I surprised myself yesterday when I realized I’ve written two books. That’s not, like, a lot of books. It’s a very small number of books, in fact. It is more than one, which is its distinguishing characteristic, but it’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 that’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. “Creative” 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 in—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 posts—blog posts—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 “tectonic” 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 was—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 didn’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 wasn’t (still isn’t) a good book. But I wrote it. And then I didn’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 you’ve made. And in the end, I wrote a good book. I know it’s good. It’s honest and it’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 that’s what broke me. Because I’m writing again. That eleven thousand words is now about 16,000 more words on the young adult novel I’ve been writing and it’s almost finished, I think, close to it anyway, and I’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. I’m going to go ahead and do that.
Two books, a lot of little stories. I haven’t written much for how old I am and how long I’ve thought about writing, but feel like maybe I really am one of those regular people, the kind who make books.