Do you ever get that feeling in you that you just have to write? Even though you really have nothing to write about and your mind isn’t actually coming up with anything, you still need the feeling of fingers on a keyboard and thoughts flowing onto the screen?
It’s what’s happening to me right now. 11:11 at night, my sister in the trundle bed, me sitting on my bed (on my new mattress!) in my pajamas, listening to my finetune, needing to write.
This is why I’ll become a writer. Simply because I’m so submerged in it, practically drowning, passionate, obsessed, whatever you want to call it. I’m that girl who practices her cello seven hours a day, hoping that eventually she’ll get a chance to play Carnegie Hall. Except instead of a cello I’ve got a keyboard, and instead of Carnegie Hall I’ve got visions of the NYTimes Bestsellers list dancing in my head. I try to remember when this started and I can’t; I get the feeling it goes back as far as I do, maybe even before the days of Hooked-on-Phonics and Easy Readers.
I remember staying up nights back when me and Taylor the Lovely shared a room, telling her stories about teddybears come alive, about fairies who lived in the forest, my own Betsy-Tacy-Tib stories. I remember her falling asleep, my voice still alive in the dark, knowing the stories were no good but not caring enough to stop. Just telling them, even if they sucked, was of an utmost importance to me, and she always seemed to like them no matter how awful they were.
I remember second grade, writing short stories that were terrible but that I loved. Stories that weren’t entirely fiction as they were peopled with the characters from my real life - me and my sister, our cousins, my parents and grandparents - I hadn’t yet mastered the concept of reality v. fantasy, but I knew I wanted to create stories, create entire worlds, in my head.
I remember my frosh year English teacher, Mrs. Peterson. I remember the ‘F’ I got on my first paper in her class, how I cried when I got home and later found out I wasn’t the first freshman girl she’d made cry. I remember her ’show don’t tell’ stamp and all the red marks on my papers. I remember standing at her desk as she outlined everything that was wrong, telling me to rewrite it; I traded my F’s for D’s and D’s for C’s and, eventually, my C’s for B’s. I took note of her criticism, wanting to be able to make the words work together the way I envisioned them. Wanting to make my words flow, make my thoughts flawless on the page. I wanted perfection, which I have never, probably will never, achieve in my writing.
And now I am older, past bedtime stories of teddybears and fairies, past the shoddy half-fictions, and still trying to make it all work. Still trying to get the words how I see them. I imagine this must be what an artist struggles with, wanting what is on the canvas to capture what he sees in his mind, what he wants the rest of the world to be able to also see.
I don’t know what drives this whatever you call it, this compusion, this obsession, this passion. All I know is that it doesn’t end. I format sentences in my head, I narrate my life in first-person, often from the time I wake up until the time I drift to sleep. I see scenes and characters where there is no story and am faced with the challenge of creating a world for them to inhabit. It is frustrating and time-consuming, and I love it. I have never thought that maybe this isn’t for me, that maybe I should consider sanity and make teaching my Plan A. I have never thought that if I never make it, if I am never in a Barnes and Noble, never get reviewed in even the smallest of newspapers, that I will stop writing.
There is no doubt that I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to.