Returning to Form
It started with a red bicycle.
I never owned a red bicycle, nor can I recall a friend who had one. But the first story I wrote was about one, and apparently it moved my mother to tears.
I cannot find that story. I have searched high and low for it in my parents’ attic. The worst part is, I can’t remember a thing about it.
A few years ago, when a new 4th/5th grade wing was added onto my elementary school, my family and I went to the grand opening. One of the first things we did was visit the new classroom of my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hagan, whom I hadn’t seen for fifteen years.
She smiled widely when we entered, and before long she and my mother stirred up the memory of that red bicycle as I stood there with them. This was a story I’d never heard before.
“Remember the red bike?” Mrs. Hagan asked my mom, who nodded.
My mother turned to me. “Mrs. Hagan gave me a call one day,” she said. “She wanted me to come by to see her, promising that you weren’t in trouble. When I got there, she had me read this story you’d written about a red bicycle. And I started to cry.”
“I told your mom you were an exceptionally good writer,” Mrs. Hagan said. “I told her I thought you were born for it.”
The funny thing about me not knowing this meeting took place is that I continued to pursue writing on my own volition. By the end of 4th grade and into 5th grade, I had begun imagining book ideas and writing short chapters. I never got very far in the writing of these books, but I became deeply enthralled and elated by the process nonetheless.
Over the years I continued to write, and a story that I began formulating in 5th grade grew and matured as I did, until at seventeen I began officially writing my first book.
The draft of that book took me ten months to write. Each night, after a full day of school and athletics, I would return home and finish my homework, and I would write for an hour or two before reading and heading to bed. The completed manuscript clocked in at 467 pages.
A decade later, I am finally working on that book again. I knew as soon as I’d finished it back then that it wasn’t quite what I wanted it to be. Over the past ten years, between college and work life, I’ve been thinking about the story as often as I can, thinking about the characters and the world they inhabit, and taking notes whenever an idea strikes.
I’ve scarcely written fiction since college. Since graduating, I haven’t worked fewer than two jobs at once, and for a while I worked three. As befalls many with my personality type, I was crippled by the number of possible career paths I saw for myself. But I had to pick one. So in 2016, which I dubbed my Year of Clarity, I picked a path and ran with it. I chose user experience design, a profession that enables me to use all of my passions at once.
It was a long path picking that career, preparing for it, and finding the right job. But I finally did. This past September, I simplified my life down to one job to get my sanity back. I can now distinguish between work and home life, which I haven’t been able to do for years (freelancing from home draws a blurry line).
I decided to dub 2017 the Year I Slay Perfectionism. 2017 was a practice in becoming okay with the idea of making mistakes and learning from them, instead of trying to avoid them altogether. And it paid off. I’m happy to say I’m now a recovering perfectionist. A work in progress.
Which is fitting, I think, for what I wish to dub 2018. Despite genuinely not having the time or mental/emotional capacity to write the past few years, I made other excuses: the main being perfection. I was afraid of diving back into writing fiction because I feared the fruits of my labor would never result in the perfection I craved for them to have.
I’m in a different state of mind now. A better state of mind. And since writing is an itch I can’t scratch, I intend for 2018 to be the Year I Return to Fiction.
Honestly, I need it like I need the air in my lungs, the blood in my veins, and the sparks in my brain. I need it in order to fully be myself.
I’m out of practice. Things will probably get ugly for awhile.
If only writing were like riding a bike ;)
That said, I’m determined to brave up and share as much as I can about the process, and even share some samples of my fiction.
In a way, 2018 will be one of my biggest personal challenges I’ve ever set for myself. But I think I’ve done the necessary prep to face it.