Puzzled that I’d spend my time doing this, people will ask, ‘How long have you been writing?’
Part accusation, part sincere inquiry, it deserves consideration. The truest answer I have—and it’s not a wise guy answer—is always.
I say ‘truest’ because of the stages leading up to my present output: two published novels; two mid-grade manuscripts yet to be shopped; a short-listed MS for a fifth novel; several short stories at a range of sites; some non-fiction in trade and other journals; my catalogue of indie book reviews; and of course this swelling blog…
These are neither laurels nor accomplishments. They are a record. And as a record of production, they fall short of my absolute goal.
But before I can get there, how did I get here? When and where did this journey begin?
Further back than five years, when I began blogging.
Further back than 12 years, when I first sketched the elements that ten years later became a debut novel.
Further back than two decades, when I was filling notebooks by candlelight in rural Malawi as a Peace Corps Volunteer (I forget already about an embarrassing novella drafted by hand during the first three months in country… an effort that arguably led to my present married condition).
Before the Peace Corps I outlined several novels and stories as an outgrowth of serious undergrad studies in literature and journalism. Even before undergrad I intended to write: but intention is not writing, and those empty years bear little proof of my objective.
I do, however, have this to show I’ve been a writer since the beginning of time. The parent of a childhood friend asked what I planned to do when I grew up. Without delay I responded, ‘Write the great American novel.’
I had no sense of what it meant. I wasn’t an avid reader or prolific scribbler. I was just a kid with an idea that popped into my head and came back out as a simple, confident statement.
I’ve always been a writer.
How about you?