Thursday, October 21, 2010

If you write it, will they read?

It's official. I have developed an obsession. Surprisingly, it's not an obsession that I could have seen coming - like chocolate, shoes or that cute werewolf kid from the twilight movies (sadly, I'm a little old for that one!) For the past several months something has been consuming me - filling my mind during quiet daytime moments and keeping me from falling asleep at night. I often find my thoughts wandering back to my obsession during conversations with family, friends and colleagues, hoping they don't notice the vacant expression on my face as they talk. I have been filling journals with notes and scribbles about how to make this obsession of mine a reality. Now I think the time has come to face this obsession head on. The first step to dealing with it, is admitting it, right? Here goes. My name is Jennifer and I am obsessed with wanting to write a book.

Whew! That wasn't so hard, was it? Actually, it kind of was. I am not sure why I have been struggling with this so much. It's something that has been on my "bucket list" for years so why is it NOW so difficult for me to say out loud? Furthermore, why is it so hard for me to actually DO IT?

I wrote a lot when I was younger. I was a shy kid that could barely look people in the eye when I spoke. Writing was cathartic for me, a way for me to get my thoughts and feelings out that didn't involve having to actually talk to someone. In school, if given the choice of writing a ten thousand word essay or giving a 5 minute oral presentation, I would choose the essay every time. I have a box in my basement filled with old journals, diaries, letters and short stories written during elementary and high school. Even now, I would prefer to take the time to send an email or text message to someone rather than pick up the phone and call. I am somehow better at getting my point across with the written (rather than spoken) word.

Why, then, is the concept of writing on a bigger scale so terrifying? I am guessing confidence has a lot to do with it. "Jennifer Halter" and "self confidence" are two things that you will never hear in the same sentence. Unless, of course, that sentence is "Jennifer Halter has no self confidence". It is scary to think about putting your heart and soul into something that no one might ever want to read. I confided to a friend the other day that I had finally "written" the opening chapter of my future novel in my head, but was unable to actually write it down. I told her that the thought of finally putting proverbial pen to paper was intimidating. What if no one cared what I had to say? Her reply was "Write your story for YOU, and no one else. Even if you are the only one who ever reads it, you will still have written your novel." I realized, she was right.

There has been a story inside me for quite some time now. Until recently, it had been pretty well behaved, quietly rolling around in my head and not ruffling any feathers. Poking its head out every now and then, just to let me know it was still there. For the past several months the story has felt like a caged animal - loud and impossible to ignore, viciously pounding on the cage and demanding to be let out. There is rarely a waking hour that goes by where I don't hear a character "speaking" to me in my head. I had to resort to carrying a journal around with me everywhere to make sure these voices don't get lost in my increasingly feeble memory bank. I know that taking the first step will be the hardest - actually writing that first chapter.

I did, however, finally take an important step in the writing process yesterday. I ordered some books from the library to begin the research process. I have also been following an author online for many years now. He writes a daily blog and a monthly e-newsletter that are entirely devoted to "Novel Writing for Dummies". Recently, I have been devouring his blog and newsletter archives, where I had previously only regarded them as something to file away for that far off day in the future when I would begin to take this novel seriously.

Believe it or not, this blog post is actually a significant preliminary step in the process as well - actually admitting, out loud in a public forum, that this is something I want to do. Not worrying about whether or not people will mock, doubt or discourage me. I have no idea how long this process will take, or even whether or not anything print worthy will come out of it in the end, but I do know this: When my days in this life are drawing to a close, it is unlikely that I will regret having written a novel that wasn't a best seller (maybe didn't even get published). I would be more likely to regret having never written my story at all.

Play ball!

J :)

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