I surprised myself yesterday when I realized Iâ€™ve written two books. Thatâ€™s not, like, a lot of books. Itâ€™s a very small number of books, in fact. It is more than one, which is its distinguishing characteristic, but itâ€™s a lot less than, say, fifteen.
But two books feels like a respectable number of books to have written. Manuscripts to have finished. I sat down, and on two separate occasions, plus a lot of bonus occasions for editing, I sweated through several hundred thousand words. Sometimes I wonder why my hands ache and my forearms are tight and I get this pain in my wrist, but thatâ€™s only because I am very forgetful and even not so bright, sometimes.
Two books is huge, though, considering the fact that even though I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid (I have this whole story about discovering that books were written by regular people and that I, too, could be one of those regular people and how it was a magical discovery that changed my whole life, blah blah blah) but I never wrote a word when I was a kid. Maybe a couple of words. Maybe a page or two. I was not one of those kids who was always scribbling, who wrote forty-three books in crayon and stapled them together and kept them in a trunk.
I wrote a soap opera for some friends when I was in high school. I think about two pages of a story to impress a boy at some point. In college, I wrote creative essays and some poems. After college, I wrote about a chapter of something I was calling a novel except it was really a lie because all I ever wrote was that chapter but I kept revising it and making people read it. I started to do a thing called Online Journaling that everyone calls blogging now, and that was my major creative outlet. Wait, creative should be in quotes. â€œCreativeâ€ outlet. There we go.
For whatever reason, I had this conviction that I was a writer and that I wanted to write when I grew up and that I was really totally great at writing, but somehow I never managed to write a single goddamn thing. And yet I applied to graduate school to get an MFA in creative writing and they let me inâ€”on the basis, if I recall, of that single awful chapter of that pretend novel I was pretending I was writing.
In school, in my very first graduate course, I wrote a truly terrible not-memoir, which was basically me rehashing all the online journal postsâ€”blog postsâ€”I had been writing about moving to San Francisco to go to grad school. It did not have a beginning or an ending but I decided to call the first page the beginning and the last page the ending and hope no one noticed. It was called â€œtectonicâ€ because that was a pun. Then I wrote a short story and it was a miracle! Because I started something and finished it and it wasâ€”bad. It was pretty bad. (Every once in awhile I pull it up to try to revise it and then I laugh a lot and put it away again.)
Then more stories. And I finished them! And I got one published! And I cried! And I thought, holy wow, maybe I am a writer! Check this shit out, yo! However: I didnâ€™t write unless I had an assignment. And having to write a thesis-slash-novel almost killed me. I wrote the same chapter over and over and my long-fiction workshop professor kind of hated me and then hated me more while he summer-advised me during which I gave him the same chapters over and over again and then I threw my hands in the air and ran away crying and dropped out of school. But I came back. And I took another long-fiction workshop and then another and somehow, I wrote that thesis, and when I sat back and looked at it, I realized I had written a book. A book!
It wasnâ€™t (still isnâ€™t) a good book. But I wrote it. And then I didnâ€™t write anything again for about four years, I think, except an occasional online journal entry (blog), and then a blog about weight loss surgery.
Then, I wrote a book about weight loss surgery. It took three years to write that fucking thing and I cried a lot during it because it is hard to be honest about how awful you can be and the horrible mistakes youâ€™ve made. And in the end, I wrote a good book. I know itâ€™s good. Itâ€™s honest and itâ€™s the best I could do to say important things about body image and weight and the psychology of fat. I am proud of that book.
And maybe thatâ€™s what broke me. Because Iâ€™m writing again. That eleven thousand words is now about 16,000 more words on the young adult novel Iâ€™ve been writing and itâ€™s almost finished, I think, close to it anyway, and Iâ€™ve written four more short-short stories and there is a feeling inside me that is very akin to happiness and satisfaction or maybe even joy. I can call it joy, I think. Iâ€™m going to go ahead and do that.
Two books, a lot of little stories. I havenâ€™t written much for how old I am and how long Iâ€™ve thought about writing, but feel like maybe I really am one of those regular people, the kind who make books.