Much of this weekend threatened rain, keeping me inside where I spent most of my time editing my novel manuscript. I’m hoping to pitch or query it this winter, but putting the final polish on it is difficult for me, perfectionist that I am. I realize some other writers have the same problem, but such knowledge is not enough to silence my inner critic.
One dream that has stayed consistent throughout my life is the desire to get a novel published. Since I first learned to write letters and words, I can remember writing stories. As a child, I collected journals and hard-cover notebooks which I would guard with jealousy. Inside would be the tales of my imagination, complete with scribbled illustrations, which my playmates and I would act out whenever we met. As I grew up and we no longer engaged in such childish games, my notebooks got bigger to hold longer, more complex stories, and eventually, I started typing my stories on the family computer. (There was a short span of time when I made use of my grandmother’s old typewriter, but I found the unforgiving contraption too heavy to lug between her house and mine to make its use practical. I found using it quite fun, however.)
Today, I still keep notebooks for jotting down bits of character development and drafting scenes when I can’t make use of my personal laptop. I keep some of my old notebooks and printouts of stories condemned to my scraps pile years ago as I sometimes still pull inspiration from my youthful musings.
Somewhere amongst this collection of papers, I have assignments from my college writing courses. Some are my own while some are those of my classmates. These papers are inspirational to me not because of the essays they contain but because of what they represent. Although it was not said outright, I was not allowed to choose English or writing as my major during my college years, because my father did not see any sort of future for me in an arts-based career. (He did not consider writing or art to lead to a “real” job, although my English-major classmates all landed full-time jobs with benefits years before I did once we graduated.) But the professor who taught my creative non-fiction writing course encouraged me to keep writing and to pursue my dream of getting a book published. He saw promise in my works, and for me, that was the permission I needed to look at my writing as more than just a hobby.
Some people will not understand the mental block that requires gaining that sort of permission to pursue a dream, but coming from a family whose members have lived quiet, unremarkable lives, it means quite a bit. Prior to writing for that professor, I did not think of myself as needing permission to write. What I needed was permission to step out of the life set before me and to reach for something more. Currently, I have a full-time job leading fieldtrips and teaching ecology classes to school children. In my family, that is a reasonable career path. To them, such a career does not require additional accomplishments to be fulfilling or to serve our community.
But I want more for myself. I know I’m capable of more, and so I want to reach for it. I don’t want my writing to remain a hobby for my amusement only. I want to share my stories and hopefully, inspire creativity in others. My simple, childish dream of publishing a book has expanded beyond that goal. Now I want to write, because I don’t want to live a quiet, unremarkable life. I want to prove that I have something worth sharing with the world which exists beyond the school children I teach. I hope to get my current novel manuscript published, but if it doesn’t spark interest, I’ll finish and polish another manuscript and try again. I will not let my dream die as long as I still have stories to tell.