I knew I loved writing even before I could write. From my earliest memories I adored stories and books–not just having them read to me, but an actual fascination with the container of them, the pages, the cover, the documentation and encapsulation of imagination. I wanted to be a part of their creation. I wanted to write books. I was three.
Lucky me, I did grow up to be a writer. As much as I imagined myself a novelist as a child, my work has taken me down the nonfiction path–first journalism and then business self-help, personal self-help, and finally professional development. I’ve not written fiction. Frankly, it scares me.
There have been times when I dipped a toe in the water. In the late 1990s I wrote a short story, “The Dark Man and Other Dreams,” to recover from traumatic emotional abuse. (That story is documented in the essay “Making Up the Truth” in my book Scribing the Soul. ) I took a short-story class with Pam Houston, author of collections Cowboys are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat, and instead of writing three 10-page stories for critique, I wrote one 30-page story and it wrote me right out of the spiral of horror and terror I’d been stuck in for most of a year. Then I promptly lost the manuscript, and there was no back-up when the hard drive crashed.
Some years later I faced another emotional crisis. Writing had become a drag, a chore, something I was starting to resent. It had lost its magic. I yearned to fall in love with writing again. Somehow I ended up in a fiction writing group led by writing coach Deb McLeod, an extraordinary facilitator, and I wrote by hand on legal tablets the first act of a novel, Sausalito, a story of five people who wake up at midlife and realize their lives aren’t turning out at all like they expected. I completely fell in love with writing again, and the joy returned to my work writing. About that time the group disbanded, and I tucked 100 pages of neatly typed manuscript in a folder and put it on a high shelf.
Apparently I only write fiction when I’m having a crisis. But I like writing fiction and I think I could be good at it. So I decided not to wait for a crisis. My hairdresser, Laurel, is writing her first book and she told me she wanted to start a critique group. I said I’d join. We met for the first time last week and I’m getting critiqued next week.
I was planning on resurrecting Sausalito but became mildly obsessed with “The Dark Man” story and was making myself nuts because I couldn’t find the manuscript. (It did finally surface all those years ago, and I made copies, but they still keep getting lost.) Finally I had a brainstorm and I went to my closet and stared at the shelves. After several minutes I chose a box and got lucky: There it was, in the first box, underneath two black purses. And now, a rewrite and a retype later, its first ten pages are off to my critique group members for review on May 1!
Your turn! What are you writing? Do you ever fall out of love with writing? How do you fall back in?
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