One of my loyal readers recently inquired about my poor neglected blog. Initially, I was stunned someone cared enough about my writing to bring this up in conversation, then shame overcame me. Why have I been so neglectful? The simple answer: I’m learning how to edit and publish a book.
Regular Esse readers are aware I’ve been writing a memoir for the past two years. As I mentioned in my post “I’m still here!,” my book began as a journal entry, before morphing into a manifesto and eventual memoir. Now, after four rewrites, it’s a 44,000-word account of some of my most intimate life experiences. Titled The Accidental Virgin, my memoir is a roller coaster ride through girlhood into womanhood with twists of fate spiraling around love, sex, tragedy and self-acceptance. It’s a timeline from age five to thirty-five, which examines the truth and consequence of being a hopeless romantic, and the effects of consistently following one’s heart. I share the physical and emotional carnage of becoming paralyzed at age seventeen, and express the mental anguish of being a sensuous woman plagued with the realities of quadriplegia.
I never envisioned myself writing a book—I went to school to become a journalist and tell other people’s stories—but here I am, purging my own brutal truths for all the world to read. It’s a personal about-face I never saw coming. And so, for the past six months, I’ve been educating myself on query letters, book agents, and the pros and cons of self-publishing. I’m trying to understand the literary world, and realizing I need to break some of the AP style writing habits I learned in school.
My biggest problem has been finding time to read—every good writer knows it’s impossible to produce good work if you’re not consistently reading. I have five monthly magazines to keep up with, as well as my daily Head Butler posts and weekly Lenny newsletters. And now, I feel the need to immerse myself in quality memoirs. Most recently I’ve read On Writing by Steven King and Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking (and I snuck in a novel between those two). Next on my list are Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt, David Sedaris’ Calypso, and My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. At the same time, I’m doing some writing for an animal society in Texas, and Oscar season will be starting soon, which means attending oodles of films and keeping up with my blog’s annual “Oscar Watch.”
So many aspects of my life right now are equally overwhelming as they are exciting.
The greatest new development is no longer feeling like an imposter by claiming the title of “writer.” I’ve been a bit lost since graduating two years ago because I haven’t made the right moves to become a professional. In my heart, I’ve long believed I’m a writer, but with zero post-grad credentials, it’s been difficult to feel legitimized.
However, I’ve noticed an undefined shift within granting me more confidence in my craft. I’ve decided to embrace my life as an artist (and the psychological torment that comes along with such) because writing isn’t just something I do; it’s a passion that fuels me. I just need to start taking greater leaps of faith.