About four years ago, I started writing a romance story by accident. It began with a scene in my head that I kept developing until it became a draft about 100 pages long. In fact, I called the file on my computer “the scene in my head” because I didn’t know what I wanted to call it. I spent hours each day working on it. I dreamed about the characters and the story. I researched drugs, gunshot wounds and police protocol. I cared about these fake people I’d created. And then I just stopped writing.
It wasn’t a purposeful decision to stop. I read and re-read the parts I loved, like I would when reading a favorite book. But my story was never a complete draft. It had holes I didn’t know how to fill and when I tried filling those holes I didn’t like my story anymore. What would I do with the draft anyway? I didn’t even let my husband read it, except for when I had questions about cars and needed his input on a scene. (He only got to read that part.) And really, the premise was pure cheesy romance. Who, besides me, likes cheesy romance novels these days? My characters weren’t believable and I was just a mediocre writer. So I got discouraged and believed all the negative critics in my head. And I gave up.
Writing resources always say that it’s best to put a piece away for a time, even if you’re satisfied with it, to read it with renewed perspective. I thought if I did that, I could return to the draft and re-write it and complete it someday. I put it all in a binder, along with my research notes, my scribbled up notebooks and my books about writing and stuck it all in a box. I unsubscribed to all those writing websites. It felt like it was what I needed to do. There were bills to pay, a house to clean and my family that needed my attention. The box got shelved out of sight where I wouldn’t see it and be reminded of my silly attempt to write a novel.
I had failed.
But I didn’t forget about the box or my story, especially the characters. I’d see an actor on television and think of how he reminded me of one of my characters. Or I’d read a romance novel and think how my story had a premise just as good. Even with the job and the house and the responsibilities, I found a way to fit writing back into my life. I started remembering how good it feels when the words just flow onto the pages by themselves. How I love words and grammar and when a paragraph turns out just the way I want it to sound. Last week I found the box and I had the nerve to open it. And for the first time in four years I thought about taking out that story and looking at it with those fresh eyes I should have by now.
In the short time I’ve been blogging I’ve learned something. What I post might only get read by two other human beings besides me, but I’m a happier person for having written it. My brain works better when I have a creative outlet. In the case of the draft of my romance story, it’s not all about success or failure with writing; it is the process, and I genuinely love it, even those times when I think I don’t. Do I like having an audience for my writing? Of course. But while I enjoy when other people like what I write, I need to remember that it’s the actual writing part that makes me a “writer”. Not how well it’s received or by whom.
Will I ever finish this story of unrequited love that now sits in the box in my office? I’m still not convinced. But I now think it might be time to dust off the binder and at least take another look and decide. It’s time to take my writing out of the box and back onto the computer.