I convinced myself for a long time that I can’t write fiction. I read tons of fiction — it’s my favorite thing to read — but my perception of myself for years has been that I lack the imagination to write fiction. I can’t create something from nothing. I can only write what is or has been.
When I imagine fiction writers, I see authors with stories burning inside of them. They have characters fully formed in their minds, they know how the characters interact with each other and the world around them, they know where the story will begin, where it will end, they have a story at all. I envision that authors have this all figured out before they begin typing, and the primary obstacle to writing is technical, not imaginative: determining the appropriate structure, selecting the right words, putting it all in an order that makes sense.
This seems impossible to me. As I wrote about recently, I don’t have stories inside me, I don’t have characters. If that’s what it means to write fiction, it’s too big, it’s too much. I’m not equipped.
I was on a run earlier this week, thinking, and I remembered a visualization exercise I did last April to help me figure out what I wanted to accomplish in the coming year: If it were up to me, in one year my life would. I wrote about that particular experience recently on my career blog, but there’s a bigger story here as well.
Visualizing is imagining.
Since my recent decisions to pretend I’m conducting research to one day write the novel I want to read, and to break the habit of telling myself all the things I can’t do, I’ve pulled an ocean or sailing related prompt every day from my prompt box. Sometimes I write about current reality, sometimes I write memories, sometimes I write thoughts. And sometimes, I pretend. I imagine myself on a sailboat or a dock or a beach. I visualize things that could happen in those settings. I write things I want to happen in those settings.
This is a beginning for me. I may be the character I’m starting with. I may be writing scenes instead of stories. But I’m writing things that do not exist, that have not been. I’m imagining. Imagining has been my hangup. It’s the thing I didn’t think I could do.
I realized this week, yes I can. I can imagine. That is the first step to one day writing the pretend novel I want to read.