I live in fear of putting words on a page now – except I can do it without thinking when it’s for work. A former coworker once warned me of the dangers of getting too comfortable with government writing; he said that if you do, you lose your ability to be creative. I fear that may have happened.
One advantage I can say I’ve gained is a better ability to edit my own work. Even the course I took recently reinforced that – I can go back through my own words and tighten here or adjust there, instead of on the fly like I used to do.
But still… what I want is to have a story to tell, a story that doesn’t involve something goofy one of my cats did today or yesterday. In the mornings, Thena likes to come and cuddle with me after my shower. Sometimes when she’s getting her head rubbed or she’s licking my arm, she’ll look at me with her tongue sticking out. Some mornings, it’s as much as half her tongue – and it never fails to make me laugh.
Sure, it’s a story that amuses my husband, since he knows and loves the cats and finds their antics as amusing as I do, but it’s a two-second story to tell that doesn’t interest anyone else. Even if I had a picture to share, I doubt many of you would be too concerned.
And really, that isn’t the kind of story I want to have to tell. What I want is a novel, an actual story that people want to read and want to continue reading. I read authors like Jim Butcher, Karen Chance, Terry Pratchett (and of course many many more), and I can see the genius behind their words leaking off the page. Sure, with Butcher and Pratchett I can sense the growth behind the stories, but with Butcher and Chance there are hints that are dropped in their first or second books that only come to play many books later. I can’t emulate that kind of genius, and that intimidates the crap out of me. And I don’t feel as though I have a gift for description.
But then again… writing isn’t something that’s supposed to be easy, the way I expect everything to be. I don’t trust my writing when it doesn’t flow, but you know what? Writing is work, just like anything else. Sure, it may come easier to me than to others, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still effort. And it’s a skill that needs to be practiced.
I’m lucky; I write every day for work, so I can sit down and bang out media lines or even a speech without effort. I read pieces written by other people and they don’t make sense, or there are grammatical flaws, or they’re hugely negative in tone – and it’s a gift to be able to edit those pieces so that they don’t have those flaws. And I’m constantly learning from my bosses as to how to write even better.
I sound like I’m bragging, which isn’t my intention at all. It’s really just a brain dump to give myself the courage to try something more than just confessional writing – which I find ridiculously easy to do.
Maybe I’ll never be able to write stories, only derivative short stories and essays or confessional pieces. I don’t really know, but I know I’m going to try. It’s just a matter of making the time to do the work – and it is work. But ultimately, it will be rewarding.