Last night I talked to an old friend on the telephone for awhile. Outside of family I do not talk on the phone anymore, but maybe I should ring people up. I think it’s more engaging than emails, text, or facebook comments. This friend and I worked at the same bookstore for several years, and we both are still aspiring writers. Writing was one connecting point back then and last night among other things we talked about our writing projects. Some observations my friend made kind of put things in perspective for me.
I told him how after three weeks of writing several chapters into my novel attempt I stopped. I also explained how these chapters I wrote quickly, and it felt like I was rehashing what I wrote several years ago. My friend has researched writing and is knowledgeable on the subject. He turned the conversation to coming of age stories, and that a lot of writers’ first attempts deal with those concepts. But some of these stories rely heavily on the author’s own past, and are even only slightly fictionalized. Another thing he said that childhood events that influence many writers become less important as people get older. My novel attempt was heavily inspired by what I went through. Even the timeframes of years to the exact months matched my medical history. I think I planned this attempt out well with a full outline and it would be a good novel if I finished it. But I’m thinking of putting it to rest, and changing my writing goals. My friend is right that a coming of age story is not the best story for me to focus on when I’m in my thirties. Some of my favorite books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and A Heart is a Lonely Hunter are coming of age stories, but are a heck a lot more multi layered than what I was trying. Some of my other favorites like Tender is the Night and Notes from the Underground the characters are definitely adults. Some books I like such as Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison are first person perspectives of an adult’s entire life time.
I’m not sure what other story I have to tell other than this plotline I attempted twice, or what concept would interest me enough to spend the time and effort needed. But I now believe I need to be more creative, develop a good story that stands on its own, and separate it from my own life. When I’m famous I can write my actual autobiography so I should not write thinly veiled fiction today. I believe I’m a creative person and can write a novel length story. I’ll need to get inspired, plan it out carefully, and then write it out. That won’t happen over night. In the mean time, I’m going to blog at least once a week. I love blogging, I think of an idea, type it out, scan it for typos, then I post it, link it on facebook, email it to family and I just shared my idea with people. I like the process, it has helped my writing, and I think I should step it up. In addition I should write some short pieces to send out for publication. I have not done that in over a year, and now that I’ve improved it’s worth a shot.
This rethinking of my writing can be applied on a larger scale to living my life differently. I make big and sometimes unrealistic long term goals. I thought of this today, when I was in college, one semester I took a basic guitar class and an art class at the same time. I don’t know how I pulled that off since I was an English major. Anyway, with the art even though some of my family is artistic I got frustrated. Week after week we drew similar things I couldn’t for the life gauge if I was improving. It looked like the same freaking thing over and over. But at the same time in the guitar class I could hear the different sounds of the chords and my hands got more comfortable in the various positions. I did not stick with art or music, but I think it’s important to realize what you can progress at and to focus on that. Today I’m getting in better shape, it is taking time, but I know I’m improving. I’m also skating better and can tell the difference from a few years ago. And these are things I want to be better at. For skating it is better to think I can get my ollies and kickflips higher and smoother instead of saying in a year I want to lipslide a 15 stair handrail. There are practical goals and there are impractical goals. Most progressions are small steps, and that’s what I need to focus on. I need to think how on my spare time can I train, write, and skate in order to progress.
People reach their potential by slow and steady practice or work, not through the luck of the lottery or a handout.