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One Writer’s Journey: To Not Write Crap

by A.R. Aeby

fantastic-landscapeI’ve never aimed to write the great American novel or an award-winning new classic or, dare I even say, a New York Times bestseller. My goal as an author has always been to not write crap.

Don’t get me wrong. I would love that kind of recognition. I would love to suddenly find myself sought after and interviewed as the newest talent with a long and prestigious career ahead of me. To have those in my life want to link themselves to me as a pseudo-celebrity and share I-remember-when-stories and other anecdotes. To finally put my obsessive need to read to great use and pretend this was the plan all along. But here is the reality. I, along with massive numbers of other people, have deluded myself into writing a book.

Now this was not my first attempt at writing a book over my lifetime. I have deluded myself countless times, with varying results. The beginnings of chapters, character sketches and possible plot lines litter my old computer and notebooks. But, I had a problem—I was not a finisher. My interest would quickly wane; the enthusiasm and seemingly boundless amount of energy I wished to put into my latest project would disappear. Some might chalk it up to writer’s block or lack of inspiration or another such thing, but the truth was the material wasn’t the problem. I was the problem.

I have heard from others attempting to cross over the line to being a writer, that they spent their whole life writing with almost a compulsive need to express themselves in this medium. At first I was completely distraught, because I don’t remember that compulsion. My expression was a bit different; my mother says I lived my stories. I would compose just enough of a story line to act out my favorite parts, occasionally aided by my little brother. A costume was always necessary, and an audience, when I struck a particularly brilliant idea. To me, my imaginary characters in some ways were more real than the reality around me. Like my heroine, Anne Shirley, I found the interactions with them quite a bit more satisfying than those in my mundane surroundings.

As I transitioned from child to adult I never gave up the fantastical worlds I lived in. Sure, as an adult I pursued them in secret with a certain amount of shame, but I could never really let them go. My imaginary worlds could go on for years morphing into different things, based on where I was in life and what was interesting to me right then. They fed me and nurtured me—along with the books I read—in a way I could find nowhere else.

As a child, I thought being an author a very grand thing, but even then I had a problem with limiting myself in the real world. I always told myself that I wasn’t capable of being a writer. I allowed my grammar issues and my poor self-esteem to stop me. I gave in to the fear of failure with barely a token resistance. Because when you write, you are putting yourself out there in a way you can never take back. You leave yourself open to all the opinions and criticism of the reader. You offer up something very precious and commit yourself in completely binding ways. I didn’t think I could take that chance. Until about four years ago.

It finally came to me as I fed my baby an orange substance vaguely called food, when I was taking yet another foray into a more pleasant place than the one my body occupied, that maybe I should take another stab at writing. Maybe this time I could make sure things were different. And to my complete and utter astonishment, I did. I threw off the shackles of my fear long enough to actually complete my goal.

Now I can say I’m a finisher. I wrote a book, and maybe it will never get published, and maybe, occasionally I feel like my efforts were wasted. But at times I wrote the perfect combination of words to express exactly what I wanted to, and it felt almost like they were singing to me. Now, granted, not everything I wrote carries the perfect tune, but no matter what anyone else might think, to me it’s not crap.

AR Aeby2A.R. Aeby received a Bachelor of Arts in history almost solely from the love of stories, even nonfiction ones. She is the author of the book review blog Whymsy Likes Books, where her goal is simply to share her passion for books. But she is a book author with the eternal hope of becoming a published book author. She lives in the deserts of New Mexico with her two young daughters and her husband of ten years.

This article was originally published in the January 2013 issue of SouthWest Sage and is reprinted here by permission of the author.

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