It was always going to be writing, for me. From the very beginning it was "Momma, I want to write stories when I grow up." Then when I was ten it became "I want to be a writer." Then I hit fourteen and got all uppity and I wanted to be a 'novelist'. Bah. I'm eighteen now, probably still pretentious but with more people to please, and it's become "No, I don't plan on college. I want to write."
A framed certificate on your bedroom wall doesn't make you a good writer. Only practice does. So college, I think, is overrated—just wasting four years of my prime with stress and most likely underage booze and coming out of it with a pat on the back and a piece of paper.
But now, as I write this, it's three days from the end of senior year and I'm expected to make something of myself. And I've spent the past year whaling on my laptop's keyboard, messing with margins and hitting Word Count over and over—planning and drafting and revising and spluttering my way through character arcs. I've written a few shorts, some flash fiction, and I have a little pile of greenbacks stowed away for my inevitable starving artist period. There's just one problem.
"Adam. I can't write."
I was complaining to my best friend, as I often do.
"What are you talking about?"
And he was consoling me in a manner that would be deemed insensitive by most, as he often does.
"I. Can't. Write."
There was a short pause, then his voice came back through my cell phone speakers.
"You're a great writer."
"I can't write what's in my head. All those pieces I've finished… they're crap, Adam. Crap."
"Crap that got you a hundred bucks a pop."
"Well, yeah, but…" I sighed, then bellied down on the floor and continued with my breakdown. "It's not what's in my head, Adam," I repeated. "It's… there's other things. Bright, shiny, beautiful things."
"Then write them." I could hear him open a bag of chips with a screech.
"I try to. They die on paper. Like… jellyfish."
"Jellyfish?" Awful munching and assorted mouth-noises ensued. I angled the phone away.
"Like jellyfish washed up on the rocks. It's not pretty. It's a train wreck every time."
The conversation slowed as Adam continued digesting his chips. The crunching noises crackled through the phone, and I imagined he was crunching thoughtfully. He's an art type, this one. He draws like no one else I've seen—him and his Copic markers that cost him a fortune. But when he fills up a page with liquid rainbows in all the right places, it's so worth it.
I heard a gulp, then Adam took a deep breath. "You know what you need?" he said. "You need new stuff."
"No, you need new stuff. Like… things to see. To look at."
I provided the word he was looking for. "Inspiration?"
I rolled onto my back, staring up at the cracks in the ceiling. "What do you suggest?"
Those two words popped out into the silence like they were nothing—just bubbles. "Adam… a… road trip? Seriously?"
"Hell yeah. Let's do it."
My mouth opened but nothing came out for several seconds. "I… uh… I mean, come on. Like… right now? Out of the blue?"
"It's… these things need to be planned—"
"Hush up," he commanded. I hushed. "Stop with the planning and the charting and your stupid character arcs."
"But I need those…" I said, in a voice of tiny petulance.
"No, Shar, you don't. Maybe that's your problem, huh? Maybe that's why your jellyfish are dying."
I opened my mouth again, but he continued, so I lay there on the floor, gaping like a trout.
"Come on. Go crazy. Have some fun for once, Charlotte."
That snapped me back just long enough to say "Don't call me Charlotte."
He chuckled. "Shar. Come on, it'll do you good. We can take my dad's camper—he doesn't care. Just you and me, wherever we feel like going."
"Camper has a gas tank, doesn't it?"
"Whiny writer has story money, doesn't she?"
Touché. "Yeah, but I need it."
"For what?" Derisive, this one. "It's not like you're saving for college, right?"
The trout impression resumed and lengthened out into several minutes.
"What do you say?"
"You and me and the camper?"
Adam and I and the camper. Copics and Calibri in whatever backdrop struck our fancy.
"Come on, Shar. Cut the suspense."
And I responded with a two-syllable word—the best or worst decision of my life.
Yes, there was permission-gathering and stuff-packing to be dealt with, but we dealt with it, and by the first day of summer, we were ready. My stomach felt like a boxing ring—excitement stood in the red corner, fists up, while anxiety strutted the blue corner. They were raring to duke it out for supremacy, and I wasn't sure which side would win.
It was very early morning, still dark, when the camper drove up and ground to a halt at my doorstep. I opened the front door and felt the soft coldness of the predawn air swirl around me, and saw the camper's headlights painting pale yellow strokes on the mist. Adam stepped out of the cab. I gave my duffel bag an unconscious squeeze.
"Not backing out on me, are you?" Adam took the bag from me.
I had time for one final apprehensive pause. "No." The boxing bell sounded. Excitement won out.
He reached around me and closed my front door with a thump.