Friday, December 17, 2010

The Writer

As I was websurfing last night before I went to bed, I came across a blogpost about an up-an-coming, very young, newly minted M.F.A from Columbia University by the name of Tea Obreht. Her debut novel, an adaptation of her masters thesis, The Tiger's Wife, is set for release in March of next year. While I won't let her credentials alone allow me to form an opinion of her as an artist, I must say that the internal part of me became extremely jealous; I then started to ask myself why the success of someone I do not know would get the better of me. I came to one conclusion: I miss writing.

A precocious middle schooler, writing was my escape in a cruel world. Adjusting to my own self-image, as well as learning to cope with how I thought others saw me, writing was a vent space. When I finished coursework during class time and was bored, I'd whip out a black and white marbled composition notebook and start composing. I've never been scared by the blank page; in fact, inspired by the young Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, I composed two 'novels,' and sought to edit them. I even cajoled an English teacher (thank you Mr. G, if you're reading this!) one summer into helping me edit a novel. At the age of 15, I sent off query letters for what I hoped would get me a literary agent. I had some interest, but no success, though one agent--who worked closely with Random House--encouraged me to keep writing, avowing that if I kept up my craft, "one day, eventually," he said I "would be published."

Today, that agent's rejection letter with handwritten encouragement is nestled somewhere with manuscripts in boxes I've packed away with my childhood, and sometimes I ponder if I've packed away my dreams of writing with my jeunesse. In spite of this, I can't bear to throw out those manuscripts, nor my 'writing binder' with my character notes, my plots, my random musings, and poems I'd scribbled between notes at school.

Every now and then, the dream of writing full time resurfaces wraith-like, and I feel as if I've killed my craft. I feel guilty for not giving the dream everything I have, for not taking, as Anne Lamott says, those 15-20 minutes every day to jot down 300 words. I feel like I've abandoned one of the greatest gifts I have been given, which is to write, to write what I see and think and feel. My last semester at Cal I finally took a creative writing course, and I felt like I'd come home. I hovered momentarily about the possibility of abandoning academia, throwing everything I had into an MFA, and becoming a writer. Then my rational side roared into existence.

Likewise, I was reminded of the precocious pre-teen who knew no fear with her writing by my mother. At the gym, she'd run into my fifth and sixth grade GATE teacher, Peggy, and (re)introduced herself as my mom. Peggy promptly asked, my mom recounted, if I was still writing. "Of course," my mom replied. "Lindsay will always be a writer."

Between reading about Tea Obreht, who is scarcely older than me, and hearing this anecdote from my mom, I am jolted back to this dream. I am jolted back to the fact that before I left the country I knew I wanted to take the year to write my heart out, because it's something I miss too much. It's also something I cannot forget in Paris, because Paris has been, is, and I fear always will be a city of writers. I walk the streets and think about Fitzgerald's expat days, about Sarte and Beauvoir, about the Paris that Emile Zola and Proust knew. And then I ask myself what I'm doing with my time here on this earth, when I feel so plainly and clearly at times that I should be writing.

This blog is a small way of honoring the writer within me, because that writer has been buried beneath papers for too long. This writer needs to once again become a story teller, because good writing and good story telling are far from the same thing, and because writing is something I feel like I was born to do.

To all that is within us, to all that is around us, and to the choices that we make, follow the dream, my friends. Follow the dream.

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