Until very recently I didn’t realize how special it is that I held onto just about every single journal, diary, or piece of fiction I’ve ever written. When I tell people this information I get a barrage of comments.
Mostly, those comments include words like – wow, you’re lucky, I tossed all that stuff years ago, even my parents got rid of all my early writing.
I. Would. Sooner. Die.
In no way can I imagine a life where I don’t have that enormous box full of my words. Countless hours (and money on pens) spent getting it all down. All of it. Other than digitally written stuff, my life’s work is inside that box. Anything I’ve penned since I was approximately twelve years old.
(Though I’m not entirely sure of the exact start date; I didn’t always date my work back then and I frequently write different things in multiple journals at any given time.)
Now, I know some people might think I’m using this word in the wrong way, but I’m not…
Literally my life is inside that flimsy cardboard container. At least, the written equivalent of my emotional life.
Every single crush, heartache, burst of inspiration, biting witty remark, or sarcastic feeling is somewhere inside the box, noted on countless pages of numerous journals and loose scraps of paper. Written down in blue or black ink. Edited in red pen or pencil.
I care so much about that box of words that someone once asked: if I could save 3 things from a burning building what would they be? Guess what was number one?
When I lived in my very first apartment and drove around in my 1974 Buick Apollo, that box of writing traveled with me. Everywhere. Yes, I drove around town with my life contained in the trunk of my car.
People picked on me for that behavior. Incessantly I might add.
But who gets the last laugh?
Okay, in all fairness, them. Because I’m not actually laughing, just smiling.
In fact, I’m freaking stoked to still have access to all those memories. To have prioritized that box full of words for all these years.
That I still have it in my possession at all is pretty amazing. (Seriously, it could have easily been lost in my first apartment or the twenty-two other places I’ve lived since I moved out of my mom’s place. And in all honesty, 22 isn’t an exaggerated number, in fact I could have even forgotten a few. I moved around a lot. But I digress.)
My entire history, and everywhere I’ve been, the things I’ve done (or haven’t done) live in that box.
So at some point over this past summer I started re-reading all the work I’d written. At first I wasn’t entirely sure why. And to be honest, it’s not the first time I’ve done that in my life so it didn’t occur to me to care. But something happened the last time.
All of a sudden I realized just how many viable, unfinished pieces of fiction I had written over the years. And they were just sitting in a box. Collecting dust. Acting as reminders of the past mistakes I’d made (or wished I could have made). Including the greatest mistake of all.
To leave that work unpublished for so long.
I considered just how to go about publishing work I’d written back when I was fifteen years old. I’m forty-two now. In case you’re slow at math like I am, that’s twenty-seven years’ worth of memories, stories, bits of inspiration.
These days I’m working on book 3 in my Shaw McLeary Mystery Series and I know the story. Know the character. Inside and out. So it irritates me to no end that I can’t seem to get it down on the page.
But every time I want to beat myself up for taking days off in a row instead of typing, try to convince myself that I’m “slacking off” or “lazy” about my job, I have to remind myself of the most important part of my career choice:
Writing is a process, not just a talent or a creative art. Even when I’m not working, actually physically sitting down with a laptop and typing, I’m still working. Somewhere in the back of my head, characters, scenes, situations are always forming. Dialogue between people everywhere is fodder for future work. Always.
Just, sometimes, I don’t like that part. The part where it can’t entirely be forced. I want it to come out as fast as I know it, the story in its entirety. But it doesn’t always do that. In fact, it almost never does that.
Case in point: the box of writing.
Twenty-seven years is a long time in any respect. A marriage, job, owning a home. To sit on a collection of stories.
So I finally started pulling them out of hiding, transcribing, editing. I’m going to finally put them all out there. Somewhere. I don’t know if I’ll enter contests, collect a bunch and release a short story book, give them all away for free in my newsletter like I’m doing now.
The ones that spark some new feeling, or even an old one that’s re-born, are open to re-writes, edits and release. I mean, I’ve been doing this shit forever. It’s high time to let it all out of the box.
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