When I finally plucked up the courage to tell people that I’d written a novel, after the initial shock had worn off, everyone asked the same question – How do you find the time?
This is probably the question I’d ask me too. After all, I have a demanding job and a young family. Between endless meetings, trips to the supermarket, school plays, and a bottomless laundry basket, how did I find the time to squeeze in a novel?
The answer to this question is an easy one – I find the time because I want to. This response has been met with a varied range of follow up questions, such as;
Don’t you feel guilty spending all that time writing?
Don’t you get bored?
Do you write on a typewriter like Jessica Fletcher? (who, by the way, is one of my heroes)
But the one question that’s been asked most often is – when do you get any free time? I suppose, like lots of people, I get very little free time. But writing is definitely me time. Quite simply, I love to write.
Putting pen to paper, or in more recent years, fingertips to keyboard, is cathartic for me. I can escape into a reality of my own creation. I can create characters and events that belong entirely to me. I can become anyone I want to be on those blank pages – a heroine or a hero. An angel or a devil. I am all powerful. Nothing happens without my say so. My characters can’t exist without me. People live and die at the stroke of a key. I can choose the world I live in. I can avenge the fallen hero, even bring the dead back to life if I so choose. That is a very powerful place to be.
I suppose I’ve always used writing as a form of escapism. As an angst ridden teen, I would sit in my bedroom pouring my broken heart onto the pages of a notebook . In those days my broken heart could be mended by an anthology of poems. Writing made painful experiences full of meaning. Even now, when I occasionally re-read those old poems, I’m transported back to my teenage bedroom, feeling those emotions as keenly as I did then. If I wasn’t writing poems about love I was writing about changing the world, inspired by my love of Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi. For me, their words are pieces of a time that will never be forgotten. To have a voice, a message, and to be able to share that with others is one of the most powerful things in the world. There is no greater power than words. They can create and they can destroy.
So, when I recently found myself lost, adrift in a sea of condolences and sympathy, it should have been no surprise to me that I turned to writing again. But my old friend and confidante had been forgotten. Left in the bottom of a wardrobe gathering dust. A childish dream which had no place in my responsible adult life. How relieved I was to find that when I called once more on my faithful companion, she was there waiting for me, ready to let me pour my heart out again in whatever way I needed to. Like an old comfortable pair of high heels. While at first I tottered unsteadily, stumbling over grammar and my chronic overuse of a comma, now I stride confidently forward – still stumbling occasionally, but holding my own in this new world where I get to make all the rules.
A true piece of writing is a dangerous thing. It can change your life – Tobias Wolff