When I finished grad school, my cousin Liz gave me a copy of The Creative Habit by choreographer and dancer, Twyla Tharp. I think the title says it all. About five years passed between reading the book and starting my novel, but that notion of ‘habit’ and its correlation to success, however one defines it, stuck with me.
I recently finished a writing workshop with five other junior writers. I got to meet a fantastic bunch of people, read a diverse collection of short fiction and talk about one of my favourite things – writing. Just before we parted ways for the last time, one of my colleagues posed a question to the rest of us: ‘how often does everyone write’? I was surprised to hear two people confess they didn’t very often; that they come to their work in fits and starts. That they hadn’t carved out time in their day specifically dedicated to the work that I know they are so passionate about.
I shared my daily routine with my fellow junior writers. At this point, it would just feel wrong if I didn’t drag myself out of bed at six a.m., sit at my desk, light my vanilla scented candle, turn on music and open my computer first thing in the morning. On those rare occasions that I can’t practice my little ritual, it feels strange. Like I’ve missed a beat somehow, or a breath.
Sometimes, though, I do ask myself: Why are you doing this?
Realistically, I don’t have a publishing contract or even an agent who wants to help me find one! I don’t know if in the end, I can attract even one of those dearly coveted things to this project, to my wacky little vision. Yet, day in and day out, I sit at my desk and tell myself this silly story that I have come to love very deeply.
A few years ago, I joined Twitter so I could build a following and excitement around my project. Mostly, I re-tweet stuff other people have posted – a mishmash of themes in my novel: Star Wars, Canadian music, HIV and Aboriginal issues, to name a few. This year, I started the blog you’re reading now. I’ve even made business cards advertising it; they read: Bottom Cup Reflections: A blog about a novel.
So, on some level, I must either believe in what I’m doing, or be crazy. More than likely, it’s a little bit of both.
Friends tell me my efforts will be rewarded. “You can’t put this much work into it and not get published,” is what they say. But I don’t know if I truly believe this. Sure, I’ve put heart and soul into writing a novel, but so do LOTS of people. Right? Only a small handful of writers get to walk into a bookstore and see their name on a book jacket sitting next to their favourite authors.
Do I think I have a good story in the pages that I’ve drafted? Sure. This story has kept me well entertained for the past three or more years … there’s got to be something to it, right?
And so I keep at it. But why?
I guess, ultimately, I just want to put something ‘good’ out there. I want to make people laugh. I want to entertain. But I want to offer up something that makes people think too. I want to show the wonderful weirdness that I see all around me everyday. I want to share some of the things I’ve experienced or thought about and make up even cooler things that I haven’t.
I want to write a Canadian novel that isn’t bleak and depressing. Where the female protagonist hasn’t obligatorily been raped or maimed or abused in some way. But she’s still strong and overcomes things that matter all the same.
I want to write about some of my favourite things: Star Wars, music, Tofino and the Canadian North. I want to write a road trip that isn’t set in the US. I want to write a novel that allows readers to look at this place we live in and celebrate the beauty we are so blessed to have at our doorstep. Yes, we’ve had our share of horrible eras (most recently the ‘Harper Government’), of polices and practices that, in my mind at least, go against the grain of everything the word ‘Canada’ symbolizes – colonization anyone? I want to offer something that speaks to those things, but in a subtle and positive light. I guess when it comes right down to it -I want to share a vision of the world I wish we lived in. I guess, dare I say it, I’m hoping against hope for “sunny ways” too.
Regardless of whether I one day come to see my name on a book jacket, there’s something that happens when I sit down at my desk … some little thing in the pages I am crafting and drafting that surprises and delights me still. A whisper from somewhere deep inside to keep going, to keep writing …