Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

Isn’t that a loaded question? For a long time I’ve dreamed of writing a novel. Pretty much since I was a kid, in fact. As a kid I started many, many novels. Well, they were children’s books, but they were chapter books. I even finished a few. There weren’t any good, mind you, but I did finish them. They weren’t very long, either–more like novellas, really–but I did finish them. But the last novella/chapter book I finished was when I was about eleven years old. What happened after that? I’m not sure.

Well, as a teenager I became interested in screenplays and television writing. That lasted for several years and was probably my downfall. I didn’t start writing stories again until college, and that’s when I started thinking about writing a novel again. But I didn’t actually try to write a novel at that time. I continued writing stories, or at least trying to write stories. I wrote stories through two (failed) attempts at graduate school. And then I got married and had kids, and that was the end of everything.

Not really. When I was pregnant with my third child, I took a writing workshop class through the community college, and I wrote stories again, for the first time in…I don’t know. I should say that I actually finished stories for the first time in a very long time. Then that class ended and I gave birth and more life happened and then I started a blog. I used to blog pretty much every day, even when I wasn’t getting any other kind of writing done (and I mostly wasn’t).

About…five years ago? Six? It couldn’t be seven, could it? Or could it? Maybe six or seven years ago I started writing a novel. I wrote several chapters. There might be thirteen or so altogether. I don’t know. There are a lot of files and some of them are re-writes or alternate versions of other chapters, but I think thirteen chapters is about right. It’s not more than fifteen. I don’t know what happened to that novel. I couldn’t decide what happened next, I guess. I got stuck. Maybe I lost interest. I decided a novel was too ambitious, considering my circumstances and level of productivity, so I started writing stories again. “Started” being the operative term. How many whole stories do I have to show for that period of writing? Definitely one whole one, possibly two. I spent a lot of time re-working old stories I had written while in college or while pregnant with my third child–stuff I’d done during my productive times that wasn’t very good but at least had been completed once and could possibly be good if I completed them again.

About a year or so ago I got an idea for another novel, and that’s what I’ve been working on–“working” being a relative term, because now I’m in the same place where I was with my last novel, i.e. I don’t know what comes next, and not knowing what comes next leaves me with little to do except re-read what I’ve already done and realize that it’s crap. Last week I went back and re-read all the chapters of my old novel and realized that a) it’s actually promising and b) I shouldn’t have abandoned it but also c) I still don’t know what comes next.

It’s hard for me to move forward with either novel right now because a) I don’t know what comes next, but also b) I can’t quiet the voice in my head that says, “You’re a good writer, Mad, but you’re not that good. If you can’t figure out how to write this thing, it’s probably because you can’t. Maybe your calling in life is to be an excellent albeit obscure blogger.” I do think I’m an excellent blogger, when I actually take time to blog. I’ve tried not blogging to make more room in my life for other writing, but it seems like I don’t really need the extra room after all. Nothing’s coming.

That’s why I’ve never written a novel.

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