Over the course of a little less than a year, my sister has been writing, re-writing, and polishing a book. This isn’t the first she’s ever written, but it is the first she will be submitting for publishing, and, let me tell you, the emotional rollercoaster is far less fun than it sounds. Every day, she would open her laptop, pour her soul into the keys, down a couple bottles of water and some avocado toast, then call me. Rinse. Repeat. It wasn’t until yesterday that I got the call.
She was done.
Today, she is querying, personalizing letters, and trying her hardest not to go into the irreversible spiral of “WHY AM I NOT WRITING? IS THIS REALLY DONE?! SURELY THERE IS MORE I COULD DO!” Of course, since we are each other’s emotional landfills, she has voiced all of these things to me on more than one occasion (and it’s only been 24 hours). I see (and hear) it all—all the pain and the planning and occasional slips in self-confidence. But, when her book sits on a shelf patiently in a bookstore, waiting for someone to pick it up, that someone won’t see those things.
To go down another tangent, due to my own self-doubt and confusion when it comes to my writing, I have been faced with a question: “Am I a one-show pony?” Do I only have one story to tell? Or one good one, at least.
So, instead of putting all of my focus into my current writing project, as I should be doing, I have been deviating a bit of time into thinking up other story ideas. On one of my brain deep dives, I remembered a journal I used to have back in high school. For a couple of weeks, I made myself write an excerpt of a story—inspired by a picture or a story I already knew I wanted to tell—and put it in the journal as a sort of practice for coming up and actualizing story ideas on a whim. I know where the journal is now, could easily have it sent to me, though it didn’t exactly stay as a story journal throughout its blank-page life. But this got me thinking:
There is so much we don’t see, so much we will never see.
The idea that my sister wrote close to five drafts of her book (with more undoubtedly coming), and we collectively have written journals full of stories and ideas that nobody will ever see is astounding to me. If I take everything I’ve written since I knew how to hold a pencil, I would probably come up with hundreds of story ideas. I’m not saying they’d all be good, but still.
*(Nobody gets to see the first drafts of what we make—we hide them so far under our mattresses that, after a while, we, as creators, will never see some of those drafts or ideas ever again. (*But this is another topic for another time.))
I guess, this is just a really long way of saying that
we only get a few stories to tell.
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” -Michelangelo