A Novel Idea

12 Sep

I have a secret: I’m writing a novel.

There—it’s out there. Whew. I’m uncomfortable telling you this because it sounds so ridiculous. Sure, I can play a Bach Fugue on the piano, grow exquisite flowers in my garden and bake a delectable batch of cookies. I can even write a good blog post once in a while. But write a novel? Keep dreaming, girl.

Voice of tiny person sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear:

Why in the world are you telling people that you are writing a novel? Keep your big mouth shut, you idiot. Now they’re going to expect you to finish it someday!

After all, who am I to think that after only a few years of semi-serious writing I could possibly have a novel in me? Although this past year I’ve devoted a myriad of hours developing my writing skills (well, not quite a myriad) I still have a difficult time believing that I am clever enough, captivating enough, or focused enough to actually get it done. And even if I did get it done, would anyone actually care about what I have to say?

Voice of tiny person sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear:

I’ll answer that question: Nobody cares!

Unfortunately over the years, I’ve romanticized the dream of being a writer in my head, yet I ignored the crucial part of turning this dream into a reality: I never wrote down the words. I just let them run through my mind like quiet conversations or static background noise, too afraid to listen in and take stock of their meaning and validity. Instead I suppressed the urge to create through words and focused on playing and teaching the piano because that’s one thing I knew I could do well.

But words, not musical notes, have always been my true love. Since I was a child and discovered that a good book could take me to a place where I could change into someone else—into someone better, I’ve always been most comfortable losing myself in a good story. As I age, I’ve become even more of a voracious reader and often read two or more novels a week. Yet now that I’m finally writing regularly and becoming more aware of the writing process, I find that reading a good book can be agonizing at times because every so often, my little friend Envy rears her ugly green head. She’s more than happy to tell me that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to string words together in a seamless succession of perfect stitches the way a really good writer can.

Recently I read a fantastic book by Gillian Flynn called Gone Girl http://gillian-flynn.com/ and I’ve got to say, I supremely enjoyed it.  The disappointing part is that now I almost have to dislike Gillian Flynn because she is so good at doing what I have yet to learn to do: crafting a story with fascinating and fallible characters, creating an out of the ordinary plot, and writing riveting dialogue. I almost have to dislike her because I know that for a very long time I will not be able to compose word such as these:

“…the sun climbed over the skyline of oaks, revealing its full summer angry-god self. Its reflection flared across the river toward our house, a long, blaring finger aimed at me through our frail bedroom curtains.


This is probably what I would’ve come up with:

“….the sun came up over the trees in an angry red haze. It shone on the river behind our house and came through the windows, shining in my face like a bright light bulb.”

Voice of tiny person sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear:

Trite, trite, trite. Dull, dull, dull. TRY AGAIN!

Okay, I’m playing around here—I could do better than that. The point is, I’m like one of my adult piano students who comes to the lesson and enthusiastically exclaims: “I really have this dream of playing ‘Fur Elise’ (please God, any piece but that one) And even though I only took six months of piano lessons when I was seven, I know that with a little bit a practice I can learn this piece!

Now, the old me would mentally roll my eyes and kindly tell this student that Fur Elise is harder than it sounds (and that would be the truth) and that one should never start with something difficult because you may get frustrated and sad and end up truly resenting Beethoven for writing such an exasperating piece. (Oh, and by the way, you’ll never in a million years be able to play it well.)

But the new me might say, Why not? Anything is possible! And then launch into my spiel about the importance of consistent practicing.

The truth is I can’t expect something magical to happen without putting in the time and the work. And maybe—just maybe, if I spill my guts and tell you my secret, I’ll feel more obligated to put in the time.

Because if I write it down, it becomes more than just a possibility.

And to the little person sitting on my shoulder whispering all those negative comments in my ear: Take a hike, baby.

14 Responses to “A Novel Idea”

  1. Rossandra White September 12, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    I wish I knew you had a work-in-progress, no matter at what stage, I would’ve so tagged you for The Next Big Thing!! Putting it out there is the first step. Congrats! Now don’t stop.

    • Allegro non tanto September 12, 2012 at 2:41 pm #

      Oh God, no! I’ve barely begun to write it, so I don’t even really know the full story yet! But aren’t you the sweetest thing to think of me…. I hope all is going well with your book–as I said before, I’m dying to read it!

  2. injaynesworld September 12, 2012 at 5:19 pm #

    I’m proud of you, kiddo. And kicked that little bitch on your shoulder to the curb! Hugs!

  3. Melanie Jacobson September 12, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Of course you have what it takes–and more. Can I preorder my copy? No pressure implied–only faith in your talent, humor, guts, and word play. Have the time of your life!

  4. Michele Abbott September 13, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    You speak the truth sistah. That’s the hardest and most brave thing you can do. And that my friend is interesting! For the record I have the same “books” “scripts” “scenes” playing all the time in my head, but as yet am still missing the cajones and commitment to write them down and expose myself creatively as you have.

    So there! Congratulations! you have a fan who is envious. And also so proud of you for telling the little shoulder voice to SCRAM!

  5. Léna Roy September 13, 2012 at 7:56 pm #

    Tra la! LOVE that you are doing this! That little voice . . . I know it well. But DO IT anyway!

    • Allegro non tanto September 13, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

      Thanks for the encouragement Lena! Coming from a seasoned (and published) author such as yourself, I appreciate the support!

  6. debatterman September 14, 2012 at 10:03 am #

    I can’t help but wonder sometimes if, because we use ‘words’ every day — to communicate, etc., — there’s an expectation that they will just trip off our tongue when sit down to write, with intention. Sometimes they do, more often they don’t. And yet we (writers) sit — staring at blank screens, grappling with the most eloquent expression of what it is we want to convey. Do we need any more proof that we are our own harshest critics? Or that those of us touched by each other’s stories are our biggest supporters? Speaking of which, I was touched by your comment re: my post on mothers (Jewish or otherwise).

    • Allegro non tanto September 14, 2012 at 11:11 am #

      Writing is a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it, right? Thank you for always being the voice of reason!

  7. Becky Green Aaronson September 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Jessica, I’m thrilled that you have gotten to the point where you are feeling brave enough to share this goal with the world. That takes guts. Now just write it as if nobody knows. Tell your story. Enjoy the process and FORGET you have told anybody. It will much more enjoyable if you take the expectations you think others may have off the plate. Not to mention Jayne’s advice–kick that snippy voice to the curb! Can’t wait to hear about your WIP!

  8. happykidshappymom September 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm #

    Excellent advice from Becky up there — I agree completely! 🙂 Never mind about what anyone says (and anyone and everyone will say anything and everything), just ignore that little voice and listen to the big one instead. The one that dreams.

    Good luck!

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