I’ve always been a writer, and I’ve never been a writer.
When I was very young, I used to spend a lot of time writing. It was mostly journal entries, although to call them just journal entries is not giving them their full due. They were explorations of themes, deep analyses of subject-matter, and raw exposures of my inner soul. I guess this blog is kind of an attempt to return to this type of writing. It’s not very useful, is certainly self-indulgent, and yet there is a certain satisfaction to it.
But what I really wanted to do was to write fiction. I did a bit of fiction writing in high school, mostly trying to copy the writing styles of authors I was reading then, but anything longer than a very short story would just stall out. I never really knew where to take it. I tried to write a few novels, but they made it maybe one or two chapters before the enormity of it crushed my desire to continue.
Now I wouldn’t say I am a great writer. But there has always been a talent there. So much so that years can go by without any effort on my part, and I can still sit down and write a decent story or type out some coherent thoughts, such as this blog. It’s just a part of who I am. I could get better with a lot more practice. But I doubt I will ever be one of the greats.
Over the summer I re-read my favorite book about writing so far, “On Writing” by Stephen King. There is a lot of great stuff in that book, and if you are considering writing fiction, I highly recommend it. It’s pretty dated, but still fascinating, and the tidbits of writing wisdom contained within are priceless. One of those tidbits is that a fair writer might become good with training and practice, and a good writer might become great. A great writer might become legendary. Those are very few and far between. But basically, you have a level of innate skill, and could be trained to attain a level beyond that. And that’s it. If you are a shit writer, you’re never going to be very good no matter what.
I think that’s accurate. I have read a lot of pretty bad writing in my life, by folks who spend a lot of time trying to be better. I’d never tell them to give up, but…
And then, who am I to even criticize anyone? I can say I have this innate talent, but I have nothing to show for it. I have never been published, I have never completed a novel. I am just a guy who is pretty good at telling stories, though I usually don’t, and also can write coherently. Big fucking deal. Is it worse to have written some bad stories or to have not written at all?
So, I am devoted to giving it a genuine effort. I am trying to write a novel again, for the first time in over 20 years, and it’s actually going pretty well. I am 21,000 words in. But, sadly, I got stalled out at that point. I had a very stressful thing happen, which threw me very off my game, and then between COVID and political stress, I just didn’t feel like writing. Or rather, I felt like writing in that state might undo all of the good work I had put in so far.
But I think I am just about over it. This blog is helping me find my way back. It’s been depressing and, again, very self-indulgent, but it’s been honest. And you have to be honest, even in fiction. Or maybe especially in fiction. If you filter your thoughts and worry about what people will think of a person who writes such things, you can never really touch on a true human experience. So I think I will be returning to the novel soon, time permitting. I am looking forward to seeing where that goes. If nothing else, if I can finish the novel, I can at least be proud that I finally did it. I’ve never been a “bucket list” type of person, but if there is anything on my personal bucket list, writing a novel is it.