Some people know who they are from an early age. Not me. Despite my 57th birthday later this week, I’m still trying to figure it out. Announcing who I am or what I intend to do never sticks for long. More than half a century of wrong guesses and empty proclamations lead me to believe I’m not supposed to know.
The problem isn’t a lack of self-knowledge so much as a constantly evolving self. Thanks to the twenty-twenty vision of hindsight, knowing who I was in the past is at least theoretically possible. Who I am right now, however — despite my advanced aged — is a moving target.
The same is true for my identity as an author. Despite proclamations about who I am as a writer, the truth is, I still have no idea. Maybe I never will.
Penning novel number one was a crash course in Writing Fiction 101. Members of the Athens Writers Workshop (AWW) graded my work a few thousand words at a time. Our biweekly meetings were seminars on various aspects of writing a novel which I then went home and tried to incorporate into Until Thanksgiving.
After Christmas Eve pushed me outside of my comfort zone. Writing a mystery was a daunting challenge. Setting the story in 1966 added difficulty and required hours and hours of painstaking research. AWW members critiqued early drafts, but saw few technical problems. Comments revolved more around options for improving the story.
I weaned myself from the AWW to devote more time to writing and started Happy Independence Day. The Stonewall riots really happened. Staying true to the facts and the essence of the returning characters was often overwhelming. These self-imposed constraints tied my hands and made the going rough.
My work in progress, Whippersnapper, is a contemporary story set in a fictional town, with all new characters. As with previous novels, writing this one pushes me as a writer. Rather than out of my comfort zone, however, I’ve landed in a place that feels an awful lot like home. Next time, I’ll explain.
3 responses to “The Evolution of a Writer”
“It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed.” ~Wendell Barry
I do love Barry. It’s true…the true shape of our own face is always elusive and the great question is: Who am I? Sometimes like Rilke said, you have to live the question. One day, he says, if you do that you may live along into the answers. I do love his “Letters to a Young Poet”. I certainly have no idea who I am inspite of searching diligently my whole life. The first time I asked the question was in a journal I kept in high school. And that was quite a while ago! lol (Totally not sayin’ how long ago)
The best I have beeen able to do is to become comfortable with the question. Nice post, again, Michael.
You’re so smart!
I’ve often fooled myself into thinking I’d figured out who I was, but something happens to disprove me–usually in a big way–within weeks.
FYI, I do see your comments in the notifications I get from Google+. I just can’t find them! I haven’t tried to follow the link (doh!). I will next time.
70 degrees here today. Spring is coming!
yay, Spring! Today is the aftermath of 6 inches of snow with a topping of ice…but it’s sunny.