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Remembering How to Write
Hi, my name is Kelly. I don’t write anymore.
I was asked to contribute to Pub Crawl almost entirely on the depth of my industry experience. And don’t worry, most of the posts I have planned will be about the publication process. I’ve worn many hats throughout my career since starting out in 2005 typing out reader reports for a Foreign scouting agency in a pay-by-the-minute internet café in Times Square. In the ten years since then, I’ve worked at literary agencies and publishers, have begun freelancing, and will soon be teaching as well. I’m particularly passionate about empowering authors to take creative control of their work and their careers.
But I wanted my first post to be more intimate. To give you a chance to get to know me a little before I start bellowing at you about how you should always, always read your contracts. I figured I might as well tell you the truth about me, and the truth is that I don’t write anymore.
I don’t write anymore, and it makes me so sad.
I could tell you about how I used to write, all the time, since childhood. How I studied writing in college and wrote novels and short stories and scribbled notes onto every spare inch of my waitress notepad. How I was invited to read my writing at several selective literary events and joined productive and delightful critique groups and spent all my time writing, writing, writing. Until one day I just stopped.
Objectively I can come up with excuses, but really I think that what it boils down to is that I tend to self-sabotage and am very risk-averse. I started working in the publishing industry, and it’s difficult—at least, it was for me—to be on both sides of the fence at once. I moved half-way across the country and got married and had a kid and put my time and creative energy into other things. I don’t know exactly why or how I stopped writing but I know absolutely why I didn’t start again, and that’s because I was terrified.
I am still terrified. But I decided to write again, anyway.
I did not wake up in the middle of the night, feverish with a new idea, driven by a force greater than myself that compelled me to write now. I have received no visits from a muse, have not carefully cultivated a story that needs telling, have not yet figured out what it is I have to say. I just miss who I am when I am writing. I just want writing back in my life.
Writing is not like riding a bicycle. It has not just come back to me. The act of putting words to paper (or screen) used to be so simple and is now so agonizing. I have forgotten not only how to compose sentences, but how to get to know my characters, how to pace a story, how to have an idea. So many long years stretch between now and the last time I wrote fiction that all my previous years of writing count for nothing. I am not just emerging from writer’s block or coming off a dry spell. I am learning how to do this all over again. And I need help.
If you want to cheer me on you can find me on NaNoWriMo under the name bookishchick. If you have any tips, tricks, or magical spells useful for getting back to the discipline and inspiration and courage writing requires, then please share them in the comments. If anyone else has returned to writing after an unimaginable break, then I would love to hear about it. To know I’m not alone. To know it can be done.