When I was in college, I read a book that actually turned out to be a journal. I can't remember that author's name or the title of the book to save my life, but what he did has stuck with me for the past twenty years. For the sake of creativity, let's call him Jake.
Jake was an English major hell bent on graduating to Pulitzer Prizes and New York Times bestseller lists. His professor told him, "If you want to really and truly be a writer, then you must write every day. Get in the habit and write every day, even if it's one line, write. Just write. And if you make it one year, you'll be a writer."
So Jake wrote. Then he turned all 365 pages into a book, which I read in one night sitting in my dorm room, knowing my roommate would be off partying with her sorority sisters until the next morning. I read his 200 pages, and when I finally finished it angels flew through the window, circled in blazing yellow lights of awareness.
But let's start a little before that day. I went to college at Tennessee Technological University. It's a small little thing tucked away in a mid-sized Tennessee town halfway between Nashville and Knoxville. It has a small Ohio Valley Conference Tier III football team on a campus full of old buildings and older oak trees. The hottest thing to do on a Thursday night was line dancing at the Cotton Eyed Joe. Not a Barnes and Noble in sight. (Although today, it does have a Books-A-Million where I stop in every time I'm in town).
I was an English major who could quote Keats and Shakespeare. I wore Tevas and canvas pullovers, ate vegetarian and was at Spankies Bar every weekend to hear local folk bands play. I dated a guitar player who wrote amazing lyrics. I was going to be the Pulitzer Prize winning, NYT bestseller attending parties with equally fabulous writers, smoking cigars and drinking wine while contemplating the state of the universe. And I was going to solve all the world's problems with every Emerson and Thoreau bone in my body.
And then I read Jake's book. Then I got a clue. Write every single day? I was only writing for class. I mean every now and then, I'd write a poem or a short story. But every day? Nope. And my poetry professor hated my poems. Too sappy. Too old fashioned. Too "in the box." If I was supposed to write every day to be a NYT bestseller, I was failing miserably.
So as soon as the sun came up the morning I finished the book, I grabbed my keys, jumped in the car and hit the road. To Nashville. They had a Barnes and Noble. All I knew was that if I was going to be a writer and write every single day, I needed a journal. Not just any journal. A leather bound, lined journal with a strap. And I found a beauty.
On the drive back to campus, I dreamed of all the things I would write. All the stories I would create. All the drama, the adventure, the excitement. I could do it. I could write every day for a year.
And starting January 1, 1996, I wrote every, single day for one full year. Some days only a line or two. But most days, it was more. The project became an obsession. I would be a “real” writer if I just wrote. It was so simple. So I wrote and wrote and wrote.
And I did it again in 2003. And I’m going to do it again in 2015. Because every so often I need to be reminded that I’m still the Keats-quoting-music-loving-hippie who can create, who can imagine, who can write. I am that girl and the only way to keep being that girl, is to keep writing.
Belated Happy New Year and Happy Writing!