I used to go to bars and while the band was playing, the singer singing, I’d think, “I could do that. Why aren’t I doing that? I could do that.”
And so I did that.
Today, after trying to write a freaking novel–just finish one damn novel–for the better part of the last 3.5 years, I went to a book reading by an author who had already finished her novel. In fact, she’d finished more than one novel. She was articulate and intelligent, charming and well-spoken. As she sat in her stool on the little stage, answering question after question as graciously as possible, even when one idiot in the back asked her, “Why should we learn about math? Math is stupid and we’re just here to have fun and it’s idiotic to have to learn about it?” I thought…
“I could not do this.”
Right now, my friend Emma, who lives across the pond and is my biggest writing cheerleader in the world, is reading this thinking, “BECCA YOU CAN DO THIS!” and maybe cussing at me a little bit. She was the one who saw the advertisement for this event (yes, from the UK, someone this event landed in her orbit before mine) and sent me a message, “This anywhere close to you?”
I will fully admit that part of the reason I even went to this event was out of a small amount of guilt I knew I’d feel if I didn’t go and she asked me, “So. Did you go?!?”
Also, the fact that someone across the globe saw this event, thought of me, my geography, and sent it to me was maybe something I considered a sign. Add in the fact that it was being moderated by a literary magazine I’ve been stalking (and am currently submitting stories to) and yeah, I figured maybe the universe wanted me to go.
But maybe the universe has the wrong girl. I don’t have a fellowship from some fancy school. I can’t take six months off to travel around a foreign country for “research.” I don’t have three hours a day to devote completely to my writing in a room I can consider my office. I have two kids, a full-time job, a husband, and a band (because, if you remember the first part of this… I really DID DO THAT).
Towards the end of the Q&A session, someone asked, “So how long did it take you to write this book?”
The author laughed. Said she hated this question. “It took a long time, people never like my answer. I’m slow.”
I rolled my eyes. My idea of slow is nothing like anyone else’s idea of slow. I thought to myself, “She’s going to say it took her 18 months, or at most, 2 years, and I’m going to puke. Right here in this conference room, I’m going to puke all over myself. Or maybe I’ll just burst into tears and run out of here like a crazy person.”
She said, “It took me five years. I started a first draft, finished it with the main character being totally different. And after I finished it, I had to start all the way over and change everything.”
I bought the damn book and waited in line for her to sign it.
When I got up to her I said, “I’m really glad you said it took five years to finish this. I thought you were going to say something like two years and I was going to cry.”
She laughed. “Are you a writer?”
“It definitely takes longer. Especially if you have other things going on?”
“Like two kids and a full-time job and a husband?”
“Yeah, like that. Who should I make this out to?”
I told her my name. She started writing.
“One of my friends took ten years to write her last book,” she said.
“Donna Tartt only writes a book a decade, I think.”
She smiled and handed me back my book. “Exactly. It takes time.”
I thanked her. Waited til I got out to the car to open it up and see what she wrote.
Good luck with your novel – take your time!
Okay, okay EMMA.
Maybe I can do that.