Writing used to be serious business for me. When I was eleven years old, I wrote so much and so often that I developed symptoms of carpal tunnel. My late step-father took me to a doctor when I began complaining of severe cramping in my right hand. The doc told me to lay off the pen.
Walking to the car after hearing the doctor's prescription, I was scowling. My late step-dad, the only adult who took me seriously at the time (and for that I will always be grateful to him), asked, "Are you working on anything right now?"
"Yes," I replied, me eyes filling up. "Only my novel!"
Right. I had written nearly 60 pages of my first novel in a black and white marble notebook. It was entitled The Way She Fell, and it was the story of seventeen year old Faye, whose sister, Mariah, had fallen to her unfortunate demise from a rooftop during her sixteenth birthday pool party. I know I described the doomed birthday bash via flashback, and then followed Faye as she realized her sister's death was no accident and attempted to solve the crime. As of today, my not-at-all-cliched teen novel (Mariah was the gorgeous, popular attention-hog; Faye was beautiful yet brainy) is still unfinished, as I never did figure out who did it, and why. Shame, because it sounds delightful, doesn't it?
Though I put that "project" to the side, I continued to write throughout elementary school. In the eighth grade, I penned a short story, "Snow." I told the story of Tony and Laura, ill-fated lovers who meet, fall in love, move in together, and then one day, Tony decides to tell Laura he is dying. With AIDS. Somehow I think that would have come up before cohabitating, but when you are thirteen, the small details can escape you. Still, I won an award for the piece from a young writer's conference. It remains my only award for short fiction.
I loved to create characters and recount terribly dramatic tales. But of course, when it's time for high school, short-story writing becomes frivilous. Priorities shift. Reading for pleasure becomes a thing of the past. Friendships are formed, beers are guzzled, college apps are completed, prom gowns are purchased.
Most successful writers will tell you in order to write well, you need to read a lot, write a lot, and most importantly, get a life. I find that most eschew writing classes, or MFAs, in exchange for travel, various jobs, bad relationships; in other words, life experience.
Now I've not experienced everything, but I've lived through a lot. Perhaps I could write a more convincing story of a man living with AIDS in New York having met such a man, and having lived in New York. Right?
I must then be suffering from an acute case of writer's block. Stephen King, in his fabulous treatise On Writing, advises me to turn off the television, find a special writing spot, and then, you know, actually write. Oh Steve, if only it were that easy. Just one more episode of What Not to Wear, and I'm turning off the tube, laying off the Pinot, and getting serious about this. I have ideas you know. Now, to put them to paper.