To those who say the hardest part of writing a novel is the beginning, I have always smiled and shaken my head. For me, the beginning was never daunting. I never started there. That first word was unimportant because it would come in its own time as other elements of the story unfolded in broken fragments both in my mind and on the page. The first word is as concrete as water; it can always be changed. For me, the hardest part of writing a novel is the stitching of all those vignettes.
To sit down and begin this blog . . . I now understand the struggle of authors who mull over the first word. I have yielded too many times to that anti-muse called Procrastination while I sifted through ideas like ghosts I could hear but couldn’t touch. This is not a novel. I can’t start in the middle and sew a beginning into place later. This time, I must commit to my first words.
I pondered for many hours about how to start this. I wrote my first novella in 2005, my first fantasy novel a year later, and that seemed like a good place to begin my story of a young, aspiring author on the road to publication. And yet, that beginning is not clear cut. I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to daydream a wild tale about a girl and her horse and then spend months typing away on the computer after school. Before that first story, writing was a career that had never crossed my mind. I spent my final year of high school trying (and failing) to publish my novel, then dedicated more time to a new series in college than I did my schoolwork.
None of that is what I want to talk about because it is a hazy beginning unworthy of claiming the position of my first blog post. I envision my dream future as a snowy mountain gleaming against a cerulean sky; I am on a winding cobblestone road in the middle of the woods. At times, I can glimpse my mountain through the trees. I have taken forks that seemed right at first but then veered away from my destination. I have been so lost in the heart of the forest that I lost sight of the snowy peaks. And once, I scrambled up onto the lowest plateau of my mountain, only to be flung back into the trees where I laid in misery licking my wounds before I crawled to my knees and stood up again, then turned in slow circles, completely lost.
I am my own greatest adversary. There will always be a whispering voice in the back of my mind questioning my ability to succeed. But something has changed recently. I think of it as a new beginning, and that is where I want to start.
I am not a writer. I wrote my novella in eighth grade, my first novel as a high school freshman, but I am not a writer. I completed another novel as a junior in college with thirteen other works in progress while I was also developing my own languages and ciphers, but I am not a writer. I graduated from college with a minor in creative writing. But I am not a writer because I am not published.
This is been my mindset for too many years, and it is not exclusive to writing. Last year, I took a trip with my cousin to watch the sandhill cranes gather on their migration route. My camera is a DSLR Pentax K-30, not too fancy, but dependable. I was snapping hundreds of shots, and a man introduced himself to me and asked if I was a professional. Now, my photography portfolio at the time included three weddings, two senior portraits, and a family portrait, not to mention an old website, plus a current Facebook page with plenty of wildlife and landscape shots. And yet, I told the man no, I was not a professional (as I handed him a business card for Sara A. Noë Photography). After we walked away, my cousin asked me why I answered no. “You get paid for your photography when you do weddings, don’t you?” she asked. She was right. I’d even turned jobs down. So, why was I unable to admit to myself that I was a professional? Again, we go back to authentication, or at least the self’s value of worth. My photography was never published. I didn’t have the expensive equipment — just one lens, not even a flash attachment. Therefore, I could not call myself a professional photographer because my work had not been recognized in a way I found sufficient to claim the title.
Here is my question: why do we have to authenticate ourselves before we can see ourselves as who we are and who we want to be? To write multiple novels (I’ve already dedicated years of time to them) but not call oneself a writer simply because that novel still lives in a computer and not a book is unfair. I have been lingering in the middle of the road because I couldn’t find the self-confidence to lift my head high and proclaim what I am.
This is my second beginning, or perhaps more of an awakening. It’s time to let the effort and dedication define who I am, not the authentication. I am a writer. If I don’t believe that, nobody else ever will. I’m taking a step forward. Let’s see where the journey takes us from here.