“Writing a book is like building a chicken coop in a high wind. You grab any board or shingle flying by or loose on the ground and nail it fast.” – William Faulkner
I love this quote because it captures the difficulty and borderline insanity of writing a book. Few enter into the stormy winds of writing and even fewer emerge. It is not a task for the faint of heart, because as you begin you realize that the storm is both outside and inside of you. Time will then tell whether or not your chicken coop is a true work of art of merely a ramshackle pile of words and pages. It’s strange now to stand back and look at my first chicken coop. The winds have died down and there it stands; alone, untested. I wait to see how it will fair.
After a decade of writing and learning and finding my own style I finally came to a point where I was even ready to tackle a story. The actual writing of Finding Tom took about a year and was an up and down journey filled with long stretches of lackluster progress mixed in with glorious moments of inspiration. The moments of inspiration were few and far between, and I quickly saw that writing a book is more a test of diligence than literary mastery. I would sometimes go weeks at a time without writing anything, and then when I came back it took me hours to reconnect with the story and find my way again amidst the maze of ideas and characters in my head and on the page.
Writing is a struggle not just with words and language but with one’s very being as you see your own fears, doubt, and questions begin to emerge in the mouths and lives of your characters. You begin to understand that it is impossible to be a fully detached writer. As much as you may try, you cannot stop yourself from seeping onto the pages. I look at Finding Tom and see much more than just my fingerprints. I am there somewhere walking around in the pages hurting, wondering, and hoping. That is both the joy and struggle. I dreamed of making a grand and glorious chicken coop with a perfectly planned blueprint and well stocked supply of tools. I never imagined the strength of the storm and my inability to pound nails into boards and turn paragraphs into chapters. I never imagined the fatigue and the loss of zeal, but they are all part of the experience of being a writer.