I think I might have a novel inside of me. It feels like it is pushing its way out. Maybe that sounds strange? I can think of no other way to describe it, though. It’s an idea that has been dawning on me slowly; something long latent within me that is doggedly swelling outward. I’ve dismissed it, laughed at it, scorned it, but still it persists.
Two months ago while I was cleaning up dinner the opening lines of a book came to mind. Just like that. I was pushing in a chair at our table and there they were. To whom the lines might belong, I hadn’t a clue. I could conceive nothing of it beyond that opening notion.
But then, two nights later, while on a car ride, there she was. A girl. Maybe 8, 9, 10, I wasn’t sure. But I could see her vividly. I remember reading somewhere that Harry Potter walked into J.K. Rowling’s mind fully formed one day while she rode the train. I always baffled at that. How does that happen? I mean, really?
I honestly haven’t a clue how to go about writing a novel. I’ve never written a work of fiction in my life, save the odd school assignment, I suppose. It’s just never been my thing. I fancy myself more of an Anne Lamott (indulge me, ok?) than a J.K. Rowling.
But something about my writing lately has felt overwhelming and I feel compelled to change my pace a little. When you write a blog and connect it to social media, there is an urgency attached. How many “likes” and “retweets” will this one get? How many hits? How many shares? Maybe this will be the one. Part of me wants to pull back from that pressure to write something edgy and current that can make the rounds on social media and catapult me to the pinnacle. The pinnacle of what, I wonder? And what then? Maybe there is a place for me somewhere else? Could there be a home for me in fiction?
I’m not walking away from my other writing. I couldn’t. But this feeling presses in and I’d like to explore it. I so enjoy a well-written story, though, that I feel frightened; full of dread at the thought of writing something that is sure to be sub-par. The name Zadie Smith or Olive Ann Burns comes to mind and makes me want to run for the hills.
Annie Dillard says that putting a book together is life at its most free. So after hedging and visioning and building a scaffolding in my mind over the past two months, I wrote the opening pages of my first book this week. So far I have to say the jury is still out on that “life at its most free” thing but I’ll keep ya posted.