I’ve been spending so much time lately going BLAH BLAH BLAH about running, I thought I should say a word about writing. After all, if there’s one thing I do more than run, it’s write. True story: after spending 8 hours writing for work, and another two or three hours on my novel, how do you suppose I like to relax in the evenings?
No, I do not yarnbomb neighbourhood stop signs with leg warmers. Instead, I chill out by writing in my journal.
I caught the writing bug early. When I was nine, I started cranking out a weekly newspaper. It had a circulation of 5: my mom, my dad, my two brothers and me. It looked like this:
It was called The Weekend Household Paper. I wrote it because I was bored. And it’s a good thing too. If I hadn’t been bored enough to write that newspaper, I might never have started keeping a journal.
Just a few of the hundreds of journals I’ve filled over the years. Here are more, stuffed into a steamer trunk:
I didn’t write anything brilliant in those journals. Usually I just wrote about the weather, or what me and my friends were getting up to on our bikes. From time to time, I’d write a short story. And it’s a good thing I did. If I hadn’t written those short stories I wouldn’t have had anything to send out to highbrow literary magazines.
I have hundreds of rejection letters like that one. Each one of them stung, but they also taught me something important. They taught me that if I really wanted to get published, I’d have to work harder. Much harder.
So I bought a high-tech laptop computer –
And set about writing 3 mediocre novels.
There they are. They all got rejected too. And it’s a good thing they did. If they hadn’t, I never would have gotten depressed and applied to the CBC for a real job – a job writing comedy shows and game shows and dressing up in funny outfits.
I wasn’t a great writer when I started at CBC, but a half million people were tuning in to the show I was working on, so I had no choice – I had to get better. And it’s a good thing I did, because (A) I got to keep my job, and (B) when a good idea for a novel finally occurred to me, I had enough writing experience to write it half decently…
That’s me, working on my second book, which I’m hoping will get published in another year or two. Some days I’m not so sure, though. Even though I’ve been writing for years, my first drafts always look like crap. Here’s a page I worked on last night:
I rewrote my first novel 11 times. I expect my second will take at least as much work, if not more.
Happily, with every rewrite, the story gets better. And it’s always worth it when you cross the finish line. (YESSSSS! Managed to sneak in a running reference after all!)
Remember: You don’t have to be great to start. But you have to start to be great.