Strange New World — writing my first novel

So here I am, writing, after years of “wanting to write.”

When I was a kid, other kids in my class wanted to get a horse for their birthdays.  I asked my parents for an elephant.  My mom, bless her, asked me, “but what will it eat?”  I told her I’d pick leaves for it.  Needless to say, I’m still waiting on my first elephant. And despite having been chased by an elephant before–in South Africa–I still love the animal silly.

I also had very clear ideas of what I would do when I grew up.  I would be an author.  An astrophysicist.  A human rights activist.  A professor.  Of all of these, the only one I really kept quiet about was the first, my true dream.  That I’d write. And although I’d start vignette-based writing time and again, I never could get a tale to stretch longer than 12 pages.

Then, in March 2009, something happened that changed everything.  (She said portentously.)  Namely, I slogged through a wildly popular book, and as I put it down after the last page, I said:  “I could do better.”

Not surprisingly, I found myself answering myself.  Because God forbid the neighbors should think me normal.  And what I replied is what changed it all.  I said, “Prove it.”

And, being an obstinate person, I shoved off from the couch, stomped over to the laptop, sat down and turned it on.  I then felt, as you might imagine, somewhat foolish.  I mean, it’s one thing to write a book.  But it’s quite another to just write it without any time to think beforehand.

But as I believe I mentioned before, writing’s been on my brain for a while.  I had a folder with “ideas” in it.  I looked at them, and one struck me.  I’d written it down while I was still a volunteer in the Republic of Georgia.  I went with it.

Amazingly, the story flowed.  It altered a lot.  In fact, the premise today is completely different from the initial ramblings.  It’s stronger, more viable, has story-life.  I think it’s got something special.  I love it.

I’m simultaneously amazed that it’s taken me so long to just go for it, and at the same time aware that I wasn’t ready yet.  I was expecting writing to be “art.”  A state of zen, a oneness with words.  Well, my friend, that is bullshit.   That attitude is what killed every stillborn I’d started before.  Now I’m in it for real.  And so far, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

People who know me know I love studying languages.  I can devote hours upon hours to learning a language, waking up early and staying up late, and although it wears me out, it thrills me too.  This is the only other thing that has ever given me that high. And like learning a language, writing is work.  It’s practice, it’s trial by error, it’s listening to others, it’s finding your own voice, it’s speaking each sentence for the first time, playing with words, coming at things from odd angles.  It’s exploration and it’s fun and it’s learning rules by observing others.  It’s communication.  And it’s telling stories.

In other words, it’s, like, the best thing ever.  😉

A week ago or so, I sent my brother a cryptic email, hinting that I was finally getting around to doing something I’d wanted to do for years.   That’s it, no other clue.

And my brother guessed my best-kept secret.

“Are you writing a book,” he asked.  I stared at the screen, caught between feeling gobsmacked and feeling elated.  If he guessed, maybe it was obvious.  Maybe I was always heading in this direction, caught in the bramble, winding this way and that before finally, finally, heading for what I wanted all along.


About sputnitsa

Born in the US, I grew up in Africa and the West Indies, and returned stateside in my teens. After a decade in international development, democracy work, and inclusivity training for domestic NGOs, I joined Peace Corps, and after a year, experienced my first Russian invasion. I followed that up by volunteering with refugees and youth, and after some vacation time climbing minarets and mountains, I returned to New York City, where today I work on social justice with college students, produce short films, and write.
This entry was posted in family, growing up in Africa, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Strange New World — writing my first novel

  1. T h ë t é e says:


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