It’s amazing what you’ll find to distract yourself when you can’t figure out the words to write.
You’ll read old Gossip Girl recaps. You’ll scroll through the entirety of McKayla is Not Impressed. You get lost in the labyrinth of Wikipedia. You’ll write emails and tweets and basically everything you can besides what you actually want to be writing.
Which, to be clear, isn’t even this post. Right now, I’m avoiding my writing by writing more.
What I want to be writing – or at least starting to write – is my book.
Writing is something I’ve always loved to do, going back to childhood. On our primitive desktop computer, we had a program where you could create storybooks. There were a variety of images you could choose from – a jungle scene, or a farm – and you would type your accompanying text and then print it all out on your equally primitive dot matrix printer. During middle school, I was really into books like the Fear Street series, and I thought I was the next coming of Stephen King. At one point I wrote – and I mean hand-wrote, in a little spiral notebook – something I called The Ghost in the Graveyard. I don’t remember much of the plot, except that it involved a ghost (obviously) and a locket and an old Victorian house and a lonely child. I also produced a Fear Street knockoff when I was a little bit older, typed up, double spaced, and filed away in a three-ring binder. (I think I killed some cheerleaders in that one. My parents were a little freaked out when I let them read it.) When 90210 was all the rage, I started writing a high school drama with a dash of Sweet Valley High thrown in. I set it in a place I called Olympia High School (I loved Greece before I knew I loved Greece), and my main character’s name was a twin named Kathryn Morelli. I don’t remember anything else – not even her twin’s name – but that name has stuck with me for a decade and a half.
Growing up, writing was my escape. I kept a diary, which evolved into a much more mature “journal.” I wrote in it only sporadically once I got to college, until the semester I studied abroad, when I filled line upon line with handwritten observations from cafes scattered across Paris. Before I got my own computer, I used my mom’s old typewriter or hand-wrote my stories in a beaten up notebooks. I always had an overactive imagination – I always wanted to create things, whether it was music or plays or stories. I just rarely finished them. I probably have pages of unfinished writing in my parents’ basement, hundreds of ideas and characters and imagined conversations that I tried to put to paper but never managed to complete.
I think that’s why blog writing started to appeal to me – short essays are so much more manageable to me. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as I’m writing it. I don’t feel overwhelmed.
Anyway. For many years, I stopped writing altogether. I suppose the stereotype is that great writers are tortured. Emily Dickinson was a recluse. So was J.D. Salinger. Hemingway was an alcoholic mess. Don’t get me wrong – I am in no way whatsoever trying to compare myself to these great literary geniuses. But when I was content in my personal life as I entered adulthood, I wrote less. I had less solitary time to think, to let my imagination run wild. I had fewer crises to get my creative juices flowing. I blogged a little here and there, but that incarnation of my blog was mostly a lighthearted view of the world – humorous observations on television or sports or pop culture, and not a whole lot of my intimate thoughts.
When shit began to hit the fan, and my life seemed to have more drama in it than Blair Waldorf’s, I would crack jokes about writing again. “Well,” I’d say, “at least this will be a good chapter in the book.” I began to draft the beginnings of stories. I’d file ideas away in my head, make notes of chapter titles, plan out plots in the shower. I did everything except actually sit down and write.
Now, and for the past few months, the urge is as strong as it’s been in a very long time. I have ideas. I have preliminary outlines of characters and plots. And, above all, I have the desire. I want to write something. More importantly, I want to finish it. With e-readers and the ability to self-publish, there’s no reason not to create something. When something like Fifty Shades of Grey becomes a best-seller, it’s hard for me to find an excuse not to put my own work out there.
The hardest part is starting. I have a Word document open, with a blinking cursor staring me in the face. The rest of the page is blank – stark white, blinding even, and incredibly intimidating. There is a character inside my head that I want to bring to life on that page. I just need to figure out how to start.