I think I’m ready to be a writer.
It was not too long after I learned that astronauts have to do math and paleontologists never actually get to pet a cloned triceratops that I decided: what I had really wanted all along was to be a writer. As a writer, I would be able to explore alien worlds without ever getting past precalculus. As a writer, I could bring dinosaurs back to life or send humans back in time to the Cretaceous (I’ll call it…Cretaceous Park! Brilliant). And I spent the years of my awkward adolescence rigorously improving my descriptive, narrative, and character-writing skills.
There was one problem: my attention span.
I wrote some gorgeous paragraphs. I sketched out compelling plots in detailed, stunningly original fictional worlds (even if they only told half of a story). I came up with mysterious characters whose backstories you would be desperate to find out. If that’s an exaggeration, forgive me; this is praise I got from real, grown-up writers. But for all that potential and promise, I never got anywhere. The discouragement of never finishing anything, combined with the generally soul-crushing nature of high school English classes, led me to discard the dream of being a writer.
But it turns out to have been a resilient dream. While I was a stressed-out missionary in the francophone South Pacific territory of New Caledonia, newly forced into a leadership position and losing the last of my proverbial marbles, I found some sanity in the practice of taking a five-minute break every day just to write something (strange or disjointed as it might be) in a small cahier which came to be called the Mental Health Notebook.
That rekindling of the love of writing made an important compromise: I was allowed to tell a story, or just a single moment in a larger story, in a single sentence or a short paragraph. There was no more guilty staring at a half-empty page and knowing I’d never get to the next page. There was no next page to worry about.
Of course, in the mean time, I’ve grown up a little bit. My time in the South Pacific and as an undergraduate taught me a little bit more about focus, self-discipline, and just being present. At the time of writing this, I’m 440 handwritten pages into my first novel (started at the end of June 2013), and very close to finishing the first draft. I’m working on short stories on the side, still writing Mental Health entries for CrustaceanSingles.com, and starting to feel like I might actually be a writer, after all.