In an abandoned folder on my desktop, I’ve got a compilation of unfinished novel drafts. I visit them from time to time, trying to decide if any are worth finishing. Sometimes I add a paragraph or two, maybe a chapter if I’m feeling especially prolific. Once in awhile I even start a new storyline. Most of the time, though, I reread what I’ve written, consider where I want the plot to go, then realize that I don’t have the physical energy or mental desire to take it there. On one hand, its tragic – letting all those powerful themes disappear, all those vibrant characters die. On the other hand, it’s necessary. If a novel isn’t begging to be written, it shouldn’t be written.
Many people have told me I should write a book. This is a compliment I don’t take lightly. Reading a book means committing to a text. I value this commitment immensely. In fact, it’s one of the primary reasons I love writing. Thus, when friends and family voice their desire to read my writing, my book, I am humbled by the full impact of their request.
But I will not write a book today, or probably even tomorrow, and here is why.
Writing a book is like getting a tattoo. It’s a permanent stamp on the writer, a personal statement that can never be erased. Foolish people get a tattoo just to get a tattoo. I’m not foolish. I don’t want to write a book just to write a book. I want to write a book because I have something urgent to tell the world. Books that say anything worth reading are written out of pure necessity, and nothing else.
Someday, I know, I will have something powerful to share. It will scream so loudly from within me that I will have no choice but to pour it onto paper. But until then, I refuse to look for it. I will not dig through an oversized binder of tattoo prints looking for something to represent me. The only print deserving of that honor is one that comes from within me, not from outside of me.
Maya Angelou once said, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” When my message materializes – when my book, my novel, my story is born – I will know.
And so will you.