I am still learning this, but oh, how I am learning this!
I spent four years writing my first novel, finally putting my stamp of approval on it in January of 2012. Next month will be one year since I put the manuscript away, and already it is so very clear to me how much I have grown as a writer. History should have taught me that this would happen. I remember loving my creative work in junior high, high school, and college– all of which I can now summarize as weak. I didn’t know what I was doing! I hadn’t read widely enough, experimented enough, or even lived life enough to create a truly brilliant body of work.
Sure, there were moments– beautiful lines here or there that spoke of depth– but I was and still am a learner.
I was so proud of my first novel. I poured my entire self into the writing of it. And already one year later, I’m a little ashamed of it.
But not too ashamed.
I had to write it. It was my next step. It was what needed to happen. It was my playground. School was in session.
At least now I am more aware of the process, aware of the way I grow. I was always in school, but now I’m aware of it. I read as much as I can, and I re-read books that I love. I marvel at imagery. I work at my craft. I write draft after draft after draft, knowing that it will take a mountain of them before I am truly happy with the finished product. (Writing that word– finished— makes me smile a little bit. I wonder if artists ever really feel as if something is completed? I hope so– but I am going to wait and see.)
I know that twenty-some years of writing has been to build a solid foundation for me to stand on– and maybe leap from. I needed to invent that Pononia family in elementary school and come up with stories about their lives, needed to write about Mariah and Kayy, the best-friends-turned-track-rivals, in seventh grade. I needed to write that horror story where the best friend turned out to be a killer– her name was Chloe, and I definitely thought it was pronounced Sh-low. And that soap opera– the one about Sunnyside High and teen pregnancy, AIDS, romance, running away, and finding a long-lost twin– needed to be written and circulated amongst friends in high school.
And college. I had to vomit out those awful poems in college, had to learn how to take criticism, how to re-write, how to love a writing community. I had to attempt to not be jealous of great writers and then learn that it is pretty much impossible and that you can love those great writers even though you seethe with envy.
I turn 31 next month, but as a writer, I’m practically an infant still– maybe a toddler. It’s hard to assess. I still have a lot to learn, and I’m thrilled about that. I am committed to the writing life for the long haul, even if I still have years ahead of stilted, awkward, gangly stories ahead of myself.
Someday they will shine so bright they will blind you.