Jump on a westbound streetcar rolling along St. Charles. Flip your coins into the farebox and walk the aisle to an empty seat. Sit down, sit back, and rest your hungover bones. It’s time to engage your senses because you won’t be living here much longer and the city has sparked your dormant creativity. Even though at times you hate the city—the crime, the humidity, the flat swampy landscapes—the truth is you’ve never loved another place more. It’s where you finally became you.
The streetcar shakes from stop to stop, folks climbing aboard to get home, get to work, or get to the next pub on the line, maybe The Columns, maybe Fat Harry’s, maybe down to Carrollton for a jaunt to The Maple Leaf. You prefer the latter, and it's not even close. A white dude boards in a gray suit, then a black woman in hospital scrubs. Two more stops, a brown man clad in LSU gear, and a sunburned babe in a swimsuit. Again, you prefer the latter. You look out the lower pane of glass as the historic mansions roll by. Many gorgeous homes along St. Charles, and many gorgeous trees, thick gnarly old-growth oaks with lush canopies of green leaves draped with gold and purple beads. Sure would be fun living in a home along a parade route. But all told it’d be too much to maintain, too much time and energy. You’re a minimalist because that lifestyle best serves your dream, the dream of being a writer. It’s all you want to do, for the city inspires you.
You live in a huge house on the corner of Soniat and Dryades. It’s way too big for your taste. The cost to cool it is steep, as is the rent, but with three of you paying the bills it's not so bad. Yeah, you and two housemates. The girl is from Baltimore, very studious, very committed to graduate education. The dude is your coworker, a stocky Canadian who can polish off a plate of nachos in mere minutes. You left them back along the river dancing and drinking under the sun at French Quarter Fest.
Here's your stop on the line.
You detrain the rickety trolley and shuffle upriver for a block then take a ninety-degree to the north. Soniat is a nice street for a few blocks, but if you keep going, you might get in trouble. The birds sing as you walk, the lighthearted melodies of nature, but soon a siren drowns out their joyous song. The salivating scent of barbecued meat strikes your nose as you open the iron gate to your home, hop the steps, and unlock the front door. The cold A/C punches you in the face like an arctic blast. You feel the chill on the sides of your neck where sweat has formed. You walk through a living room that’s pretty bare except for a foosball table and a chair, then through a wide kitchen with vaulted ceiling. There are three bedrooms on the second floor, one on the third. Your room is there at the top. You climb the hardwood stairs to your bedroom, long and narrow with a window on the end that overlooks Dryades. That’s where you’ve put your desk so natural light can drift in, can touch you, can warm you, can wrap you in its energetic cloak.
You sit down at the desk (actually a cheap foldout table from Walmart). The top is white, Made-In-China plastic. A stack of books, a pen, a notepad, and last night’s go-cup rest there. Through the clear plastic cup you see the dark liquid like some stagnant backwater bog. Good God, what were you drinking? You don’t remember. You pick it up and take a sniff. Hmmm … sweet and stale. Captain and Coke? You take a sip. Oooh! Much more stale than sweet now, but Captain and Coke for certain.
On the notepad you read yesterday's prose. Your hands tremble as you read. It’s the culmination of your first novel, a stunning and twisted climax full of deceit, action, bravery, and ultimately death. You've been amused and impressed by the villain’s cunning and adaptability, and the death of the villain is surprisingly bittersweet. But the death of the hero is pure pain. She was even more adaptable, more inventive, and even in death, triumphant. So does she have to die? This hero so graceful and able?
Yes, of course, she does! the authorial impulse responds. Stop asking that question!
Deep down you know that's right, even though it hurts. You’ve spent so much time channeling these characters that they’ve become part of your heart, mind, and soul. They are not so much characters anymore, not so much fictional personas, but instead living creations of passion and truth. It’s been an ironman marathon with them for sixteen months, start to finish, a full 77,000 words.
You edit a phrase here, discard a comma there, and open the pad to review your notes for the resolution. It had all been planned before you wrote the very first word, but during the creative journey, the characters changed some of those plans. This preemptive denouement won't work now. But you know what will, and start to write.
The sun sets, darkness reigns, but you still write. It’s like time and space don’t exist. You are an all powerful creator as you sit there rapidly typing words. This is your calling, no doubt. Whether or not you earn money from this artform, it doesn’t matter because you’ve discovered that which you are. You’ve discovered the love of creativity, of art, of purpose. Hell, yes! You are a writer, one who captivates through written language.
But are you an author? An independent author? A hybrid author? To be those you must become more than a writer. You must understand your craft and style, and you must research, you must develop, you must edit and revise, you must market and promote. You must build a platform. You must build a community of readers. An author is like a composer of music, and the readers are those who'll to dance to your tune.
Is all that scary? The workload, the time commitment, the early mornings, the late nights, the fear of judgment, of baring your soul for all to see? Why, no ... it's not. You’ve already cast out those precarious thoughts, and accepted your fate.
You are alive. You have a purpose. You have the intent to fearlessly deliver your point of view. But these only go so far. You need action. And now is the time to act. It's time to infuse the world with your art. Now go forth and don't hold back.