Bryan Russell (aka Ink) blogs at Alchemy of Writing. He is moderator/sheriff in the Forums and has my vote for Prime Minister of Canada
I had a very clear image, when I was young, of the path I was going to take. The Writer’s Journey. More specifically, the writer’s journey I would take, carefully laid out, 1, 2, 3, 4. It was a neat little trip. Very orderly. Very tidy. In high school, once I knew that yes telling stories is what I wanted to do, I decided to major in Creative Writing at University. Thus, The Plan: 1) Study Creative Writing. 2) Write A Book. 3) Get An Agent. 4) Get Book Published. (Yes, everything on the list was capitalized. This is Important Stuff)
And note the neatness! The tidiness! Note the lack of anything implanting itself between the end of University and the Glories of Publication!
I had a plan. It was very comforting, that plan. So I went to school, got good grades, wrote a few short stories, won some academic awards. 1… check. In fact, number 1 was so fun that I added 1b: Grad School. A Masters Degree and a chance to write a novel! I could squoosh 2 into 1b! Bonus marks for me. So Grad school and a novel.
Yet, somewhere along this path, I learned that writing was hard, getting an agent harder, and getting published even more so. But this was an abstract knowledge. Getting published was very hard, yes. You know, for other people. I had a plan, you see. It was right there on the list, number 4: Get Book Published. See? No problem. Obviously the whole idea of difficulty did not apply to me.
But, just to be safe, just to uphold the proper hardworking image, I got a degree in Education. A job! A career! But it was okay because I had my book. In fact, I had a few books. Peachy! Ahead of schedule. Here I was, just out of school, and I had books!
So I sent one of these books off to an agent and they said yes. This was good, and all according to The Plan. See? Right there, number 3) Get An Agent.
1, 2, 3. Neat and tidy. And then something funny happened, something… messy. We’ll call it 5) Life. And 5, let me tell you, was pushy. It would not stay in line. It had to jump in there ahead of 4.
There were lots of parts to number 5) Life, lots of addendums, provisos and postscripts.
I developed a disease, Colitis. And then my father died suddenly and everything went a little dark. There were shadows I had never noticed before, the weight of light shrugged off and forgotten. In these shadows it seemed hard to find words, to gather them in and set them down in neat little rows, the tidy rows I had always loved so much. And then my agent died, cancer stealing her away just when she was about to start submitting my novel.
Yet I had just gotten married. I bought a house, started a family, left one career and started another, having decided to open a little bookshop. There were lights in the darkness. And I remembered, always, a winter day just after my father died. Snow on the ground, the air sharp as a pine needle on cold skin. And the light, this slanted light coming down and refracting off the snow, a clean glow rising like mist and lingering in the air. So beautiful it ached, a permanent visual echo lodged in my memories… and I knew this was something important. Even here, on the far side of loss, there was beauty and light.
I began to write again, thinking of that halo of light over the snow. I put the old novel away. It wasn’t ready yet, anyway, agent or no agent. I’d rewrite it some day, but now I needed something new.
New books, new family, new store. New life, in a way, though forever tethered to the old. And now the process continues. I’m back at 3) Get An Agent. The list, now, is dirty, wrinkled, old. Well worn. I laugh at the Capitals. I know a little more about 5) Life. And, what’s more, I know a little more about writing. The two are not unconnected.
It’s a different plan, in many ways, a different understanding. Difficulty can apply to me as easily as it does to anyone else. Indeed, some have had it easier… though many have had it far worse. Yet that difficulty is part of my path. Perhaps I’m even better for it.
Still moving forward, full of hope.
And you? What keeps you moving forward on your path… or keeps you moving forward even when you’re off the path? I see clean light on snow. I see it and know there’s something yet to share, to say, to write. To live. And you?