7 July 2018
Written by Steven R.A. Markin
In my first year of university, I took an English course that was based on writing various academic essays. My prof, George Lyon, loved to talk and often gave us life advice and anecdotal stories that may or may not have pertained to the day’s lecture. Although, I am sure he thought of each topic ahead of time while walking to school in the mornings (because he said so). He is old, but that doesn’t stop him from walking a fair distance and using the stairs (the English building has a lot of stairs). He did have us, one student at a time, recite the FANBOYS out loud and to say that they go after the comma between two complete sentences. He went through all of us more than once. The class was enjoyable and a little ridiculous.
My first essay was a personal narrative, and I wrote about my proudest moment, losing 90 lb in two years (which is ahead of being in university). So, I wrote. My damn, did I write. I gave Lyon everything I could in that essay. I got a B because my grammar sucked, but the content was great. On the back, he scribbled some personal stuff and told me how he wishes I wasn’t so ambitious while writing. That I could use this story and the content for a lot more and that I should write about it later in life. He told me that I should focus on what is relevant by making it succinct and more impactful. (Hemingway said that “all first drafts are shit,” and I think most first-year students say/write too damn much. I know I did, or do?). Lyon singled me out in front of the class to talk about courage and asked me if I minded telling everyone how I lost the weight. I said a little and others congratulated me. I didn’t like the attention, but I loved being proud of myself. And then he went on to talk about Hemingway, which, at the time, Hemingway was one of the few writers I have read much of their work, and I felt a connection.
I don’t know Hemingway, but I have an idea of who he was because of his work, and the documentaries, and what others have said, but his work would be the best indication of who Hemingway was. The man is dead, and yet some of his books are on my shelves and a series of short stories by my bedside. When Lyon mentioned Hemingway after talking about my courage to lose weight, I wanted to be more courageous in life. Although that year I laid on the floor next to my mom’s malnourished and dehydrated and massively over-medicated (the doctor fu*ked up royally) underweight body to keep her calm; and I lost my apartment, got cheated on, worked and took 5 classes, one thing I didn’t do was write like I wanted. I journaled, and that had been the extent of my writing for many years, but I wanted to write a novel.
This idea has been in my head since I was about 16-years-old, or even younger. I told my best bud at the time, Tyrell, that one day I will write a book. He said, “can I have your pen.” Well, bud, you will be getting that pen; even though it has been years since we had last spoken, and I still don’t know if it was because you have a shortage of pens, but I will find you and hand it to you. I am tired of not being as courageous as I can.
Maybe I am looking at writing differently than I should. Perhaps I am making it more important than I should as if this has led me to not writing a novel? But I have someone, someone, whom I have never met, ‘s work, and one day I want someone to have my work on their shelf, or on their floor, or bedside. Even if I never know, or if I too am dead by then.
Is this even courage? Maybe not to you, but I have made this idea so damn important in my life, and I have worked on gaining some skills and tools to work on my writing, and yet, no novel, just hundreds of poems, and tens of short stories, and journals that are scattered throughout my room, and in boxes. But no novel.
Why does writing this novel matter, and how is it more than just a novel? Like you, I have dealt with more than I would have liked to. If you had told me as a kid the situations I would have been in, I would have packed my bags and joined the League of Shadows (sorry – had to make a Batman reference). I experienced life, and I still am. And during these hardships, at some point, or even afterwards, I thought about how I could overcome them, how I can use them. I wrote in my journals, and I used my emotions, the events, and people in my life for in-class stories, and later, in poems and more short stories. I use my writing to cope with life, and my life’s situations are reflected in my work. And may it be 80 000 words (more or less) inside a cover and a back page, that isn’t relevant to me, but what matters is using the hardships in life that I have and am facing and somehow presenting it in a medium, such as creative writing (and in other forms of art) and sharing it. And to further this idea, I believe that sharing personal experience helps others. This can be by relating to the content and formulating a connection, providing information and understanding, or just a damn story that can pass as entertainment.
My life is my unfinished novel, and I am still much too ambitious and wordy. And if I could be courageous enough to sit down, calm down, use the emotions, the events, and the people in my life (past and present) in one way or another “at a typewriter and bleed” (Hemingway), then that is meaningful to me. And maybe to you, or perhaps, you too have had an aching thought of an idea that feels like it is going to destroy you from the inside out if you don’t act on it, then it is time to be courageous and to act on it.
What will I do now?
I already did one thing, I told you that I want to write a novel. I know there are a lot of people who do a lot of talking, but that isn’t me (not us!). I wrote it down, and I am telling people that I want to write my novel, so I feel accountable. And the feeling of just running my mouth without actions isn’t how I want to feel.
Be specific and use details. Just saying that I want to write a novel is vague, obviously. This can mean a lot of different things, so I wrote down in my journal as much detail as I can about the novel I will write. The genre, characters and conflict ideas, and anything I can think of that can simplify the process. I also wrote down the ideal word count. Now, the word count can make it worse, because editing will cut down the number significantly and will be frustrating. Don’t worry about the word count, just write. There will be adjustments. And I did this because it isn’t a short story or an epic novel.
Make time? Hell no, just do it. No one seems to have the time for anything else, yet we have the resources to work on it during moments that are less hectic. I even bring my damn phone with me to the washroom, and it sits next to me on my bed stand before and while I sleep. There are apps to write in, and if you are too damn tired or out driving or walking to write, well, use the voice recording on the phone for your ideas or to tell the story, and write it down later.
Work on it, and yes, make time. If you are serious about it, and I am a firm believer in writing it down, schedule time throughout the next three days to work on it. I gave myself two 15-20-minute periods a day to strictly work on it (that means no social media or walking to the kitchen to hide in a bowl of ice cream). I did this because that isn’t a lot of time. It isn’t overwhelming. I will do it, and only three days because maybe I will write longer and really enjoy it. Who knows? So, then I will adjust accordingly for the next three days and so on.
Although I have associated writing a novel as a big idea, I am not putting a finish date on it yet. I am going to work on it as I scheduled because I believe that creativity cannot be forced but comes from being active minded. Therefore, if I work then something will happen. No work, then no book.
Thanks for reading.
Tools that may help:
Search YouTube for meditation music (my favorite is in the link – share your favorite, if you want).
Feel free to share your experience and strategies with depression, or of anything, in the comments below. stevenmarkin.com is my way of reaching out for help, and there is more to come.
Your donation goes towards writing, editing, publishing, art supplies, and keeping stevenmarkin.com going. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. Thank you.