Have you ever waited for perfection?
I spent about four decades doing that. I wasn’t good enough at writing, and so I waited to write.
Instead, I imagined stories. Every minute of the day. When I was in one place, I was imagining someplace else. I strode across the grounds of an ancestral home, not the gravel schoolyard. I rode a white mare, not an orange banana bike. I built a kingdom in the empty pastures of my prairie home, filled with dragons and witches and princes and…me.
And I grew up, exactly like Thoreau warns…with quiet desperation. With the song still in me.
As an adult, I judged everyone I met, stored their idiosyncrasies, turned people into characters (Evil Queen! Loyal Friend! Cheating Prince!) rather than letting them be human or paradoxical or flawed.
My boyfriends called me critical.
Finally, in my forties, a lightning bolt struck. The imagining and the evaluating meant I was a writer; I just hadn’t started the Writing Down part.
And so I did that, every day for four months. I wrote stuff down.
At the end of four months I had a draft of a novel. Not too long, just 80,000 words, but a whole complete novel. With a start and an end and characters and plot and tension.
A world on paper. A miracle.
I barely knew what I was doing, even though I’d read thousands of books. And had a graduate degree in Literature. And taught English classes for a decade. And had my own copywriting business for fifteen years.
Writing a novel when you’ve read one is like sewing a wedding dress just because you’ve worn one: it comes out wonky.
But out it comes. And then the delicious part starts: you get to revise it. Fix it! Renovate! Do an extreme makeover. Revision -- for me -- is heaven on earth.
Margaret Atwood is a writer I fell in love with when I was 14. She says this: “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
I'd love to know: what wonky thing are you waiting to create?