The novelist, unlike the poet or short story writer, has the endurance of a marathon runner [or a cyclist]…John Gardner, On Becoming A Novelist
When I was a kid writing, the only thing that had an ending was a journal entry. Any short story I tried to write kept wanting to take another breath on a new page. I’d get frustrated because of lack of skill to take that extra breath, so the story or would be novel, would go unfinished. As an adult, my screenplays read more like novels. My film professor suggested for me to “write the novel first, then shoot the film, capitalize on both.” In the MFA program, I tried to extend my repertoire and write shorter pieces. I tried poetry. I tried stream of consciousness. The short story still alludes me. I had to finally take a deep breath, let out a huge sigh, and accept the fact that I’m a novelist. That is where I shine and feel most at home. And it makes sense when I look at the rest of my life.
When I look for parking, I take my time, always nailing the close spot. I take the scenic route home that has less traffic. I prefer to travel by train. While in college, I joined the cycling team. It was my first time cycling, let alone on a collegiate team. I had to choose between short distance speed race training or long distance endurance rides. I felt like I was intentionally demanding my heart to stop by going full throttle in zero to ten seconds on the short distance speed rides, so I went for the longer rides. In the beginning, I’d watch my teammates speed away from our starting point, me trekking along slowly for the first hour or so on long, windy country roads, always the last to get back. A couple of months later, after about 45 minutes into the ride, cycling slow and steady, I began to gradually gain speed as I entered ‘the zone’. I found myself catching up and passing the panting hot shot riders who had left me in their dust cloud (what a thrill that was the first time I passed them leaving my own trail—see ya!).
Endurance, patience, and fidelity are pre-existing qualities that a novelist possesses. The late author of the fantastic novel Grendel, John Gardner speaks to the psychological and mental dynamic that great novelists seem to already possess internally in his book On Becoming A Novelist. According to Gardner, the choice to write novels is not so much an inclination toward ego-centered ambition, but moreso a right fit. After reading Gardner’s summation on what makes a novelist tick, and looking at my own inner psychological & biological rhythm, I was relieved to find that it wasn’t just masochism that drove me to see a story through, no matter if its 200 pages or 400.
Self-assurance is also a ritual the novelist must embrace. Writing a novel can be an exhilarating task, but also long suffering as I watch my writing friends crank out and publish short stories & poems expeditiously. While they begin to accumulate accolades for their writing, it can at times make me feel like I’m riding at the end of the pack while I’m in the throes of a 300 page novel. This is when I have to gather my inner resources and assure myself that a great novel requires the time, skill, care, and steadiness that I put into it. And eventually, a great novel is the reward.
For those of you who read or followed my first blog, I thank you. For those who are visiting for this blog for the first time, welcome. I’m no where near an expert on web design, but I think this blog looks pretty cool for graphics that came together kind of by accident. Trust me, it took 5 hours to chance upon the unexpected, finished result.
I started my first blog simply because I was told that’s what a writer does in the 21st century. I was seriously resistant at first, but then, if anything, it kept me writing, and to my surprise, people kept reading. As of last week, to the tune of almost over 900 views. Not bad for my first time. People read even though I was elsewhere.
Life happened, I moved, and I stopped writing the blog. Unlike fiction, the calling that seems to capture me, and hold me still, despite life’s tugging and whirling, writing the blog didn’t have that power to keep me. As I got space from it, I felt my blog writing was random, routine, and lacked depth. The experience of writing has never been that for me, and it took several months for me to realize that a return to sharing my writing journey had to have the same qualities that keeps me writing—inspiration, discovery, focus, and direction.
During the last several months, I’ve had a chance to really sit with how to move forward as I start my writing career. I graduated school right when the economy tanked. The few agents I did query, with the exception of one, wrote back that they didn’t have time to look at my submissions due to the incoming volume. A few publishing houses closed altogether. One agent actually liked my story, but stated she wasn’t sure how to market my novel. Even though I only queried a few, my energy was drained with the worry of establishing my life as a new college grad in a very different world than before I went to college. It wasn’t the world writer John Gardner advised to get the teaching job with the Master’s degree, the guaranteed paycheck, to support the new writer. This was a world where I had to knock on 50 doors just to get an interview, and 50 more just to get, not a teaching job, but an office job. This was the world I focused on, and for a short while, I stepped away from the writing. But not for long…
Since graduation, I’ve had to recover, recalibrate, reorient, and now, re-invent my path as a writer. I’ve learned the road is one you pave, and if you’re skillful, extra hands will help with the paving, and even help to clear the way.
Next month, my second written novel will be published. Tomorrow, the writing here will be the first of many days that will chronicle this endeavor. Some may think I’m crazy, which I won’t deny. Others will and still find me the adventurer. No argument there either. I had always hoped that my writing would inspire. Now, I see, it is the journey of the writer that also inspires.