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We're Back. Yeah, For Real. by Ray Printer Friendly

I'm going to tell you something that, four or five years ago, I wouldn't have imagined thinking, much less admitting: writing is hard.

I have wanted to be a writer since...well, since I can remember, really. The first short story I remember writing was about a haunted house, when I was in second grade. But even before that, I used to write a family newspaper in the style of National Enquirer.

In high school, I went through a brief phase where I thought I'd rather be an artist, as girls I was hitting on preferred to look at the pictures I drew rather than read pages and pages of teenage angst.

Even then, I still filled notebook after notebook with words. Some of it isn't too bad, in retrospect. Most of it is cringe-inducing. But I still wrote, usually on a daily basis.

In my early twenties, I got serious about writing short stories, typing on a word processor my mom got me, printing out the pages, and collecting them in various notebooks. See, I didn't know what else to do with them, at the time. I lived in a small Texas town before the internet, and the only time I ever even tried to submit anything was when I came across a request for submissions in some magazine or other.

Then I found out about a book that had tons of places to which you could submit (I can't remember the name, even though it was a really big deal--I tried to look it up online, but now there are so many ways that you can submit writing, I knew it would be difficult to find, and I didn't want to waste time looking).

I couldn't afford to get it new, so I'd try to find it each year at used bookstores. I'd generally get it right before all the submission deadlines had passed, and I never got anything accepted.

It didn't matter, really, because it wasn't about being published, it was just about the writing. I always figured the publishing part would come later.

It didn't.

The reason it didn't is because I never invested the time to try. Once the internet arrived, different websites and magazines popped up requesting writing, and sometimes I'd shoot off a short story or two. But mostly, I didn't.

They all wanted the submissions formatted a certain way, they wanted cover letters and summaries. I didn't have time for that. I had more stories to write.

I found about National Novel Writing Month, and I started writing a novel each year. I posted almost daily (sometimes 2 or 3 times a day) on The Strangelands.

I sat down every night and wrote. It wasn't an option. If I went too long without writing, I got surly, I got stressed, I'd start feeling wrong with the world. A couple hours writing about a fat guy who was forced to be a super hero, or some horror story with a twist ending, and I'd be back right.

It didn't slow down, really, It just stopped. I started watching Netflix instead of sitting at my computer, and I started letting other things become more important.

I think about it a lot, about why I stopped writing. About how something that was once so integral is now an afterthought, at best. I think some of it is because I got older. When you're young, it's easy, because you feel like you know everything. Or, if not everything, at least enough about the world to be confident in your statements, in your feelings.

Life has taught me some tough lessons in the last decade, and it's a pretty big understatement to say that my confidence isn't what it once was. I don't feel comfortable revealing things the way I once was, about my life, about my thoughts.

Because what I realize now is that I will look back someday, and I will see that I'm wrong. And if I put that stuff out there, everyone else will see that I'm wrong, too.

There's more to it than that, obviously, but I think it's a major part. I also just don't have the ideas as much as I used to.

Back then, I saw stories everywhere I looked, and I'd read things by famous authors talking about how the well isn't as full as it used to be, and I'd think to myself, That will never happen to me. I didn't even know how you could go on living, once you'd lost that spark.

And now I know. The world isn't as colorful as it once was, there isn't magic and adventure hiding behind every tree or building. But it's still there. The well hasn't dried up, it just isn't as full as it used to be.

I made a deal with myself recently. I'm going to get back into this writing thing. I'm not doing it half-assed, either. This isn't a post like so many I've peppered this site with, explaining how I'd really like to start writing again.

This is a promise I made to myself. I'm going to commit to writing, not just try to do it when I have time. I'm going to make time. And I'm going to give it a chance. The details of the deal aren't important, but it boils down to this: I'm going to make an attempt to be a writer once more. If it doesn't work out, I throw in the towel.

Because it's too painful to drag on; like breaking up with someone but still seeing them every day. I look at my shelves of old notebooks and I miss who I was. My scattered notes of partial story ideas litter my office, but never become anything more than trash.

I'm hoping to change that. I'm going to change that. I don't know if the change will take, but at least I will know I tried.



Posted under The News on 11-18-16


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