“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go.”
― Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down
Sometimes, I feel like there’s a bus. A schoolbus, more specifically, one of those long yellow ones that roll from September to June, look bright against the greys of a rainy day and fit in with the explosion of red, yellow, orange and brown on bright autumn afternoons. The bus is one of those. In pretty good condition, I’ll allow, with the seats inside clean black leatherette or pebbly vynil or whatever else they might be made from these days. It’s been a while since I’ve been on an actual schoolbus. This is a theoretical schoolbus, you see, because I am going to tell you a story.
Kind of. this is one of those loopy, off-leash days, where I am going to get some kind of structure from the loopiness, and blogging and discipline and yeah yeah yeah, working on book, put the pizza outside the door and slowly back away, please and thank you. Still with me? Okay, good. So, there’s a theoretical schoolbus. It came by my dad’s house lo those many years ago, when frustrtated extroverted writer me was stuck out in the no man’s land between suburbs and rural area (seriously, the neighbor behind that house was a dairy farm, yet the town also had a private school, and I’m drifting. This is what comes from too much caffiene and not enough structure. Focus, Anna.) and it picked me up on the day when I decided that was it; I was going to write that book.
I had no idea what I was doing; I wasn’t in RWA yet, didn’t know any other writers in person, apart from a dear family friend, who was very kind with my rambles and questions. I had one writer friend with whom I bonded through snail mail, and my heart hammered against my ribs as though it was trying to bust out. Looking back, I think it probably was. So, I set up three TV trays around the living room chair that reminds me still of the captain’s chair in Star Trek: The Next Generation (chair long gone, but I remember it clearly) put a vynil record (cast recording of Camelot) on the record player, programmed (this was a fancy-for-its-time player) and dove in, armed with a fierce love of historical romance and the need to do this thing. As I said, I had no idea what I was doing. That was probably a good thing, because that let me scamper at will, off-leash, higgledy-piggledy, wherever the story took me that day.
Do I remember which of two possible books I was working on that day? Nope. They kind of blend, and I can’t say I’m not mixing some memories here, but that’s an occupational hazard for us ficiton writers, and not always a bad thing. Anyway, let’s say I wrote one book (that now lives safely in a storage unit, where it can’t hurt anybody) and after I knew that one had to be put aside, wrote …hmm…a pretty good deal of another. How many of us remember every stop our school bus made on the trip to school and back, lo these many years later? Doesn’t matter. What matters is that I rode that bus. I learned. I made mistakes, fell down, got up, dressed bruises, kept going. Knew when to walk away from a book that wasn’t going to work, figured out what I can do and what I can’t. You know, the usual. Fast forward a few years. Sold a book. Sold another. RWA. Critique partners. Groups. More writing.
Then the bus dropped me back off. Huh wuh? :blinks: :looks around in utter confusion: What the heck was I doing back in front of the metaphorical house in the middle of a metaphorical school day? Detour to full time caregiving, and then, as it usually does, another bus, bright yellow against the grey, came chugging down the road once more. Flashed lights. Stopped in front of my house, now several years and a different state away from the first one. Opened the doors. I put one foot on one step, hoisted the backpack I’d been scared to look into onto my shoulder and climbed aboard.
My magpie self is still devouring inspiration, its appetite that of a starving creature. Cover versions of songs I know, done by singers who take a completely different take on an old favorite, realistic YA novels that deal with mental illness and suicide (n.b. – I have so far started two of my published works with characters about to take their own lives; I did not plan that, nor are the two stories in any way related. Points to anybody who knows which two.) endless searching for desktop wallpapers with the right visual feel, going on movie binges where the connections between movies make no sense to anybody but me, analyzing favorite fannish OTPs (One True Pairings) to see if I can spot patterns, making lonnng lists of reading jags to go on once I’ve finished this current reading jag. That’s for a start. It does feel like I’m taking myself to school, and, like a dog following a scent trail, I don’t know exactly where this is going to end up, but I do know that it’s taking me where I want to go.