There were other factors involved, like a job I couldn’t picture myself doing forever, my maternity leave looming like a last chance saloon: three months to write my book. Three months or bust. Throughout those months of gestation mayhem, I read. And read, and read. I soaked it up, returned to my old love of romantic fiction, re-reading old classics and discovering new favorites; becoming obsessed with some pretty incredible authors and horrified by shit that I just couldn’t finish. Sometimes the shit gave me hope, because if they could do it, why the hell couldn’t I?
And I had a natural deadline: three months after the birth of my child, I had to go back to work. The only issue was that I’d never written that much in my life, was convinced that I couldn’t. Grad School? I’d love to, but no way, I’d have to write a thesis for that! I’d have to finish it. But that deadline, those three months… they just sat there, waiting for me, letting me know that this might very well be my last chance. Ever.
And then it arrived. Or rather, she did: a busy, brassy, beautiful little girl. And I wrote, with her attached to my breast or strapped to my chest. Honestly, it was crap, but I wrote it and I finished it: a filthy-ish novella, set in a small town in Virginia. I never really revised it, but I finished it. It had an end, dammit. Not a good one, but an end.
And I, in the meantime, had begun the long process of learning how to write.
I say begun because I’m only partway through it now and I suspect that I’ll be finished learning when I die. But I got it. I truly understood the drive and dedication that it takes to make that book happen. Plotting? Sure, I can power through. Character? Yeah, I’m getting there. But the best thing I learned was that writing is truly amazing. Once you get your groove, it’s the most magical thing in the world. Here I’d gone and tried being an actress, when all along the voices in my head weren’t interpreting things! No, they were telling me to write the shit down!
So I wrote for real and, with the help of my poor, clueless, wonderful best girlfriends in the world, I made it to the end of a novel. Oh, you girls deserve so, so many vodkas for the hours you listened to me plot and fret and doubt myself. But, with your help, I did it: I made one. A real, honest, whole book. And, with the help of those same amazing friends, I worked on it until it became something close to what it is today. After that, the isolation of working nights and weekends by myself got to be too much and I sought out other lonely writers, who’ve also become friends and today, life is so full and writing has become such a lifesaver and I can’t, for one single moment, take credit for everything that has happened.
Today, my daughter earned a fake tattoo by taking her first poop in the potty and I'm still woozy from signing a book contract, hard at work on my third full-length novel. So, you amazing writers who write your own thing, who forge your own paths (filthy or not), know that you forge it for all of us. And please never stop. Friends, who listen, who critique fearlessly or roll your eyes and can’t even read the smexy bits, know that you help us get through. And you daughters, you tiny ticking time bombs, whose births gave us our last chance at personal fulfillment, well… how can we ever thank you for spurring us on?
There’s only one way I can think of. And that’s to write.