Just over a month ago, I “retired” from seven years of journalism, five of those as an editor. A year and a half of that latter time was spent overseeing two newspapers owned by a faceless, soulless corporation that nurtured a culture of confusion, incompetence and fear. Eighteen months of impossible directives to meet with three staff members stretched across two of Louisiana’s largest parishes and not a scintilla of leadership among the many bosses took its toll on both body and soul. My blood pressure shot up; the natural tendency toward anxiety and depression ballooned; and type-2 diabetes mellitis kicked in. All of these required medication, along with the medicines I was already taking, and I had taken to prefacing my thrice-daily doses with intonations of “give me this day my daily meds, and forgive me my trespasses, for I have restrained myself from strangling multitudes of stupid people.”
Above all, I began to hate writing.
That was the tipping point. I handed in my resignation in June.
I miss the work, but not the hierarchy of corporate corpulence and stultifying atmosphere. The worst thing that ever happened to journalism, in my opinion, is the encompassing corporate buyouts of small-town newspapers, crowding them under the same umbrella and using cookie-cutter formulae to make as much money as possible while sacrificing the very elements that make these little publications palatable to their subscribers. This particular corporation, with my experience in how it is run (into the ground – the current CEO has run two media corporations into bankruptcy, this one included!), I can say with a degree of confidence that I can’t see it lasting another decade at the most. There are numerous reasons for this, but that’s all behind me now, and when that ship sinks, it will be hard to resist the urge to make popcorn and watch the show. At that point, however, those with whom I’ve had dealings in that company will have already populated my stories, and besides, karma never fails. The publisher of the Louisiana holdings has spouted some very nasty things into the universe, and when it comes back around, I don’t doubt she will be left wondering what the hell just happened.
But I could not let that place kill my love for writing. Writing has been too much a part of the fabric of myself since early childhood; as soon as I could hold a crayon, I drew my stories. When I learned to read, gleaned by rote from my parents reading to me and later by phonics classes in school, the pictures gained text for elaboration. Too young to be constrained by either laws of physics or grammar, I made my stories as grand as I could imagine and shared them with only a few trusted people, among those my maternal grandparents.
And so, after some years of putting my nose to the grindstone of journalistic writing, it’s time to return to my roots of fiction. Oh, in the last few years, I’ve played about with fanfiction, largely to hone my art and play in others’ sandboxes while, at the same time, garnering support from a base of readers willing to share constructive criticism and making some very great friends on top of that. It was fun, but the last of these tales was written and posted five years ago, and so that part of my life is pretty much over, what with the ‘wifing’ and ‘familying’ that takes so much time. I’ve neither the time nor energy to devote to immersing myself in fictional universes not created inside my own head, and as my writing-time comes in brief snatches before the child awakens or after he goes to bed, every moment, and every word written therein, must count.
As such, I’m about to embark upon a literary journey unlike nothing I’ve attempted in the past. Short stories, the lengthiest of which counted about 33k words, were the proving ground; now, I’m out of training and into the big leagues. To use a baseball metaphor (because I love baseball and still think ‘Bull Durham’ is a funny-as-hell film, old as it is), I’m shooting to Go To The Show.
If I make it – if my book is accepted by a publishing house brave enough to buy, print and promote it – I’ll be over the moon, and because it will be something of a different pace, it may be published under an acronym to keep the crazies and fundamentalists confused. Or I will publish under my own name and let the chips fall where they may. Dan Brown did it, and is laughing all the way to the bank.
Before I can start writing the book itself, I must timeline my story: I’m a visual creature, and it will help enormously to be able to go to the wall and physically check the timeline, making sure I’m on track and the various subplots remain contemporary with the overarcing story. I don’t expect this to be an easy task – nothing worth accomplishing is simple – but I do expect it to be fulfilling, and I hope it will sell and bring in enough to set my son up to attend a good school when he’s old enough to leave home (*cough*when he’s 30*cough*).
Right now, at around 5:30 a.m., I sit listening to a documentary on Netflix, absorbing the information as I write, and I expect this set-up will be the first of many such mornings, dashing out whatever I can without editing (that comes later) before Tiny Boy awakens and, later (or earlier, depending upon his work rotations), Tall Boy a.k.a. The Husband. I think and work best in the silence of early day, before the sun awakens and bathes the world in the golden light that signals Normal People’s day beginning.
Today is Saturday, 22 August 2015. My goal is to have the first draft – unedited, only written – completed by 30 November, for this shall be my National Novel Writing Month project. I’ve never participated in a ‘NaNo’ before; always, I worked much too hard and too many hours to focus on writing after finishing one exhausting day after another. This year, my husband has gifted me with time away from The Grind to focus on our nascent app-creation business and raising my son; that a few hours of this time will be devoted to my novel is my nod to taking care of myself so that I may best care for my family and see to our interests.
And so, here we go. Today, at least until boys both tiny and tall awaken, I timeline the story in a drawing pad (which I should most likely transfer to an easel pad, simply because some of this timeline will be packed with Things Happening All At Once; note to self: spend the $14 and get one).
P.S.: Also: having utilized Associated Press-style extensively in my writing across the span of the past seven years, and before that MLA, APA and Chicago styles, I will ask readers’ forgiveness for the initial lack of the Oxford comma and peculiar numerical expressions. I have noticed a lot of fiction (and some nonfiction) works inundated with commas, henceforth to be referred to as being “commatose,” which I plan to avoid. I love commas in the right place and number, much like I love a dash of cayenne in the right amount; unlike the latter, however, commas can be removed once emplaced. Cayenne, not so much. Thank goodness for small favors!