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Why the F*** Haven't I Written That Novel Yet?!?


“We are all writers,” a dowdy motivation speaker exclaimed during a workshop years ago. All of us, he promised! Even those who don’t wish to be. I shot a snarky smile back to the man before tuning out all of his words to follow. It seemed like such a load of crap, even to my naïve ears. And, this many years later, I haven’t found my assumption to be wrong.


Writing, like all other art forms, is a craft that beckons its master to sacrifice and suffer. Not always knowingly, sometimes this suffering stems merely from the isolation of being the only one (in your circle) who is doing what you are doing. But, even still, whether you are alone in your journey or not, you are on the path because you want to be there. And that requires the desire — something everyone, clearly, does not have!


However, even when you have the desire, there is no assurance that it will be enough. I am a great example of this. I have wanted to write a novel ever since I was eight years old. It has been one of those repetitious daydreams that I have clung to like a bad crush. I imagine different scenarios in which I am victorious in attaining every one of these goals — I have written the “great American novel,”I have received awards and accolades from other well-respected authors, I have even achieved that all-the-more-elusive mark of having my words transformed into moving pictures on a movie screen. Sigh. Dare to dream.


But, since you’ve never heard my name paired with the words “world famous” anything, you may already know that I have come up short. So, what the fuck happened? Where did it all go wrong?! Or did it go wrong? Life is the only word I offer myself for consolation. But, that’s bullshit. We are all enduring that.


The truth of the matter is I don’t know how to do it — write a novel. Not really. I write a few pages, get into a groove, and then stop. So crippled by self-doubt and the more-than-likely path to failure and futility that I just don’t move forward. I keep the idea in a distant realm, recanting that someday I will finish. Someday I will make it happen. Someday I’ll part the sea and create the perfect amount of time/energy/motivation in order to set this dream into motion. Someday. Just…you know, not today.


As a parent, I have also realized the subversive power that comes from blaming my lack of time and achievement on having kids. They are an excellent excuse, all three of them, with their constant clamoring and chirping for my attention. However, it’s not actually true that they are causing me to lose any more time than I would have lost otherwise. It’s really just a gentle (and semi-realistic) way to let myself off the hook for any sort of artistic failure.

As a fallback, I talk myself down from the pity-party ledge by reminding myself that I have all that is important already. I repeat the fallacy-led mantra of “they matter more than my dreams; they are my world.” AND…they are…but, the child inside of me still clutches her dreams in hand, hoping that one day I will finally come back to them with the same zeal in which I have tended to my children. My dreams were, after all, here first!


So, as I wade through all of these psych outs and distractions, I am still left with one question: what do I really want to do with myself? Write that novel? Or let it go? If I’m actually going to do it, I have to stop putting it off. I can’t keep saying someday. I have to remove either self-doubt or endless longing from my quest, since neither is really good for the soul. Where do I go from here?


Maybe start small. With this. Be a writer, the same as everyone — just as that speaker said — only, this time, I should remove the word someday from my vernacular and see where the here and now can take me.

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