Once upon a time, in the Land of Deep Pragmatism, a girl-child was born. She was a sickly thing, a loner, and books her sacred companions. It probably won’t surprise you that a day arrived when our heroine decided to write a novel herself.
“Here, have my quill,” said one teacher. “Of course you’ll create,” said another. “Let me drive you to your writing course,” said a parent. And with that kind of encouragement, our young writer (let’s call her YW) sank into a dizzying apprenticeship.
This mostly consisted of scowling at lined pages while YW’s youthful companions played outdoors. On rare occasions — mystical occasions — she would reach a level of accomplishment with words that made it all worthwhile. Every single, fraught syllable.
But you will recall our heroine’s setting. (Ah, yes, we all knew the day of reckoning would arrive.) It happened in a basement bedroom, when YW was seventeen and needed to choose her life’s path. Translation: a way to pay for the iced tea of which she’d grown fond, and the bookshelves that groaned with her treasures.
“So I’ll write for my money,” said YW. “Not so fast,” said a well-intentioned parent. In the resulting moments of candour, even as the two remained close, a first label was born: Not Good Enough.
Fast forward more than twenty years. Our YW is not so Y now. (In fact she might be legitimately called M-A’dW, though for the sake of the story, we won’t change her name.) Her skin fights with gravity, a laptop’s now her tool of trade, but once more she writes.
Again, she knows moments of sheer joy amidst many of hardship. She studies, she scribbles, she lets her housekeeping go.* After two incomplete manuscripts, she realizes she’s missing something essential: a master.
Armed only with hope, she sets off on a journey to find one. Courtesy of the Internet, she finds many.
She also finds another label – delivered with a sweet smile, good intentions, and the laser-guided precision of a jaded author. YW tries to dodge it — because who in their right mind wants to be affixed with the label Non-Finisher? Alas, too many hours of sitting have made her slow.
The label hits. It sticks. It dissolves with a burning sensation in her flesh. Though it’s no longer visible to the naked eye, at some level, YW knows she is changed. We know she is changed. That label is now part of her molecular substrate.
But YW is resilient. That “detour” taken between writing years leant steel to her spine. After all, it’s hard to be covered in vomit, feces, blood and meconium, and not take away some lessons in perspective and tenacity.
And don’t forget her merry band of side kicks! Oh, I’m sorry. Did I forget to mention them? In part, that’s because there have been many, each standing on the shoulders of their predecessors. There were the Cherries, and the Cherry Tarts, and the AW peeps, and her critique partners…and now, most surprisingly, her Blog Readership.
Yes, folks, you guessed it: Just this week, in what turned out to be the climactic moment of this parable, you very people helped YW meet her antagonist. It was gruesome, wasn’t it? A fearsome sight involving tangled limbs, a demon-child with sticky hands, and worst of all, ultra-violet light.
Nope, that’s not a typo for those of you coming late to the story. For at that heart-stopping moment, just when it seemed our heroine might push through her biggest obstacle, the antagonist pulled out a magic wand. (The kind employed in nightclubs to reveal admission stamps.)
Oh-ho! You hadn’t anticipated that, had you?
Neither had YW. And for a long, perilous moment, her Non-Finisher label highlighted in fluorescent yellow, she flagged.
Happily, our heroine had a few weapons up her own sleeve, and in the end, that scene went down-down-doooooowwwn. (Until the miraculous revival required in book two of the series, natch.)
And now we’re in the denouement. We’ve done our back-slapping and told our battle stories, even had time for a victory toast. All that remains is for you to answer a few questions, if you feel comfortable:
1. Have you absorbed any labels that you permit to control your present-day writing behaviour? Or have you seen others so afflicted. If yes, what are the labels that stuck? (Feel free to include the positive ones. Although they may make for less drama, they are no less important?)
2. Who are the label-makers in your life that you may need to avoid? (Please be discrete enough you won’t hurt anybody’s feelings.)
3. Who are the sidekicks in your life who carry the label-removing soap in their Kicking-Ass Utility Belt?
*Not really a form of sacrifice, but it resolves the rule of three.