The dream of writing the Great American Novel

Some of you may have noticed my blog writing has been on hold, while some of you know the reason why. I have been hesitant to put this out there for a couple of reasons. One, because (gulp) now I will be held accountable, and two, I can hear the skeptics groaning already. Let me break the suspense lest you all pass out:

 I have begun a serious attempt at writing my first fictional novel. The story is about a young man (who is a composite of both my kids),who faces some back to back heartbreak. And very simply, it’s about the power of unconditional love to help find one’s way back. 

Yes, there it is. Truth be told, I’m kinda proud of myself.  From the time I learned to read, I was fascinated with books and the ability of story to transport me to another time and place. I read every Little House book by Laura Ingalls Wilder more than once, and collected Nancy Drew mysteries like boys collected baseball cards. I loved lining up their yellow spines on the shelf and the smell of the ink. By seventh grade, I was reading books my mom had in the house and bringing them to school. I would read “Helter Skelter,” in between classes I hated and were a bore, even though it scared the crap out of me. One of my teachers commented on the “mature” content of these books at parent teacher conferences, but it wasn’t to stop me. The said teacher was wondering where the precociousness was for the rest of my classes. I think my Mom said something like English always had been my strong suit. Yes, it was. My only strong suit, along with band. Thank God the books weren’t removed, as would have been for some in the same circumstance. 

Like most voracious readers I had a powerful imagination, so I was always thinking up stories and playing them out in my head. In sixth grade I wrote some stories I passed around to my friends and received the very biased reviews of, “Wow. You could be Judy Blume.” An author whom I also loved, and still do. But my writing never really went beyond being able to put out “A ” term papers and editorial rants to our local papers.

There are a few predictable reasons for this. Primarily, early on I didn’t have anyone telling me I had some talent, and I lacked the self-confidence, discipline, and perseverance on my own required for making a career out of writing. And that is still an ongoing challenge me, and for many undergoing similar endeavors. But here is the kicker: one must also simply get accustomed to constant, and I mean constant, rejection of one’s work.

That’s no surprise to anyone in the arts, of course. The challenge lay in putting yourself out there, again and again, because you know you have something to offer. You know you have an ability that maybe not everyone has; to put into words (or music, or acting) universal themes that touch people in some way. 

So that sort of leads me to answer the question I and millions of others ask: why? Why slug through hours of imagining plots, outlining characters, writing dialogue, banging out thousands of words on a keyboard, only to revise and edit, over and over? And do this day after day, unpaid, without a single reassurance the words may never see the light of day? Indeed, I’m realistic. I know the odds are highly stacked against writing a bestseller. What is in my favor is that I’m not really motivated by that. Yes, at some stage I will try to retain an agent and enter the dog eat dog publishing world. But right now, I am focusing on getting the story down, even if it kills me. Which it probably will, because when all is said and done I think will be the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted. 

Greenbush and assorted breweries are helping me to not pull my hair out at writer’s block. Did you wonder why I’m taking time now to write this? I mean, I did want to do an update, but the real reason is, I am knee deep in “wheredoitakethisguynow” mud. And it sucks, but I will get through it.

Because even though I can be lazy, I am at least a lazy perfectionist. I abhor cliches and the idea of people yawning at my characters, so I edit feverishly when I should be just concentrating on finishing the first draft. I go to bed thinking about my story, dream about it and wake up thinking about it. Sounds OCD, but its actually a good sign. The best writers Do. Not. Give. Up.

So I’m getting there, slowly but surely. And I feel like my son, who could never go far without taking his guitar and feeling compelled to play it at every opportunity. Artists compose and create because they have to. They have no other choice; its in the blood and must be honored. The stories must be told without regard to fame or worldwide acknowledgement, but if this should occur, all the better.

Wish me luck that mine makes its’ way out to you when the time comes. And maybe make a toast that my stymied brain becomes flooded with glorious prose. The sooner the better, preferably. 

Until the next update, hopefully not generated by a dry spell…Cheers!

 

 

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