I should have become a lawyer. Or a farmer. Perhaps an investment banker. Anything but a writer.
When I first learned to read, books were a secret doorway through which I was transported to English villages, African jungles or the forests and rivers of North America. Along the way, I met knights and princesses, giants and goblins, dragons and witches. Tom Sawyer, Jo March, Enid Blyton’s Five Find-Outers, the Three Musketeers, Ulysses, and Romeo and Juliet weren’t just characters, they were my friends, my travelling companions in exotic, fantastical realms. I was obsessed. So of course I wanted to write my own book someday. And I did, although the whole process turned out to be much more complicated than I realized.
Let me try and explain what writing a novel is like. First, you have an idea. It’s just a little scrap of a thing without any teeth or clothes. But you feed it and coddle it and wrap it in swaddling until it’s able to crawl along by itself. You give it a bit of help to stand up, maybe even take a few steps.
After a while you take it out and show it off to other people. Some adore it. Others ignore it. Still, you do everything you can to encourage your little book to stand on its own two feet. Before you can blink twice, it’s all grown up and leaving home. All you can do is watch from the sidelines with a full heart, hoping the world will be a welcoming place, although you know it usually isn’t.
The writing life is not an easy one. Any foray into fine arts is like putting your chips on the table and watching the roulette wheel spin around. No matter how much analysis or strategy or effort you put into it, there’s an element of luck involved. So sometimes a less haphazard field of work seems like a more logical option. A lot more sensible than having characters ad lib soliloquies in your mind at three in the morning, or spending years of your life editing the same few hundred pages over and over again, or putting little pieces of your soul on paper for anyone in the universe to see.
But at the end of it all, I’m glad I’m a writer. The newspaper and magazine articles, the poetry and stories in assorted anthologies, the little trade paperback with my name on the cover and the dedication inside to my husband and son, they will be there when I’m gone, a secret doorway for any passing reader who cares to walk through.