I was drawn to Jessica Bell’s project because of the positive angle. Writing is the great joy of my life, but it’s always been a struggle keeping that in mind. The pressure to produce, the fear of the blank page, used to confuse me. I dreaded writing in the evening. I used to pick a time to start, a couple of hours ahead, and clock watch, too anxious to concentrate on anything. Then, when the time struck, I forced myself to sit down. Why did I do it? I was driven to write a book. I wondered if it was something even possible for me to do. The feeling of accomplishment from writing my first book, even though I had to spend years rewriting it to make it readable, has been resonating ever since. But I still didn’t feel like a writer. I still felt like I was just stubborn. I wrote a book out of stubbornness, not out of a love to write.
For the next couple of years, I filled notebooks, one page at a time. I knew my prose was all over the place, so I wanted to develop some consistency before I took on the project of rewriting the first draft of Flowers on Concrete. My other goal was to push through that anxious feeling. I decided to do that by not missing days. In those two years, I probably didn’t write maybe ten of them. My lowest, or perhaps highest, moment came after working a double and fitting my writing in on my fifteen minute bus ride home from the restaurant where I worked. Usually I alternated between walking down to the coffee shop on Pine St. in Seattle for coffee or, less frequently, walking over to Charlie’s in Capitol Hill for a pint of Mac and Jack’s beer. These walks involved pep talks: You’ll sit down with your coffee, start playing your CD, and just open your notebook and have a pen in hand. That’s it. Then you’ll either write or you won’t. Of course I always did. Realizing I loved to write took years, but I recall it as one moment. One of my co-workers on a Friday night asked what I was doing that night, and I immediately answered, “I’m going to the coffee shop to sit and write.” I sounded so excited! I think of that as the moment I stopped wondering if I loved writing enough to put myself through making myself do it.
Of course, I was still writing alone in my room, or with the door closed as Stephen King would say. When I started submitting my work that was a new challenge. In my Indiestructible essay, I share the story of a close friend suggesting maybe writing wasn’t for me. I’d been getting hurt left and right by form rejection letters, and as my close friend, she was bearing the brunt of listening to me whine. That was another turning point in my writing life, because I thought hard about what she said, and I realized she was wrong. Writing is an attempt to communicate and so rejection hurts, not being read hurts. I know writers who seem unfazed by this. That’s fine. I’m not. I have to incorporate and process that pain to keep going.
I can’t imagine reflecting back on the last fourteen years of my life without the words in my books and notebooks and my memories of writing them. I wanted to share that in my essay, but I realized I just couldn’t leave out the pain that comes with it. I could be the only writer in the world who experiences that pain but I’d be very surprised. Now with my novel for sale, that pain has the potential to be more acute, because there will always be someone, or many someones, selling more books, being read more. That hurts too. To push through that, to keep writing every day on projects that fulfill you and make you proud requires work. It requires loving to write, and being stubborn helps.
Please check out my essay, Valuing the Connection, in Indiestructible, along with essays from 28 other Indie authors. Available for 99 cents through amazon. All proceeds go to a literacy program in India. Here’s the link: http://amzn.com/B00ERQAJYA