Once upon a time, I tried to write a novel. For class credit. I got 60 pages in before my computer ate it. Every single word, all 20,000 of them, were wiped away with the rest of my hard drive just two weeks before the end of my junior year of college.
My attempts to rewrite the damn thing were feeble at best. I pretty much bombed the class from there on out. My professor tried to be understanding; it was completely outside of our control, sort of like a natural disaster – a tornado had hit my hard drive, destroying everything in its path, including the only draft of my novel. No, I had never even bothered to print it.
But I think he and I both knew the unspoken issue that kept me from a better grade.
I didn’t want to rewrite it.
Oh, I cried and bit off all my finger nails over whether I would earn the credit for the class and graduate on time.
But secretly, I was relieved.
Secretly, I had hated all sixty pages.
Even though my prof had diligently met with me and talked me through the process of writing fiction and the importance of story arch and character development and setting and the whole shebang, my nugget of an idea about the story and every word I wrote slowly soured in my mind and began to feel wrong all wrong what the hell am I doing this sucks its all completely WRONG, as though my vision for the story was a piece of fruit that rotted away over the course of the semester. Possibly, my demon laptop sensed how terrible this was and mercifully decided to execute it so that I wouldn’t have to.
I rewrote the bits and pieces I remembered, and I still have that on an external hard-drive. Sometimes when I am looking for another stored file, I wander into that folder and take a peek, wondering if this rotting piece of fiction has fermented into something fabulous, like a good bottle of Merlot. But no, still terrible awful no good very bad fiction. The kind that I hope no one ever finds in the event of my death.
So why do I keep it?
Maybe to remind myself :
Once upon a time, I did manage to spend a semester writing fiction.
Be humble. Failure is just as important as success.
Be vulnerable. My real failure was in my unwillingness to let myself be vulnerable enough to write even the crappiest first draft of a manuscript. I became afraid of my own ideas, of the clumsiness of learning to write fiction.
Buy an external hard drive. And don’t forget to “⌘ + S”.
I don’t know that I’ll ever be a fiction writer. I still wonder if I have the imagination for it, or the patience, or the vulnerability. But I write this as an admission of my fear. Maybe someday I won’t be afraid of fiction anymore.
So tell me : what are you afraid of?