A Writer’s Country
One of my favorite #amwriting Twitter posts recently portrayed a cartoon map of the kind of fictional country most writers live in, complete with such things as a social media forest and a coffee break lake. The tweet, posted by another author, asked, “Where are you stuck today?”
The morning I read that tweet, I’d just switched gears from a highly productive writing morning to making chocolate chip cookies with my girls. While they carefully scooped not-so rounded spoonfuls onto the next pan, I snuck back to my abandoned laptop, licked dough off my fingers, and tweeted my reply: “My life is a never-ending road-trip around this country!”
With my debut novel having released earlier this year, I’ve found myself almost daily in unfamiliar territory. Suddenly, being a “writer” isn’t just sneaking downstairs at 6 am to light a candle, wrap up in my grandmother’s quilt, and write in blissful silence until my kids wake up. Suddenly, I’m nurturing a newborn writing career, which is an entirely different endeavor with much higher mountains to climb. And most days, as I scroll through Twitter, reading about what other writers seem to be accomplishing with their time, I feel ill-equipped to climb these mountains, and consumed with doubt. After all, what do I know about marketing a book? Or Amazon? Or even Twitter, really? How will it be possible for me to learn about these things while also writing my second book, teaching a full course load this trimester, and showing up as even a semi-competent parent? With these doubts in mind, most days I roam this writers’ country feeling lost and alone.
This summer, my family took an actual road trip. In my parents’ new RV, we traveled down south to promote my book and visit with relatives. My youngest daughter had just gotten a phone for her birthday. Enthralled with its various functionalities, she mapped the trip on Google while the rest of us passengers played cards, read, and napped. Throughout the trip, she kept us on course by announcing every mile marker, turn, and rest area. Especially thrilling to her was that a wrong turn or blocked road didn’t result in failure—but rather a slight change of course that ultimately still got us where we wanted to go.
I don’t like unfamiliar territory. I much prefer well-beaten paths with clearly marked road signs and no traffic, thank-you-very-much. But I also know, deep down, that well-beaten paths are often circles, leading you right back to the parking lot where you started. Maybe it’s better to take chances where you can, to climb the mountains that call to you, to take an interesting turn even when it’s not on the map, and to trust that your course will adjust.
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