My kids were having a rough time the other evening. We’d been out & about all the just-a-bit-too-chilly-yet-sunny-enough-to-not-want-to-be-inside Spring day – playing in the park, riding bikes. Evening was approaching and we were trying to cram in one last fun thing; we decided on one more geocache in the park. We packed up the bikes, and started on our trek, just as the sun was beginning its descent, and… well, one thing led to another as it often does with over-tired kids and adults, in spite of our best intentions, we ended up back in the car with a wailing child, tired adults, an undiscovered cache, and an abandoned bike helmet.
After the helmet was retrieved (thank you, grandma) and grandma dropped off, I found myself faced with the task of driving home. In peace. I knew if peace didn’t descend – and right quick – we’d all be in for a lonnnnnnnnng bedtime routine; not to mention a less-than-safe drive. But, I was spent. Heck, we were all spent. I wracked my brain – WHAT could I do that would calm myself, while engaging my children? I offered gum, and it was quickly declined. Music? NO! A story? What kind of story? Hmmm, okay what kind of story? I felt I'd told every story under the sun over the last 7-and-a-half years of my parenting experience. But there had to be another in the deep recesses of my end-of-day-tired brain. What would grab their attention, stop the disgruntledness, but not excite them too much, right before bed? Then it hit me. I recalled that once upon a time in this life, I’d started writing a particularly long story - a novel, if you'd like.
Story writing isn’t new to me; I remember writing as a very young child – crafting stories in my mind, and letting them tumble out (well, stumble, maybe is more like it, given the tools of the day: stubby pencil on wide ruled paper or electric typewriter and white-out). A couple of years before my first child was born, I started - on my COMPUTER(!) - what I believed at the time would be a novel. I'd taken writing classes in college, and loved writing. I thought novel writing would be the perfect accompanyment to my then childless life in the woods of Maine. Funny thing is… I hadn’t thought about that “novel” in YEARS. Haven’t actually looked at it, edited it, added to it, in even more years. But in that dark evening moment in a pinch – between child kicking my seat, Spring allergies in full-force – I recalled that novel with distinct and surreal clarity. Even remembered my heroine’s name (Cate).
I told my children my story on our drive home and they sat – unkicking, unbickering – in blissful silence.
The end of my story - the end, anyhow, of what I'd written of my story - ended approximately five minutes after arriving in front of our house. The kids sat stock-still as I recalled the last few pages, and then…
What happens next, Mom?
Well, that's the thing. I haven't finished it.
But, what's the NEXT part?
I only got that far, I don't know what the next part is.
(They both stared at me… the little gears turning and cranking in their heads… a story without an ending? A story that you WROTE without an ending? How is that even… possible? You just MAKE one. Logic and naïvté abounds in little ones.)
Well… why don't you just make it up?
Yes, I planned to at some point.
Yeah, Mom, you should write the ending.
Yes, I really should.
I really should. So, why haven't I? I know I'm not the only one with a "novel in progress", tucked away on a shelf, or in a folder, dusty - even if only in my mind. Why haven't I? Life happens, you get busy, other things take precidence, you forget what you wanted to do, planned to do. You think you never have the time, or you don't have the right enviroment - too many distractions, not enough quiet, not enough money or time to take a writing class, but… They're all excuses, right? Maybe we create them to sheild ourselves from disappointment: if we feel we never really got the opportunity, we can't be mad with outselves for not doing it. Or, maybe to insulate us from failure, that belief that we're not quite good enough - who actually becomes a famous writer, anyway?, those are just pipe dreams. I'm approaching forty, I can't be something new, NOW, right? Not right. That doesn't feel right, that's not right.
I love what Stephen King has to say about "the right writing environment"…
"In truth, I’ve found that any day’s routine interruptions and distractions don’t much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster’s shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters."
Well, damn. What an amazing truth there. I'm not going to make excuses for not writing anymore. I'm just going to write; distractions be damned (or, be inspired). I'm going to pick up that old novel, and add a bit more as I can, each day, whenever I can, until I'm finished. And then… I'm going to write some more. You're NOT too old, or too busy, or too tired to do what you really want to do. We're all just as productive as we make up our minds to be.
I've decided to be more. And, I can't wait to tell my kids the ending!
Are you writing a novel? Have you given up on it? Are you still writing it? Tell me about it…