I feel like I am just beginning.
Last year I wrote thirteen novels, 650,000 words, and a handful of blog posts. I started the project with the idea that either I would find out that I am really a writer, and learn what it is to have writing a constant thing that must be done regularly, to have it a habit to sit down and type what I daydream more than I imagine that I might someday write some of it down.
I thought, when I started, that either I would end up a writer on the other side, or I would know that I never want to write again. I thought that when I finally crossed the finish line that I would collapse, feeling like I was full of words and stories I had told, ideas spent, projects behind me like miles of track and I would be the triumphant marathoner.
And I thought that I would feel finished, like I had completed something.
And yet, no. I feel tenuous, green like fresh grass out of a snow drift, fragile and new and so very timid about even sharing these few words. I have written post after post and then deleted them, because they only said what I thought I wanted to say, and yet the old formula does not touch my heart the same way. It is different, the words, the meaning of this life, the things that I want, and the realization of who I am.
I must begin. Again.
I wrote thirteen novels in 2012. 650,000 words of fiction. It still feels surreal, like an object so precious that I must keep touching it to know that it is there. I have to keep saying it to people, to myself. That I did it.
And then the lingering question.
Again, there were assumptions. That I would dive immediately into editing what I did, that I would comb through in horror and amazement at what I had written and start to pull it all apart and see what could be made of the mess. I thought I would have used up my ideas, and that I would want only to examine what has already come. And in that assumption, I thought that the value of writing thirteen novels would be in what was produced itself. Again, I find myself wrong.
I'm sure that what I have written has potential; it would be lovely to have some of the stories that I so enjoyed writing be viable. Surely, at least four of five of the books have potential, at least I think.
But like all the other assumptions I made, it is hollow. Like the possessions of a human do not mean anything about themselves in the end, the true value of writing so much had nothing to do with what I wrote, but more in the writing of it, the abandon to write whatever it was within my heart to write and to witness it as a part of myself.
The value came in blogging my adventure and meeting the wonderful people who have been here with me on my journey, it came from writing a guest blog for the Office of Letters and Light, and taking a whirlwind trip to Write Dangerously in San Francisco, riding on the amazing kindness of donations from strangers and friends alike.
The value came in forgetting to worry about who I seemed to be (or simply being too tired all the time to pretend to be anything else). It came in the terror of beginning, and pushing through resistance and old beliefs because there was nothing else to be done but to move forward.
It came in the form of finishing against all odds, in writing a novel in a week, in the incredible support of my parents and friends and strangers who have taken it upon themselves to keep me buoyed up, who comment on this blog and make me smile, and in the act of blogging at all, sharing myself with anyone who wishes to look.
The value came from the steadfast devotion of my amazing irowboat, who would so often turn to me and say not “I love you,” or “You've got this,” but instead “Wordcount” – a demand and not a question, and he even made me an action figure to egg me on. He stayed up nights with me, endless coffee and peanut m&ms on demand, his shoulder always there to lean on, and the constant demand for my wordcount pushing me past exhaustion. I could not have done it without him.
The value came from slowly feeling myself turn into a person, to feel the parts of myself that I adopted to appease those around me become uncomfortable and hang from me like an old coat I don't need anymore. I can feel the solidity of this person I am, even if I am not entirely sure who that is now.
And of course, the value is in having become a much more able writer, a much more confident writer, who is not afraid of putting junk down on the page. And a better writer by far.
And as a bonus to all that and more, I have thirteen novels to edit if I want to. It is all so much to process, and I have fallen into a deep silence since the new year, one of reflection and living and lots of deserved sleep.
And still I keep asking myself:
Writing more, of course. I have some new stories to tell, ideas to explore. There is Clarion West to apply for, and writing contests to compete in, and publication to seek.
There is blogging to do – lots of blogging, and catching up on responding to comments and emails since before November, and life and cleaning and all the movies and television I was too busy to watch last year.
And editing, of course. I cannot forget that – the terrifying unknown of editing. Because while last year was valued past the produced work, it should not forget that I want to be a published novelist sometime, and it's a good place to start.
And besides, I have a new irowboat action figure to pester me.
Happy New Year, everyone.
What happens next for you?