Novel? What Novel?

I was so sure, when I rediscovered the writer in me, that I would at some point write a book. Of course I would.

Isn’t that what writers do?

I figured that since I was on stress leave, off work for at least six months, it would be the perfect opportunity to fulfill this dream. I had all the time in the world.

I even thought I knew what that book would be about, and I wrote the first one and a half chapters. In June. As in, seven months ago.

I was going to tell my great aunt’s life story. She was a fascinating, complex, wonderful woman who lived for almost 100 years. What a great story, right? But, not wanting to force it and finding myself stuck mid-way through the second chapter, I shelved it. Temporarily of course.

Instead, as you have seen if you’ve followed my blog for any bit of time, I have written short stories and poetry, and some thoughts/opinion -type pieces. I’m quite proud of a lot of what I’ve written here, I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to write at all, and I enjoy the live, immediate nature of the blogging experience. It’s like being on stage rather than on TV. Without the pay check.

So, still no book.

I did take November, otherwise known around these parts as NaNoWriMo month, to “write” a “book.” As in, I wrote my heart out, 2000 words a day on average, for 27 days, and ended up with a chunk of text 50,000 words long that is more or less one continuous story. For this story, I changed tack, and instead of my great aunt’s life, I talked about my own. Well, sort of. It’s a fictionalized account of the five years I spent in Ireland in my mid-20s.

I’m glad I took the time to write it but it’s pretty rough. Well, I think it is. I haven’t actually read it over. I sort of glanced at the first few pages the other day but they made me cringe. So I’ve shelved that, too. Temporarily.

It’s ok, my shelf is big enough to hold a few things.

But the question is, do I really need to write a novel? Will I be satisfied with myself, as a writer and as a person – and will I be satisfied with how I spent my time on stress leave – if I don’t write a novel?

Yes, I will be! Why would I put so much pressure on myself to write a novel? Surely that is not a good recipe for a successful writing project. Or maybe it is and I’m just lazy. Because I am lazy.

These ruminations have led me to a related topic. I said a few weeks ago that I was re-thinking my 2014 goal to publish something. I had struggled a bit with the idea that to publish, I’d have to hold back something I write and not post it on my blog. Because what publisher is going to publish something that everyone can just read for free right here?

This has led me to consider what it is I like about writing, besides the actual process. I need to write. If I don’t write, I’m jumpy and antsy and eventually downright grumpy. But I started to consider, besides the process itself, whether it’s the audience I like, or whether I actually want to make a living at writing.

Is that my goal? To first publish one thing, and then another and another until I can say that I am a professional writer?

Do I want to be a professional writer?

I thought, way back in the summer, that that was exactly what I was heading towards. That my break from work was really a chance to change my life and do what I really want to do: write.

But now I’m not so sure. I mean, I’m sure I want to write. But for a living?

I don’t want to spend my time looking for agents, or dealing with publishers and, more than that, I don’t want to have to write. I don’t want the writing process to be tinged with the stress I feel while I’m at work. Right now, or at least when I return to work, I have a paying job. And that gives me the freedom to write for fun. To write because I need to, for my soul. Not because I have to, for the bills.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to sit at my little table and write all day and get paid for it. I’d love to be able to say I’m a published, professional writer. It sounds nice.

But I know me. I know the kind of pressure that I would put on myself. And I know that I would balk at it, rebel against it and probably stop writing. Because right now, what I need from writing is what I get out of the blogging experience.

This blog is my creation, it’s like my child (Not in a literal sense. In a literal sense it is not really much like my actual child at all. Except for all the words that come out of it.). What I mean is, it is something I created, just for me, with my imagination, my head and my heart.

I sometimes look through my posts and smile fondly, remembering how I felt when I wrote them, what had inspired me, what had grabbed my attention and how I had translated it onto the page. And then I read the comments, and at times the conversations between myself and the commenters, and I smile even more fondly. That’s what I love about this exercise.

And that is the value in writing for me now. Today.

Over the past few months, I have found something I thought I had lost forever, way back when I was 17 or 18: My creative voice. I thought that my years of academic writing, followed by my years of writing policy for government, had dried up the creative side of my brain. I said that more than once, out loud, to witnesses. I mourned the loss but I did nothing about it for years. I was so sure that there was nothing I could do about it. I was so sure I no longer had the ability to not only write creatively, but to even come up with something to write about.

Now, I look back at all the short fiction I’ve written, and the poetry, even my thoughts/opinion pieces. I had – I have – so many ideas, and I am writing them all! I have really stretched myself, I have tried out new styles, I have been inspired, I have experimented, I have dreamed up characters and told their stories.

That is more valuable to me right now than publishing, or than writing a novel.

Perhaps I will write my great aunt’s story one day. And I know I will eventually get back to editing my Ireland memoire.

But for now, if there was a blurb for the book jacket of my life, it would describe my blog. And it would say what I have already said about why I write:

I started this blog as an outlet for my thoughts on mid-life stress – everything from careers to parenting to anxiety. In the process, I rediscovered my love of writing and the blog morphed a bit.

It is now not only my open journal in which I write about stress, writing, and life, but it is also my writing journal, a way to share the poetry and short fiction that blogging has re-inspired in me.



16 thoughts on “Novel? What Novel?

  1. Write for the love of it, Silverleaf! I have, as you know, self-published one novel – and, in many ways, it has been a disappointing experience. xxx

    • Thank you for the advice! It’s good to know how you’ve found the experience and what you would recommend. As much as I’d love to see my name on a book of my stories, I’m pretty happy with how the blog is going. xx

  2. You should totally write a book because you write great and I am telling you, it’ll be a great success ! Would love to read you 🙂 Best of luck my friend 🙂

    • Thank you again. What a great boost you’ve given me today! I will come back to your kind words when I need that extra encouragement to just get going 🙂

  3. I like your think-out-loud posts like this. It’s so true that once something turns from fun to work, the luster and creativity definitely do go away. It’s interesting. My husband has a job where he partially gets to advocate and talk about an activity that is his life-long passion–and everyone tells him he’s so lucky, but he says all the time, it doesn’t matter what he’s selling, work is still work there are always challenges. You aren’t always doing what you love but dealing w/the business side of it or dealing w/people. He also writes how-to type books, and occasionally will do an essay that he really loves, but those paying jobs for essays are few and far between, the how to stuff sells better! I have also used my blog to decide whether I would want to try to do this for a living and it’s weird, I’m still undecided too. I do love helping others, and starting conversations though so I’ll stick to that for awhile. The business side of freelance writing sounds intense, not sure I’m up for selling myself at this point…it’s more fun to play by my own rules. The thing is SL, you don’t have to decide now anyway…keep doing what you are doing and who knows, maybe that book will come later, you have so much time!

    • Yeah, the selling yourself part really does take a certain personality type as well. Thanks for pointing that out. I don’t have that personality! When I was in Ireland, I ran a lot of offices for shops and the odd time I’d get pulled down to sell things when they were short-staffed. I learned very quickly that I can’t sell anything, not even if my livelihood depends on it. It’s just not me. And selling myself? Definitely not! I guess the whole playing by your own rules thing is my thing too. And that’s the nice thing about the blog. I can create my own world, write what I want, when I want. No pressure (other than from myself!). It’s mine and it’s how I want it. That’s definitely something to protect.
      And finally, thanks for the perspective. You’re right, I shouldn’t worry too much about deciding now; I do have time and I don’t need any answers now. I just need to be in the moment.
      Thanks for your sage advice 🙂

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