“WOULDN’T YOU RATHER MAKE CHEESE?”
MUSINGS ON WHY I WRITE, AND WHY I CHOOSE TO DO IT SO EARLY
by Kristen Falso-Capaldi
2015 Victoria A. Hudson Emerging Writer Prize Honoree
5:00 a.m. is cold and dark. Trust me on this. In deepest January, when the wind outside is warning me about the bitter walk to the car, I just want to cover my head and snooze. I do snooze, but only once. At 5:09 a.m., I am up. I write. Everyday.
I was a writer before I even knew how to write. My childhood was filled with plot twists and dialogue contrived for imaginary friends, dolls and neighborhood kids, the unwitting stars of my theater. I began a novel after college, then another in my late twenties. In my thirties, I finished a third, then stopped writing for years while I nursed the wounds of rejection. I wrote a few short stories, song lyrics, kept a journal. But most of the time, I was doing other things — making jewelry and practicing yoga and learning to make cheese. Really, my mozzarella was epic.
I loved talking about writing. “Someday, when I have the time,” I said. “I will write. I’m a writer, after all.” Talking, as they say, isn’t doing.
About a year ago, something happened. I spent the summer of 2013 focused on changing careers. My job as a public high school teacher was taking its toll. As I sought out the perfect opportunity for an ex-PR-professional-turned-educator, I dug into the recesses of my laptop, hoping to uncover a half-decent resume. I found, instead, a number of fictional pieces I’d left for dead.
This is where I found Blake, the protagonist of novel number four, while he grieved his dead wife. And Catherine, the teenager who came to work at a factory in the summer of ’87 and left the men there spellbound. And Henry, a weak middle-school teacher who turned into a manly TV character for one day. They were all there, their stories broken off by imaginary ellipsis. They needed me.
The job market was as dry as the Sahara, but I was too busy writing to feel badly about it. By the end of August, I finished a first draft of novel number four and completed three short stories. I was going back to my classroom, but I needed to write.
Just like talking isn’t doing, needing isn’t wanting. I’d been at this place before. I accepted I probably wouldn’t fit writing into my life once the school year got rolling.
“You always stop writing eventually,” my inner voice said. “Wouldn’t you rather make cheese?”
But guess what? When you truly want to do something, you find a way to fit it in.
It turns out I wanted to write. It also turns out 5:09 a.m. is when I can fit it in. 365+ early-morning writing sessions later, I have written several short stories and micro-fiction pieces, four drafts of my novel, a first draft of a new novel, two screenplays and a generous handful of song lyrics.
I write because I can no longer picture my life without it. The rewards have been small, but encouraging. Henry, the weak middle-school teacher was introduced to readers in the December 2013 issue of Underground Voices magazine, and a screenplay I co-wrote received an official selection at the Houston Comedy Film Festival. So, I keep trying and hoping that someone will want to know Blake and Catherine and all the others who haven’t even been born yet.
I’m going to make some coffee now. It’s very early, and I’ve got lots to say before I leave for work.