It is a truth universally acknowledged that all writers in possession of a novel idea fear never finishing.
"But Erica," a discerning reader may say, "you are still a young writer, and haven’t even a published book to your name (yet). Who are you to make this generalization?"
And I would have to say, you’re right. But it should be remembered that every blog post on the internet is someone’s opinion, and this is mine.
But if I had taken that discerning reader to my childhood bedroom and let them dig through my closet—past the homecoming gowns and old dance costumes and the bodies of my enemies—they would find stacks of half-filled composition notebooks.
And, even more personal, if I had let them dig through my computer (which would never happen. No touching The Precious!), they would find scores of novel beginnings and short stories with notes to expand into something greater, and even a few documents with vague ideas like “panda circus” and “enchanted bakery” that make no sense to me anymore, but I still refuse to delete.
So, yes, while I am still a young writer, I am old in the ways of abandoning stories.
It’s an unwelcome thought that always pops up at some point during the writing process. Maybe it’s just as you’re beginning, or slogging through the middle. Maybe it’s during the second or third draft, when you’re just so tired of looking at the damn thing. Irregardless of when it happens, you will have the thought: what if this is all for nothing?
It’s a tough moment, when something you’re pouring over might never see the light of day, let alone a pair of eyes that aren’t your own. But it happens. Some stories hit a wall and end up in the drawer or the back of the closet or in a file on your computer desktop and never looked at again.
That doesn’t make them worthless. Some stories just don’t work (I’m pretty sure “Panda Circus” wasn’t going anywhere), but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth the time and effort. At the very least they are a learning experience, a way to grow as a writer and learn.
And I’m not saying you should give up every project at soon as it gets difficult (because then no one would write books). Just recognize a dead end, should you encounter it, and remember that disappointment happens sometimes.
When I was ten my favorite age was nine
because that was the last
of being a single digit. Ten-year-old cake seemed
no different than nine-year-old cake;
I still didn’t care for
On the first day of seventh grade I heard
that Samantha Corollo had shaved her arms
and of the high-ceiling house kids’ parties
with bra straps and bottles in sheds.
The indiscreet wrappings of a maxi pad
outted my best friend
who futilely tried to deny it, while
my sister, cornrowing the crown
of her American Girl Doll, confessed to
losing her virginity to the guy
wearing the hat in the cab. With one
hand on one undeveloped hip
I wondered when twelve became fourteen,
how sixteen seemed like twenty-two,
unsuspecting of the fifteen-year-old
lactose intolerance that would shape
the twenty-one-year-old birthday cake
into a piece of diner pie.
we tie our towels around our waists
and curl our lips up good
i am elvis you are elvis
mom’s face is in the sink
smiling at big hips
little hips and
i didn’t know
were hips but
mom laughed when i looked
at her body in the shower
my neighbor shrugged
when i said
beneath our undershirts
we were each other
dad combs my hair back after showers
and for a moment
everyone’s the same
sometimes you will have days
with pockets too small
for January hands
and it seems
like you’re always
but the man at the corner store
waits until four
to put a fresh pot on,
your favorite hazelnut
on a wednesday in the
second month of summer
i sat on a pile of fire ants
waiting for a tow-truck.
if i die at the end of a tragedy
i hope it’d be by accident:
the murder at the masquerade,
lightening in the pastoral storm.
scratching at the rash beneath
my back left pocket
i was sulking,
trying to milk a tear,
and then there was pizza sauce,
crusted on cotton.
New Alt-Lit Publication to submit to, @ElectricCereal:
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