Back when I was an aspiring writer of eight wise years, I dug deeeep into the farthest crevices of my neophyte mind and pulled out the most compelling plotline (n)ever written. Well… Actually what I pulled out was a totally bad ass title, but anyone with eight years of bedtime story expertise can tell you that the title is the key that unlocks the story. Put that shining beacon up at the top and page upon page of words and pictures (because at eight un-illustrated is just not an option) would glide into the white space like ancient ships into the harbor at Alexandria.
My title was fresh. It was exciting. It rivaled the titles of the greats like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Where the Wild Things Are” and whatever it is that they named that movie where those two dogs and their cat friend climbed mountains and fought porcupines. The chosen title was (get ready for it…): “Neko, My Mountain Kity.” Yep. I just knew that my adoring readers would gobble up a compelling first-person narrative about a girl and her friendly pet mountain lion. The fact that I myself was a Houston kid who had never so much as been camping much less had any sort of wildcat encounter? Irrelevant detail.
Let’s just say that it didn’t take long for the writer’s reality to squelch that naïve optimism. No words, turns out, galloped in to save me from the treachery of the blank page. My type size 24 title stood as a beacon, all right… a lone beacon. But it was in that moment of despair that I received my very first piece of writing advice. It came straight from the mouth of the wisest person I knew. My momma told me, “Honey, why don’t you try writing about something you know?”
BANG. There rests the mountain kitty. And apparently my wise mamma knew something because “they,” in all of their anonymous wisdom, have confirmed her advice. They always say, “write what you know.”
What I know, huh? What I know… Well, here’s what I know: I KNOW that if I read in the car I WILL throw up. I KNOW that regardless of how much I hope and pray and cry out in anguish to the stars, that the weekend will always evaporate into a Monday morning and will never once stop to ask me how I feel about it. I KNOW, even though they’re made out of cancer by a company plotting global takeover, that McDonald’s french-fries are worth it.
But while the universe out there is, I’m sure, just dying to learn the intimate ups and downs of my romance with the McDonald’s fry, I hate to dwell on an unhealthy relationship. It is then primarily for emotional preservation and personal advantage that I choose to ignore “their” wisdom and instead write about something that I’d LIKE to know. No big cats. Promise.
The topic at hand is, in fact, so ginormous and the task itself so doomed that few have ever trudged this fretful trail, much less bothered to leave behind some breadcrumbs of wisdom for the rest of us. Oh, people talk of trying all the time. They
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have dreams. They make plans. A few may even make attempts. But VERY few wholeheartedly embark. And when they do… well no one ever hears from them again. Maybe they make it to utopia’s glistening shores and never look back. Or maybe evil trolls along the way snatch them up before they get there.
But either way, I shall not be disheartened! Watch out trolls, I have a yellow belt in whichever martial art they taught in the assembly room after school. I have such confidence that I will manage to mediate practicality, silence fear, murder trolls, defend justice, obliterate doubt… (cough) that I am going to transcribe the steps of my journey as I take them. So that, once I’ve crossed the Jordan and am entirely preoccupied with prancing euphorically through fields of poppies, there will be record of how I got there. And, in the chance that the troll does nab me and the journey fails, well then my final gift to the world will have been this detailed documentation of what NOT to do with your life. You’re welcome.
In the coming months I will shatter the carefully assembled product of years of classes, internships, and late night cramming; I will escape the corporate zombies and get a real life.