Part of my job that I truly, truly love is advising first and second year students in our Writing & Literature major and helping them carve out a path through the university that will help them achieve their goals. For many of them, one of those goals is to become a published writer—specifically, a novelist.
Last night, in a class I teach with my advisees, a sort of introduction-to-the-major course, we had a discussion about the anxiety of calling oneself a writer. I admitted to them that, despite the fact that I do indeed write many things, I don't typically think of myself as Kara Mae, Writer. I would certainly never introduce myself that way. (Professor, Mother, Wife, Progressive, all spring to mind before Writer).
Even though I get frustrated with my students sometimes about how they want to skip straight over shorter forms (short stories, essays, blogs!) and go straight for the novel, I also kind of get it. A writer, is, to many, a person who writes books. I think we've all had those images in our minds since we were children. We remember the intimacy of curling up with a book, of the smell and feel of dry pages against our fingers. Our ideas about what makes a writer are tied up in those memories.
Like my students, I want to be a writer. No, a Writer. A novelist.
It's not that I haven't tried. A couple years ago, for NaNoWriMo, I busted out a very, very shitty first draft of a novel with an over-ambitious premise. I've toyed for years with the idea of turning my Master's thesis, a memoir, into a work of fiction. There's the lingering idea of writing a longer story inspired my my parents' young lives.
The problem for me, I think, is one of process. A recent interview with the writer (nay, Writer) Alexander Chee got a lot of traction in my social media circles. In it, he talks about novel writing in terms of the "monogamy of the idea." That is, at a certain point in the novel writing process, you have to commit. You can't be out all over town with other projects.
That, for me, is a problem. I am a huge project flirt. At any given time, I have a handful of works-in-progress. When I get time to write, I go to my Projects folder on my computer and treat it like my own private Tinder, swiping left until I find the project that fits my current mood. Then I take that project out once, maybe twice, before moving on to the next.
But I think I'm ready to settle down.
Which is why, in the tradition of Carrie Bradshaw's engagement to herself on Sex and the City, I would like to publicly announce my engagement to my novel. Thank you in advance for your congratulations.
I won't be registering at Manolo Blahnik, but should you feel moved to send a gift, I will be accepting encouragement and light peer pressure. There's a lot working against this union, (Hello, toddler. Hello, demanding full time job) but I'm committed to making it work.