Thursday, January 21, 2010
When did I truly give a rat’s hind-end about writing? I always played around with it as a kid and valued it as self-expression as I got older. Poems, as they must universally be, were born out of junior high angst, but I kept writing them through high school and college. I won both the short story and poetry divisions of my high school’s “literary” contest. Yet my contributions to my college fiction-writing class were nothing short of horrible dreck. I had better luck in Arthurian legend class when the assignment was to write our own additions to the lore. In grad school the writing was purely technical and resulted in an award/publication for a research project, but by that time, I had pretty much put all creative writing aside.
My “outlet” consisted of annually updating a list of contact info for friends from college and providing commentary with the newsy section of who moved, got married, had babies, finished grad school, changed jobs, etc. There were also some very dark years, going through infertility, and then the anxiety of the adoption journey, during which I recorded every mood swing, spiritual crisis, and philosophical notion. Eventually I hope to return to these and fashion some sort of books that will be helpful to others going through these experiences. Honesty will be painful.
I found actual stories again while working as a school social worker. I was running groups for new students and didn’t like the material available for the 2nd and 3rd graders. What could I do but quickly write my own story about a girl who moves to a new house and attends a new school? The kids liked it and related to things the main character did and felt. Strangely, instead of tossing it aside after it had served its purpose, I pulled it out later that night and played with it some more. Ideas started coming, and I started keeping track of them. Characters in a much much longer story, either YA or adult, started talking to me. They talked a lot. I finally started typing what they were saying--outlines for the whole epic plot, entire scenes of dialogue, possible names, topics I would have to research. 70-plus pages of such stuff. I became truly inspired by friends I’d had since high school who were musicians, artists, photographers, actors--some of whom even dared to have no “regular” jobs!
That’s when it happened. The great non-backed-up hard drive crash of June 2008. As much as you can grieve for a non-living thing, that's how much I grieved. The hard drive sustained damage of certain permanence. The music I could transfer back from my ipod, and thankfully most of the pictures I lost had also been stored “off-site.” But my writing? All those pages and pages of writing and ideas that had been backed-up only in my brain? Those were utterly and completely gone. I realized how much it hurt that they were gone, how much I cared about trying to write.
The rebuilt laptop sat, now next to the back-up drive and thumb drive, and silently taunted me for three months before I finally took a weekend and re-created everything out of my head as best I could. I even added more. During that time I had attended three or four children’s authors’ workshops. The next year I completed two critique courses and several beginning drafts, digested others’ ideas, and generated my own. It’s hard to hone in on WHAT I want to write sometimes--children’s books that are about issues they may be facing, children’s books that are just plain fun, YA or adult themes, horror (inspired by the people who live next door to me; spoiler: the villains will get their due), personal-memoir type books about specific experiences, nonfiction books about extraordinary things that happen in people’s lives. Soon it will also be hard to hone in on WHEN I will ever be able to write much--besides being the parent of a very active 4-year-old, I am expecting twins this spring. I fear the excitement of writing will be on hold indefinitely, but I hope life will provide even more inspiration in the meantime. Can I be the deux ex machina of my own life?
“The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.”--Almost Famous. My name is Trager. I am hopelessy uncool and, clearly, an over-sharer.