Ever since I was little I wanted to be a novelist.
Knowing this, my Dad would let me borrow his laptop on the weekends when he was home from work so I could write about an Aztec called Fred who bought slaves with coco beans and carried them around in his slave bag (we were learning about the Aztecs at school). I’d then whip out my floppy-disk and save this new story alongside my expanding collection.
I was convinced that writing novels was the only option for me. I started writing fanfiction (mostly of the Harry Potter variety) when I was twelve and to my mind writing two thousand word one-shots about Ron and Hermione meeting as children then falling in love and Neville and Luna sitting on benches bonding over their fractured families was a BIG DEAL. Coupled with some nice reviews, it clearly meant I was destined to become the new J. K. Rowling and earn squillions of pounds so I could finally buy myself a Beanie Baby.
Of course, things didn’t quite work out like that. I went to University, studying a joint degree in Creative Writing and English, and earned exactly zero squillion pounds.
And while I was there, I realised something. I love writing stories. But like that awful moment in a rom-com when the guy the girl desperately likes (before she realises that her real love is her best friend/neighbour/the geeky guy who has always loved her) sits her down and explains he loves her but just isn’t in love with her, I’m not in love with it.
Oh, I love beginning a piece with the sun shining through the window then looking up what seems only ten minutes later to find the sky black and my room dark. I love getting so engrossed, so lost in a piece that time seems to fade away. But something switched, or clicked into place, when I began to properly study creative writing.
I realised that I would never, could never, be a serious author.
I may write bits and pieces here and there, maybe even the beginnings or the very end of a novel and and I’m enjoying writing this blog, but that will be it. There will be no Man Booker prize sitting above my fireplace, no Pulitzer Prize for Fiction stamp adorning my book covers and certainly no Nobel Prize in Literature medallion presented to me.
Honestly? I’m not talented enough. But also, I don’t have the dedication.
There are things I feel passionate about and would fight and fight and fight for. I want to help improve understanding of eating disorders and how they effect both the sufferer and their family. I want to help people break free from crippling low self-esteem and low self-worth. I want to understand a person’s deepest desires and motivations to help them to happiness.
But I don’t want to spend hours of every day writing and re-writing and editing and re-editing. I don’t have the stamina.
I also have a problem. A problem with plot. I find it hard, incredibly hard, to think up a plot. I can imagine my characters. I know their pasts. I know how they will develop and change and who they will eventually become. I know the words they would write on a postcard and send to Postsecret. I know who they are. But there is one thing I don’t know: what will happen to them?
I can never answer this question.
One of my University modules was Prose Portfolio – in which we had to write a four thousand five hundred word short story or part of a novel. I spent a good part of the year trying desperately to think of a plot for my story. I could place characters in a scene and have them interact. But from there, nothing.
I started one piece about a young woman named Emily who meets Jack, her first love and estranged husband in a café to ask him for a divorce. I revealed that both Emily and Jack were in their early twenties, they had married young, and had Jack reminisce about old times and Emily notice the changes (for the better) in his manner. But once Emily had dropped her bomb, the demand for divorce, I had no idea what would happen next.
And so her and Jack stayed in that static space for ever. Constantly sipping their coffees.
This happens every time.
And I don’t think it’s writer’s block or that these particular characters just won’t make a story. I think it’s because, honestly, I don’t care what it is that happens to them, just that something does. I already know who they will grow to be so why does it matter what precession of events they go through in order to get there? This apathy makes it incredibly hard to even think of possible plot points, never mind write them.
So, unwillingly, half in denial, I knew I would never be a novelist.
But it was hard dealing with this realisation. After all, it was all I’d thought I could be. What would I be instead? What could I be instead? Well, I’m still figuring that out. But the list of possible options is getting smaller and I’m finally starting to breathe when I think of what the future will bring.
I may never be a novelist, but I will be something.