I recently debated with a friend the benefit of saving words I’d put on paper but couldn’t use for the writing project I was working on. A very talented author in her own right, she urged me not to throw anything I’d written away. My friend made the convincing argument that nothing written was wasted. As always I appreciated the encouragement but the interesting thing for me was, that I didn’t need much convincing. I told her that I had already determined that I wouldn’t be throwing out what I couldn’t use right away. Instead, I joked that the words I’d written were gold bricks to be saved and used later to invest and expand my fortune. The truth is that just the act of creatively putting my own words on paper was extraordinarily valuable to me on a very personal level, not a financial one.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that I’ve been a storyteller all my life. As an only child, for years I spent many hours imagining and concocting vivid folklores in my Grandmother’s small apartment in Harlem. It didn’t matter that I was in a bedroom because a large bed and a roll top desk could easily become a Viking ship or a few sheets, a belt, and a letter opener could be wrapped then turned into a beautiful diaphanous gown with a matching girdle and the ever handy weapon. At family gatherings I would always spend most of my time entertaining younger cousins with stories I’d make up on the fly.
I tangled with creative writing at home for years and then again in school but self-doubt and a nagging inability to stick the landing plagued me. The idea of trying to get published or that anyone would be interested in anything I thought or wrote about was quickly dismissed by me as ludicrous. Instead I found myself dating or just hanging out with writers and creative artists by the barrel full. If I wasn’t going to live the dream myself then surely living it vicariously was just as good. Or as Zora Neale Hurston put it in Their Eyes Were Watching God, “Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.”
After a few years friends, lovers, and family members began noticing a pattern. Seeing films or TV shows with me was maddening because 90% of the time I could see the ending of the story half way in. To me it was like looking at a maze from a helicopter. There’s the exit fellas, plain as day. Seeing anything is easy when you have 20/20 vision and a bird’s-eye view.
If loved ones were so inclined to set foot into a library or a bookstore with me they found it would be super difficult getting me out of there without the benefit of a semi and a blowtorch. I love the varying smells of paper and the satisfaction of seeing a fabulously appropriate book cover. I will miss book stores terribly when they eventually become as unusual as public payphones in New York City. However, I can’t say I haven’t loved the advancement of technology with the now ubiquitous e-reader. Carrying books around on vacations or on the subway was bad enough, but when it even became difficult to lie back on the couch with a good long book without getting a stress injury or tendonitis, I knew enough was enough. Now I have three kindles in the house and if I can find a legitimate reason for getting one, a Nook may not be very far behind.
An avid and fast reader, I still soak up books like a loofah. Except for a brief period when I was pregnant with my first and only child and a short time after, when I could only seem to read pregnancy and child rearing books, I would read any genre at least once. Lately my tastes have expanded tremendously because of the onslaught of fascinating indie authors literally popping out and self-publishing all over the place. So it’s not unusual for me to read two or even three average sized books or shorts a week. Yes, I was one of those kids with the flashlight in bed and even now I have only myself to blame for never seeming to get enough sleep because I can’t find a good place to stop.
So, why write now? I have no frickin, clue. Honestly. I don’t. There are undoubtedly a lot of reasons. My daughter is going to be leaving home for college in a few years, so maybe as a Mom I’m experiencing a little mission drift? I’m at an age where I no longer feel immortal and since life is short, the phrase now or never resonates with me? It could also just be that it’s the right time.
I’ve had many jobs in my life and at least four maybe five careers that is, if you count bartending as a career. However I haven’t felt as passionate about any of them as I do about the characters I write about or the stories I want to tell. Moreover I have always had creative ideas occasionally surface but in the last year the ideas seem to be pouring out of me faster than I can find the time to type them. I recently heard Walter Mosley say that “writing is like an avalanche” and I couldn’t agree more. Lately I seem to be at the bottom of that avalanche trying to catch stony ideas and hoard them as they continually rain down and bounce off my head. It’s even beginning to affect my usual weekly reading calisthenics. And all I can think is lucky me…finally.
To that end I’ll be using this blog as, among other things, an experimental testing ground for sharing excerpts and short stories I’ve written. If you are inclined to read them, first off, thank you so much. It means a lot that you’d take the time to read anything I’ve written. Also please comment and tell me what you think even if you think they’re absurd. I have adopted a pretty thick skin over the years.
Okay, that last part is only half-true. But it sounded good, right?
Click on Story Excerpts above to read something from a book I’m working on called Sticky Moon.