March is birthday month for me. That’s significant only because, lately, the passing of another year makes me wonder why I haven’t finished a novel yet. After all, it’s been five years and I have two books well underway, and yet I haven’t written those elusive words “The End” and looked with joy on a finished manuscript. Sometimes I think maybe, instead of “Once Upon a Time,” I could start my story with “The End” and move on from there.
From the heady grade school days of writing stories while sitting in Kathleen Dunn’s apple tree, to the pathetic Hemingway wanna be I was in college, writing has always been my passion. But the older I got, the less confident I got. Reading my work in college writing classes and waiting for the critique was worse than death, so I dropped the classes that required critiques. What I wrote remained between my professors and me…fortunately.
For years I wrote non-fiction. I specialized in interviews for local Arts magazines and travel articles and editing for Air Force Wives publications. “Nothing to see here, folks, move along…” and it didn’t require putting myself “out there” by being creative. And birthdays came and went and somewhere inside me I dearly missed the thing I loved.
Life in California had many facets, as I discovered when we moved there after my husband graduated from the Air Force. What that “anything goes” atmosphere showed me was that the desire to write fiction that developed in those heady days in Kathleen’s apple tree wasn’t gone but was just dormant. The creative atmosphere in Southern California where everyone wants to be either an actor or a writer (in addition to their day jobs) spurred me on and I joined a writers’ class where we didn’t have to read aloud unless we wanted to. I loved it. And since then, I have written. And written. And even been published.
And yet, I haven’t finished my novels. So, as my birthday passes and we move on to April, I hope to give myself a gift. I don’t have to write a perfect book. I don’t have to edit and edit and edit until every last word in each chapter is exact before moving on to the next chapter. I will make mistakes. I can finish the book and type “The End” and THEN go back and see all the things that might need fixing. I can enjoy this process a little more. And I can be thankful that Pat and Michelle will be there cheering me on.
The novelist George Elliot said ” It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” Once upon a time I might have been a writer of fiction. But, it’s never too late. I think I’ll write a novel.