Teens have taught me a bunch about writing over the last couple of decades–both the teens who have already written five novels and the ones who would rather scrub under the refrigerator than pick up a pen. For a lot of teens, writing was ruined for them by third grade. For others, dutifully writing their five-paragraph essays, their love affair with writing is made up of clandestine moments,
“Some days I feel the ground shifting beneath me, the revelations bursting like fireworks over my head,” I wrote a few days into inviting the bogeyman of Dad’s mental illness onto my blog.
“I’ve thought that too much introspection was keeping me from my work. But I’m noticing that I’m suddenly finishing things and embarking on new ones: I graded all my papers yesterday, wrote to an editor about some work, took an assignment from another one,
The day after I put my secret blog post together about the Children of Suicide, I got emotional backlash. I had thought I could write about other people’s trauma, throw in some psychobabble, and remain unaffected. But facing the Bogeyman isn’t like that–even if you think you are only doing a research paper on the literary imagery of bogeymen, their varying cultural forms and their psychological implications. We’ve all got a bogeyman. If you are a writer,
Writing an anonymous blog during the years that I did unlocked me in ways I hadn’t expected. When you write as an occupation, you must concern yourself with markets and audiences, trends and tropes. It’s possible to wake up one morning and realize you can’t remember why you wanted to write in the first place.
There is magic in writing for an audience, yet not writing for an audience. It can bring you to a level of raw honesty if you let it.
One of the things I loved about this book, besides the winsomeness of its protagonist, Stevie, was that it didn’t present easy answers. Stevie has grown up in an intolerable situation, but she loves her mother despite her mother’s flaws, and is determined to be loyal to her.
I’ve been thinking again about why I write. With THE SUMMER OF NO REGRETS so close to release, I barely have time to think about this. But every debut novelist has to grapple with “Me-And-My-Ego.” While I’m busy with promotion, it’s easy for me to get distracted by “Please love my book and say I’m wonderful,” as if that is the point of what I do.