presence was replaced with a big, aching void in my body.) As I entered my teen years, my content shifted from poetry to thoughtful letters, begging my parents for permission to drive to Minneapolis on a school night to see Mac Miller perform and angsty journal entries cursing them for not letting me go.
Obviously by the time I turned twenty one, there was no published novel and barely any more angsty journal entries. Now at twenty five, I am torn between my stints of consistent, confident writing and the weeks where I truly believe that I’m not talented enough and who do I think I am sharing all of my feelings, thoughts, and opinions as if anybody cares? My moments of inspiration come as quickly as they go and if I don’t capture them at the right moment, I end up convincing myself it was a stupid idea. It’s always been easy for me to write brief anecdotes about my life to publish on this website. It’s even been therapeutic. But the thought of creating a cohesive blueprint of my experiences in the form of a book? That fills me with an anxiety that I’m learning to navigate. So, until I figure it out, I’m going to continue publicly workshopping my thoughts here. Thank you for giving these words an audience.
6 thoughts on “Writing About Writing”
Your book will be a “Best seller”. You speak for millions of others who share your angst, joy, and self doubt. Very few people can express themselves like you can! You will be there hero and their voice. For many of them you will be the reason they keep trying!
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Not everyone can write a novel. Not all completed manuscripts are publishable. While you’re waiting to find out, see if you can fit your writing skills elsewhere. Because writing isn’t just about novels.
I completely agree. A novel is just one of my many goals!
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As your Dad says above, your anxieties and frustrations are valid and echoed. When I read your anecdotes, it’s like my face is being pressed against the screen of a film about all my past feelings and decisions. I can’t stop cringing at myself, but I can’t stop reading either. Lucky us, there’s always a lot of good to go with what went goofy.
I hope you do finish that novel. You have a talent for writing, not just “journaling”. Even if you stopped writing a river of emotions, you still have a way of making each word dance on the page. I know that’s where I get stuck, “Would I be able to write about something other than what’s keeping me up at night in the current moment?”
Time and action, grit, perseverance, whatever you wanna call it — you will get there.
I know usually people aren’t looking for advice but sometimes just seeing new options helps, I know seeing your writing has done that for me. Checkout these two things:
NaNoWriMo – This gave me a social drive to make my first crappy draft of a novel, and the confidence to look in the mirror and say to myself that deep down, “I am a writer.”
Dan Harmon’s Story Circle – This is an alternative take on the Hero’s Journey writing template, but it boggles my mind on how much it simplifies setting up a narrative, which was my struggle when doing NaNoWriMo haha
Hope any of that helps!
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Thank you SO much for this thoughtful comment!! I’m glad I’m not cringing alone and I appreciate your recommendations 😊 I’ll definitely check those out
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Relatable. I find myself at 27 wondering what happened to the creative energy of my youth. Older, wiser, but unable to fill the page.
I find it hard to write to get ideas out of my head, especially writing as myself, about myself. Attempting to write fiction gives me some hope. My exercise, when I can muster it, is to choose a lesson I’ve learned and convey it through characters without ever explicitly mentioning it.
Of course I’m stealing from Hemingway, “Up in that room I decided that I would write one story about each thing that I knew about.”