I have to admit that as much as I have written in the twenty years since I graduated form college (and if you even go back further, to writing stories and stuff in junior high and high school), I have never considered myself a writer. I think it’s a personal hangup at this point–writers have a certain image, lifestyle, or aura that comes from having earned that title. I’m a guy with notebooks filled with ideas and drafts as well as what feels like more unfinished projects than I can handle.
Sitting on the floor of my office is a pile of books that are, essentially, works in progress. There are notebooks fro entire collections of essays or memoirs. There is a half novel finished during NaNoWriMo nearly ten years ago but abandoned because of a lack of time and desire to finish it. I even have podcast episode notes that probably should have been turned into actual podcast episodes long ago but haven’t gotten around to. And as I make my way through all of what’s in there, it becomes very hard to simply throw it all away. Unlike unread comics, which I can more or less process via a reading project, these are things that at one point meant something because I was putting myself into them.
Take the NaNoWriMo novel I mentioned. It was called Standards of Learning and was my attempt at a humorous “real” look at teaching. Much like two other books I had written by never published, it came from a very personal, self-deprecating (at times) place, but as I made my way through writing it, I abandoned it because it was ringing way more untrue than true. Plus, in the meantime, someone else wrote a similar book called Adequate Yearly Progress (I actually own it but haven’t read it yet). That’s not to say I couldn’t keep working on it, but I think that it might be worth salvaging for short stories or something.
If I ever get the hankering to write fiction again, that is, because while part of me is fine with letting an unfinished project lie until I get some joy out of it (and don’t feel like it’s an obligation), part of me is ashamed that I never finished it and it’s one of the many ways I never followed through on “I want to be a writer.” Shit, I’m so much not a writer that I became a high school English teacher–I’m a trope at this point.
But we all have plans at seventeen that only bear so much fruit. I can only imagine that at least a few people from my high school or college creative writing classes haven’t written at all, let alone penned a best-selling novel or sold a screenplay. And yet, there’s the inner conflict–when you have have the neuroses and insecurities that I do, you wind up worrying if you are going to be judged for what you are or aren’t doing. We are not talking specific people here, just an imaginary, amorphous group of my former peers looming over me and judging me like they’re the Kryptonian council in Superman: The Movie.
Getting that out of my head (and getting out of my own head) is one of the purposes of all of this. I feel like there is so much clutter and so much left unfinished that I wind up with a complete lack of focus. I want to really put a dent in that pile, perhaps as a summer project, determining what is worth saving, what is worth finishing, and what should ultimately be thrown away.