Listening to: More birds chirping. It's still today for me, which is yesterday for you. Ah, the magic of the internet and blog drafts.
For Part I in the story of how I became a writer, click here.
In the grand tradition of all trilogies, the middle is where it gets dark. Just warning you.
So my book, the one I'd slaved over for six months, was gone. Blame it on my stupidity, my best friend's irresponsibility, and early computer technology's unreliability. As Mr. Vonnegut would say, "So it goes."
What happened next? Nothing, really. I didn't write another book--I fixated on the lost one. My parents got divorced, we moved from the woods to downtown, high school happened. I read--a lot. I lost interest, for the time, in writing novels--although I still wanted to be a novelist "when I grew up." I still wrote, though, simply because I couldn't help myself. I wrote horrible, angsty poetry, mostly inspired by my confused teenage emotions and the twisted, cruel dramas of high school. Lots, and lots...and lots of angsty poetry. I even wrote less angsty, more trite and schmaltzy poems for my friends, on request, to give to their boyfriends. And several of my little creations were published--in my friend's 'zine. Ah, yes...I was the bard of Warren Area High School.
I may have written a short story or two for contests, none of which ever won. Aside from that, I was as uninspired as possible. I blame the hormones.
Don't think for a second it was easy. To return to normal, dull life after that first solar flare of obsession hurt badly. As did my own questions about my abilities, my creativity, and my identity. If I wasn't a writer anymore, then what was I? I recall a few teary nights in bed, torn and confused by that very question.
Then came college. I majored in English Literature, since it combined my two great passions: reading and writing. As for my future career, that changed frequently over the semesters. Maybe I would be an editor. Or teach college. Or, failing that, teach high school. I tried out journalism during two summers, as an intern at the local paper. I enjoyed it somewhat, and felt that I had a knack for it, but journalism is a beast of its own making, sucking the soul and innocence out of all who approach it. I'm a very sensitive, innocent person, and I decided to preserve that by steering clear of the fourth estate.
I tried several times, throughout college, to recreate the magic of Whispers of the Past. I tried both rewriting it and writing other stories, but I never got more than a page or two before the flame died. I wrote one well-received short story for a writing class, and it was published in an acquaintance's literary journal.* But I rarely wrote for myself, just for the sheer joy of it, and the questions nagged ever more. My own identity grew increasingly uncertain.
I got married and moved permanently to Johnstown. At that point, I had decided to get my MFA in Creative Non-fiction, as I'd taken a liking to that area in college and been pushed toward it by several professors. I'd get a job tech writing in order to pay the bills. As I searched for a job and worked at my grad school applications--including an essay on "why I became a writer"--I grew rather despondent. I had fits of depression, crying jags, moments of absolute torment. I'm not being over-dramatic, just honest. I didn't even write any more creative non-fiction, as without professors assigning it in college, it no longer needed to be written.
I wasn't writing, and therefore I wasn't a writer...and therefore I was a wreck.
You can see how my path forked and changed, twisted and turned over the years. I thought I'd nearly come to the end, the moment when I'd give it all up for good. The moment when I'd release the writer in me into the void, and find something else to do with my life.
And then I got a call about a tech writing interview. Strangely enough, that interview would send me off in a whole new direction, the one I'm still heading in today. How did it happen?
You'll find out tomorrow.
*I was going to wait until my article came out in Toasted Cheese for the big unveiling of my writing name and the end of my pseudo-anonymity. But this seems like a good moment, so there you go. Consider it a gift from me for getting this far.
If you don't feel that you are possibly on the edge of humiliating yourself, of losing control of the whole thing, then possibly what you are doing isn't very vital. If you don't feel like you are writing somewhat over your head, why do it? If you don't have some doubt of your authority to tell this story, then you are not trying to tell enough. --John Irving