February 20th, 2006

Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

Being a writer

I think for me the tipping point was when I was a very young man. It was late at night, and I was lying in bed, and I thought, as I often thought, "I could be a writer. It's what I want to be. I think it's what I am." And then I imagined myself in my eighties, possibly even on my deathbed, thinking that same thought, in a life when I'd never written anything. And I'd be an old man, with my life behind me, still telling myself I was really a writer -- and I would never know if I was kidding myself or not.

As for giving up, well, sure, if you want to. Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it's always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins. It has no job security of any kind, and depends mostly on whether or not you can, like Scheherazade, tell the stories each night that'll keep you alive until tomorrow. There are undoubtedly hundreds of easier, less stressful, more straightforward jobs in the world. Personally, I can't think of anything else I'd rather do, but that's me.

Neil Gaiman said these things.

Like many things the man has written, these have the ring of truth.

This isn't a tag game, precisely, but it might be interesting to know how you other folk who are of a writerly bent got started, and what your thoughts are about the eventual endgame. FOr me, personally, I understand perfectly that epiphany of Neil's - but my journey was a little different, in that I don't remember being that philosophical about it. I ALWAYS wrote - my first extant poem was scribbled aged 5, and my Dad still has it (cringe, cringe). Things just unfolded after that, somehow. I wrote first in my own native language and then, once I'd tripped over English, almost exclusively in that - I wrote Star Trek fanfiction when I was thirteen (so SHOOT me!) and then I wrote my own things. FIrst thing longer than a short story, probably aged ten or so. First complete novel-length MS, aged 12 (And yes, it was appalling. And no, you really don't need to know more than that, other than it taught me a great deal about how not to stucture a story arc.) First NON-DERIVATIVE novel length MS, maybe 14 or so.

But there was no moment of vocationally dramatic light breaking through the clouds - not until, aged 15, I went to boarding school and one memorable rainly night they brought Lynne Reid Banks (who is a British author far less famous than she ought to be) to talk to us in the library on the subject of writing and being a writer. And she told it like it is. The waiting, the rejections, the moments of pure destructive depression, the necessity to have a thick skin, dedication, perseverance, and a major dollop of luck. She spoke of the proverbial squeezing of blood from a stone, sometimes, when the muse leaves you for a (usually unannounced) sabbatical and you're left chewing your fingernails. She spoke about how you never quite finish learning, and every time you think you've climbed a mountain you see that there's a whole new range to conquer beyond it. And she said all this with the light of angels in her eyes and her voice, and that was what woke it in me, finally, that epiphany, those words of dedication" "This is what I want to do. This is what I want to BE. Forever and ever. Amen."

ANd yet it took me a detour into the sciences (I hold a Master's degree in Molecular BIology) before I fully answered the call. TO be sure, I was the one writing fantasy novels while waiting for the latest experiment to finish 'cooking', but still and all - I was technically a scientist, by training, bt employment. Until life intervened in various fascinating ways and coincidences and serendipities, and the science kind of left *me*, and I segued sideways first into a job as an editor, and then into this, into the place where I am now, living what has, in fact, always been the real dream.

And, like Neil, like Lynne, despite its shortcomings and pain and uncertainties, it's still a wonderful life.

I supposed I could do something else, if I needed money for food. But would I ever want to? Not ever again. I will never NOT be a writer again. This is a life sentence, disease for which there is no cure or vaccine - once you've had the writing virus in your blood, really truly in your blood. It is like an addiction, and words taste sweet, and feeling them twist and tangle in your mind until they spill out as phrase, as sentence, as story, is the highest high there is, it's euphoria. Even when the muse is on that sabbatical and writing is like pulling teeth but you have to do it because you have a deadline your muse didn't really bother thinking about when (s)he left - even then, oh yeah, even then. Perhaps especially then, when you have the most urgently real sense of how much of this comes from your own life and loves and viscera; you need the muse to supply the final touches and to sleek it all down and to put the package together but the story the story the story that is yours and you hold it in your hand and it's like a wild bird which lets you hold it for a moment while you feel its heart beating against your fingers. And then you open your hand and throw it into the sky, and weep with joy to see it flying, silhouetted against the sun.
Jin Shei Cover from sgreer

And in other developments...

- Today was a significant date. On this day, three years ago, a cold and rainy February morning marked the beginning of our lives in Bellingham. We moved into our (very cold and empty) house right about NOW, three years ago. And we haven't looked back since. You know how it is, when you find a place you can not only call your house, but your HOME? It's here. For us, it's here.

- Today we went shopping. Because we DO live in the beautiful rainy Pacific Northwet (not a typo...) and because we live in an area of twisty windy roads with no shoulder and the nearest flat ground is some little drive away and rdeck is still not quite steady on his feet and dislikes inclines and traffic on roads where he can't dodge out of the way, but because his continued recovery requires on-going exercise, we purchased an indoor exercise bike today. It will be delivered in the first week of March. I much look forward to seeing my cats' faces when it arrives, let alone when someone actually starts turning pedals.

- We walked out the front door this morning, and the sky spat three snowflakes at me. And then quit. The weather is being just plain WEIRD but I suppose I am glad I don't live in upstate New York right now.

- WOuld someone explain to Cheeky (our resident squirrel) that it is not required for him to empty the feeder *EVERY DAY*...?

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