I always thought it would be fun to write a book. I was sure of the topic — it would be the story of my heritage, stemming from the fact that I’m a first generation American and how my family ended up in the United States.
I have yet to write that book. But last week I celebrated the release of my second novel.
Growing up, one of my fondest memories is of my friend Kim and I biking to the library with empty backpacks slung over our shoulders. After an hour spent roaming the stacks, we’d cycle home, each loaded down with, on average, 10 books. We would gleefully retreat to one or the other of our bedrooms (we lived on the same block, so we alternated turns), where for hours we sat on the floor in silence reading our treasure trove. No conversation occurred or was necessary. On cooler summer days we’d read stretched out on the trampoline in Kim’s backyard.
We read our books one by one and then returned to the library for a new cache each week.
Oh so boring, you say?
Perhaps for some, but for Kim and I, the hours we spent delving the imagination of others was priceless.
Fast forward years and years, through history degree, law degree (and close to five years in practice), two kids and a husband’s medical practice I managed in between making hot chocolate on demand while being a picture-perfect field trip mom.
That book had still not been written.
Oh, I tried several times. I pulled out a yellow legal pad and began penning a story I was certain was worthwhile to tell. But that was all I did. There were no notes, no outlines, no research into the history of Nazi Germany and the forced relocation of peoples believing themselves fortunate to have escaped near certain death by gas.
In short, there was no organization or method. I mourned the fact that I could have been an author. If only.
When I turned 40, I was invited to join a women’s organization in my town known for imposing rigorous research topics on its members who gladly spent hours reading, researching and writing lengthy papers on topics often not of their choosing. We read them aloud to the club, presenting PowerPoints with pretty (and sometimes nitty-gritty) pictures. And even though, as an attorney, I knew how to track down a footnote to the nth degree to find the answer that could win a written argument on its merits, I had never learned how to research to be able to tell a story.
After several years and several papers, particularly the pivotal one chosen by me about Joseph Campbell, author of “The Hero’s Journey,” an anthropological analysis of cultural similarities in storytelling around the globe and spanning millennium, I began to understand the complicated process of getting your point across — in prose.
And so I began writing my first novel.
I learned a novel plants a seed of truth, and from there roots burrow down into the soil, growing and developing buds as the story evolves and blossoms. If the roots are good and the soil is fertile, with regular treatments of fertilizer and water a story will continue to bud, bloom and share a beautiful perfume.
I don’t want to bore you with a regurgitation of the hows and whatnots of novel-writing. You don’t want to know about the time spent mulling over the spelling of a word, its etymological history, the variations of synonyms, and why understanding a word’s antonym can open a Pandora’s Box of meanings.
You aren’t interested in the time lost in thought as I track an idea, drowning in the Google Sea of thoughts, ideas, numbers and lessons. Or the trips we take simply to research and smell the environs about which I write. Or the the 3 AM ideas that wake me up or the stop-in-mid-sentence dinner conversations with Dr. K when I say, “Wait, wait, wait — I need to write down what you (or I) just said.” You aren’t interested in the late night dinners, or the dinners that never got cooked and we ordered take-out in exhaustion. The brain drain of finishing a chapter or even a thought, leaving my mind numb and unable to hitch two words together to speak aloud. The days when I tell myself that I’ll write three pages and only finish one new sentence. Or the number of times I edit a novel before it finally gets the go-ahead — it’s 30, all told.
And I still panic. Particularly when the characters I’ve created wake me up in the middle of the night insisting that the story line would be better if it goes in this direction (or that) and they whisper words, words that jolt me awake from my dreams to make sure I capture them in notes erratically typed on my cellphone.
So, let’s re-write that entire scene, Emily, my characters whisper. Even though you’re not supposed to keep your cellphone on the bedside table.
There are the lunch dates skipped, the sleep lost, the friends who just don’t get why all I do is sit at my desk and stare at a computer screen, wishing for the words to come. Any word. Please, just one to get the flow moving. And the friends who ask, “Where have you been lately? I haven’t seen you in forever!”
And most frightening of all, there are the what-if’s. The fear that once you, the author, open your head up to the world, allowing all to see what goes on inside there, well then. What will the world think of you?
But there is also freedom. Once a thought is processed and written, whether it be on my blog or in a point in a novel, it makes space for more thoughts, more creativity, more ability to stretch my mind in new directions.
But all of that would be boring — like listening to your car mechanic tell you the step-by-step process of how he rebuilt your carburetor. You’re just happy the car runs.
And you’re happy there are good books to read. As am I. And I’m equally happy to write them.
Did you enjoy reading this? If so, please share! And thank you!
Award-winning author Emily Kemme writes about human nature, illuminating the everyday in a way that highlights its brilliance. Follow her on her blog, Feeding the Famished, https://www.facebook.com/EmilyKemme, or on Twitter @EmFeedsYou . Life inspired. Vodka tempered.
Interested in Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage? Find it on Amazon and in Indie bookstores.
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