It’s way too easy to be young and want something terribly.
Heck, it’s also easy to be old and want something terribly.
And it’s also easy to be not quite young and not quite old and still want something terribly.
More than all of that, it’s even easier not to get it.
I want to be a writer and not just an I-write-things-that-a-few-people-like writer. I want to be the real deal, the type of writer that gets things published in magazines and gets book deals and travels the country doing signings and readings.
But the chances of that happening are slim to none. More likely than not, I’ll end up working in a publishing firm, talking about markets and commercial appeal. And truth be told, I wouldn’t mind that too much. I’d still be firmly implanted in the magical world of books, but I wouldn’t be what I’ve wanted so terribly for years and years and years.
I was eight when I won my first writing contest. It was for the D.C. bookstore Politics and Prose, and I got to stand on a step stool behind a huge wooden podium and read my piece to around sixty people. I had my hair in high pigtails, tied with ribbons with tiny roses, and wore a huge corduroy jumper with even bigger rose prints. Everyone was staring at me, and I loved it. I had done something good. I had a skill. I was valuable. And the moment I glanced up after reading my first sentence, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to make up stories that would make other people love me and make me love being alive and having an imagination. Because goodness knows that the only other thing I was good at that age was bossing other people around and reading, and you couldn’t make other people like you or like yourself for doing that.
So I wrote story after story. Sometimes, I took requests from my classmates. There was the story of a girl whose mother got blinded by a tree branch. The boy who died from leukemia. A family of cats. A girl who played the violin far more beautifully than I could ever hope to.
There were other contests I won. Beginnings to novels. An attempt to write a memoir at the age of ten*. That time when I was thirteen and thought that I was going to write the greatest YA romance on the face of the earth**. The idea for the novel I’m trying to write now. Experiments with writing in the second person. Short stories. Way too many scribblings in notebooks. A terrible first draft of my current novel. The deleting of that first draft. This blog. Epic length letters and emails to friends.
So here I am at eighteen, churning out word after word of bad to mediocre writing, wanting something terribly that I probably won’t get. I know that I’m not very good. I know that my chances are so impossibly minimal. But I can’t help but want it with a hunger that eclipses my need for food or books. I’m obsessed with this idea of becoming a real member of the book world as an author. I think about it constantly. I talk to my characters in my head. It’s what I wake up to and what I go to sleep to. I read YA like the novels are textbooks. I always carry something to write with and on. I take notes on what makes writing successful. My entire life revolves around becoming an author.
But one of the biggest problems with this pipe dream–other than its unlikelihood–is that everyone seems to have it. Everyone wants to be an author, and I’m just another member of the crowd. I want to jump up and down and yell, “But I’m actually serious about this! I’m special! Believe in me! Love my work! Let me be the best! I am so much better than everyone else here!” But unfortunately, that’s not the way the world works. I am just a member of the yearning crowd, desperate for success that probably won’t come.
I wish I had some sort of conclusion for this post, some sort of moral or happy note to end on. But that just isn’t going to happen. I have to keep on truckin’, writing as much as I can, because maybe around the three, five millionth word, maybe something will click, and maybe when my fingertips touch the keyboard, something worthwhile will appear on the screen. It feels gloomy and depressing a lot of the time, but I keep at it, sometimes if only because I’m not very good at too much else.
*I don’t know what I was thinking with that one. I have about an hour of video tapped footage of me reading a section of it in which I made up a story about the horrible injustices done to me by my mother and Pippa. I read it in a very dramatic voice, and I know that at some point someone will rediscover it, and I will be horribly embarrassed.
**This particular story has since been destroyed, but involved a lot of treehouses, dramatic ultimatums, and a scene involving Medieval England. Amusingly, there was absolutely no kissing, and I believe the story ended with a triple marriage ceremony.
In other news, every time I hear a plane flying overhead more loudly than usual, I freak out and have to keep checking the news to make sure it hasn’t crashed into any buildings in the city. And then I come up with multiple escape routes from my room in case it misses and hits my house. Currently, climbing out onto the roof, lowering myself from the gutter, and dropping into the middle of a patch of flowers is my preferred alternative route.
And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.