A short post today:
A new friend came by this afternoon. She moved to our city about 6 weeks ago when she began working with Beve. She's about our oldest daughter's age and is a lot like E, actually. Loves the outdoors, loves dogs, loves her job. But it was the loving dogs that brought her to our door this afternoon. She needed a dog fix, and we are just the place to get it. She's ready to hang with them any time. This is a huge help for us, freeing us to go out of town without worrying about our four-legged babies.
Oh, you don't think of your dogs as your babies?
Well, okay, but they are mine.
Anyway, as she sat on the floor, letting Kincade maul her, she asked the inevitable question, "What did you used to do?" Love that question. And it led, just as inevitably, to a conversation about the years I spent writing a novel. Just a few weeks ago, Beve teasingly suggested that a beloved prof of mine, now retired, take over editing said novel. I was shocked. I thought Beve had put it as firmly out of his head as I have. Or that he'd let it go.
I've let it go. That's how I'd put it. I haven't touched that novel in six or seven years. It's still sitting in jump drives and paper copies and my head. Several drafts of it, actually. But it's all filed away. And I almost never even talk about it, certainly not with someone new. Today, for some reason, I went through the whole thing: what it was about, the process, the pain and suffering and joy along the way, the sense of hope and hopelessness that took up residence in different rooms in me. I didn't talk about the flexible steel needed for my confidence every time I got a new edited copy back or had a conference with either editor or agent. I didn't talk about that, but it came back in spades as I spoke. I remember the sense that I was increasingly a Gumby, twisting myself into a shape a didn't recognize as I wrote to standards that would sell, rather than hold true to myself.
So I'm sitting here now, thinking about it all. Remembering. Wanting to open up a jump drive. But thinking of it kind of as a Pandora's box.
Lots and lots of people want to write books. I remember how badly I did. I wondered if I had the discipline to follow characters to the end of their journey. If I'd even know when that end actually was. I wanted to create a story from my own imagination. Wondered if I could.
And then (years ago now) I had a dream. And woke up from that dream and knew it was a story I had to tell. It wasn't much of a story, more of a scene and the family that populated it, down to their rather interesting names, which I would never have chosen if I'd been awake.
It haunted me for a long time. Several years, in fact. Finally, there was reason to write it. Writing down that first thirty pages was the simplest writing I've ever done. It had been percolating so much that it came in a single draft. And I was both thrilled and scared by that. Thrilled and scared by what it might mean.
Then the whole thing began taking on a life of its own. Those first pages got an incredible response when I read them. That first time, it was so remarkable, it still takes my breath way to remember. I've said it before, but that silence that comes before applause. That silence is the best thing. It's the moment I knew I was a writer. IT was what my writing life had been waiting for.
It wasn't publishing. I never did write to be published. It wasn't something I remember wanting. I couldn't imagine it nor did it matter. It was just the writing. The following of the story to the end: that counted. The discovering who those people were, who they became: that drove me.
In the end, that was enough.
Even today, I find it enough.
And I'll leave it there for now.
"Do you think you'll ever try to publish it?' she asked.
"Never say never," I thought, but just shrugged.