I just wanted to drop by here for a few moments to observe the fact that Carrier will be in brick-and-mortar stores in a week. I could tell you about the new interior design and the higher printing quality. I could tell you how being in stores will hopefully expose the novel to a whole new audience. Instead, I think I’d rather reflect on the book itself.
I know. Blogs can be self-indulgent, and I’ve striven to not have one of those. But hey, it’s an occasion to observe, and you’re in my house right now. Pop a squat, or get out.
More than six years ago, when I was 27, I was in what some would call a rut. I imagine it’s a phase that affects many twenty-somethings. It is a part of our lives in which we accept adulthood and that we can never go back to the time when we can more often do as we choose not as we need. To a large extent, we have to cope with the fact that responsibility dictates our actions.
First world problems, I know, but I was beginning to understand I didn’t deal with change well. I was working hard for someone else and was unhealthy. I lacked direction other than to continue paying the bills and, well, existing. I hadn’t written anything in several years because I was uninspired.
In short, I was a big bucket of depressed negativity. Where do I go from here?
Let’s rewind a bit. When I was in college, someone thought I was a pretty good storyteller, and at graduation, I won the fiction award for my class. I also happened to be the president of the English nerds’ club. So the faculty wanted me to read something at graduation. I wanted to read something from Stephen King. They twisted my arm into reading Raymond Carver. No, I’m not still bitter (nothing against Raymond Carver).
Anyway, had I read Stephen King, it would have been a passage from his non-fiction book On Writing. In particular, this passage stuck out to me when I read it and has been buried in my mind ever since:
Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
After graduation, I struggled with my fiction. And then I gave up on it. Looking back on it now, I realize it was the beginning of an emotional downward spiral.
One day, after years of pressuring myself to write amazing literature and failing to live up to my own expectations, I had an idea for a story. It was crazy. It was silly. It was utterly insane. But it sounded like it could be fun.
Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.
I reached up and caught it. I held onto it for three months. The seed planted roots. And I began to write again. I had to relearn where the words came from and how to translate that chaos onto the page. It was slow going, but I had this idea, glowing in the palms of my hands, and it didn’t seem to be going anywhere.
Carrier, for me, was the bottom of a depression trough. I battled to write it. Through a stroke of enormous luck, it got published. And now that it will be in stores soon, I find it’s an encouraging symbol.
My struggles in writing lie elsewhere now, more in the business of publishing. But if I’m being honest (and this blog post is nothing if not honest), I feel elevated. There’s a book on a shelf, and when I look at it, I see tethers shooting out and holding me up.
For three years, I carried this story with me, and now, knowing it is on a shelf, it carries me.
And you know, my only hope is that, for someone, somewhere, something I write can help to do the same.
I’d intended for this post to be more about the story and what it means to me, the specific ideas that I grabbed out of the air and held on to. Maybe that’s a topic for another time. Tonight, I realize, one week from making it onto retail shelves, I am more occupied by the achievement and milestone. Maybe it’s selfish to be so open.
I think it would be disingenuous not to be.