I had this big idea. I started thinking it in grade two, just after I had a handle on reading and writing, as I filled page after page of half-scap paper with phonetically-spelled words and finger spaces. I would be an author.
At seven, I had no reservations about that word. I'd never heard of self-aggrandizement. When my teacher sent me to represent my grade at a regional writing conference based on my profound book, I Like Summer Because ..., I was convinced I'd made it. My Dad even laminated and coil-bound this first masterwork; of course I was an author.
I kept writing. My books got longer, more pages stapled together, now on full-scap, not half. I discovered dialogue and story arcs and conclusions that weren't The End. I wasn't very good at any of them yet, but I had a kind and encouraging audience.
In grade eight I won the English award at my public school. I had been wanting to win this award since grade five. I thought if I won it, then people would definitely have to say I was an author. The self-doubt had crept in, apparently, and the idea that I needed evidence if I wanted to call myself an author.
Promptly, I stopped writing stories. Maybe because I had to bear-up now. I knew what pretentious meant, I even knew how to spell it. I discovered I was an excellent writer--essays, exams, letters--everyone said so, and nobody needed any more proof than my wide vocabulary and correct spelling.
Still, I held onto this one big idea. I would be an author. At sixteen, I made a list of fifteen-year goals. #3 Write a novel and have it published. With this in mind, I started to write stories again, in secret, in notebooks that I hid on the top-shelf of my closet. I snuck back to read them later, scratching or tearing out everything I’d written down.
At home, at school, with friends and family, I talked and talked about authors, books, about writing, poetry, song lyrics, any kind of creative writing. I knew I wanted to be in the world, but I didn’t want to go out on any limbs. People might notice me, way out there, teetering on that wobbly branch. They would point, maybe laugh. I might fall.
And then people offered to catch me. They told me to try. I had this big idea and they were maybe sick of hearing about it. I set up a little desk in the corner of my apartment, right out there in the open, and started writing. Less and less was scratched out (or backspaced), fewer pages were torn out (or moved to Recycle Bin). Over time, pages became chapters became a first draft, a second, third. I enrolled at a creative writing school and worked with an Author (she had three real published books and a significant award to her name) who gave me fair and constructive criticism.
Slowly, slowly, all these drafts became a novel. I wrote a book.
Soon, I'll be starting another. Because I still have this big idea. One day, I will be an author.
Erin Bedford, writer.