I played imaginary games in my front yard much longer than is culturally acceptable. I used to pace the walkway of my parents’ house or the ridge on our hill, imagining action in my head, talking in characters voices. Of course I was writing. It took me a while to put words to my madness. I call it “talking out a story”. Nowadays, I don’t have a yard (or woods) to hide in, so the madness is temporarily on hold. But back then it was the best part about summer. That and all the prizes from out-reading everyone in the summer reading program. But I digress.
The summer after eighth grade was particularly exciting. I couldn’t wait to get outside every morning, walking barefoot over the bricks in the walkway in the dewy air. I was doing something new, taking old stories and piecing them together, weaving them into a coherent narrative. I discovered three spurting narratives that lived as soon as they came together. I talked out each part, playing every character. To my surprise, I had a book.
I started writing in July, the weekend after the Fourth, on the computer in my aunt and uncle’s basement. I knew the story I wanted to tell. After lots of attempts, I really I hoped I could see this one through.
I worked on the first draft through freshman and sophomore year. Sometimes I would write before school. Mostly I would write after. I got in fights with my mom when I wanted to write instead of do chores. She wanted me to learn discipline. I think I did.
I finished the first draft on July 3, 2007, almost two years exactly since I’d started. I could hardly believe it. I had written a book. A BOOK! 163 pages, roughly 80,000 words, a legitimate book! Now I could tell people I was a writer, instead of saying I wanted to be one. Of course it wasn’t ready to be published, but I had time for that. I knew I had plenty to learn. And as I learned I would rewrite.
I started reading more great works: Hamlet, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby. I started thinking about how I put sentences together. Something Wicked This Way Comes, I, Robot, Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, Macbeth. I thought about where my fantasy novel fit in the world of speculative fiction. What was I doing others weren’t?
The summer before college I started a complete overhaul of everything I’d done. I realized I need to do more than change a sentence here or there. I needed to scrape down to the bones and re-sculpt the flesh. And then classes actually started. My intellectual energy flew away. I couldn’t revise. But I kept reading. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Crime and Punishment. Oh, to write like the greats, explaining the world in such a way that the world weeps.
I chugged through chapters during the summer or when I had time. I re-imagined scene after scene. I listened in all of my classes. Everything had something about writing. Literature taught me what good writing looked like. Musical Theatre taught me how to holistically tell a story. Psychology taught me how people become the way they are. Theology made me ask questions about why I wrote. I kept thinking. I kept learning. I kept working.
I graduated with half of a second draft. I got married. I struggled with adulthood, exhausted and disillusioned. I spent a year trying to plow through a single chapter. Our dreams died. We were exiled to my in-laws. And suddenly I could revise again. It became my escape, the one place I felt like I could exist. When I wanted to end it all, I would remind myself that I still had a draft to finish. I had to keep going. I couldn’t concentrate enough to read, but I could revise, goddammit.
Our life suddenly became functional. Caleb had a job. We moved into our own place. I could write every day for as long as I wanted.
Today, May 7, 2015, ten years after I started dreaming through this story, I finished my second draft.
I’m still not ready to seek publication, but who cares. I revised a book!! 180 pages. About 74,000 words, every single one mine.
I’ve grown and changed so much since I started as a fourteen year old dreamer. I’m a different person with a different place in life: a college graduate, an adult, a wife, a grieving mom. But I’m still a writer.
And that’s not going away.