Between my life in Seoul and the life I’m about to start in Busan, I find myself in the good ole US of A for three weeks, reconnecting with old friends and enjoying the easy comfort of being home.
There have been many pleasant surprises already in the first few days of this trip, including the greeting of a picturesque snow-covered landscape, the gift of the smoothest time zone transition I’ve ever experienced, and the delight of sliding behind the wheel of a car for the first time in 1.5 years with complete ease. (Reconnecting with people has been wonderful, too, but that was entirely expected.)
The best surprise thus far, however, has been finding myself utterly engrossed in a novel.
When I was young, I got lost in books all the time, but as I’ve grown older that lovely experience has unfortunately been largely replaced by mindless TV watching. Or movie watching (which somehow seems somewhat less mindless).
As an aspiring novelist (only made it to 38,500 out of 50,000 words during my novel-writing month, but hey, not a bad start), I was itching to find a good novel to read, but part of me feared I had lost the patience for reading, been corrupted by high-speed internet and the easy scroll of the Facebook newsfeed on my smartphone. And if I lacked the patience for reading novels, how could I hope to ever find the patience to write one (much less more than one)?
So I was thrilled when I was drawn into a book pulled off my mom’s bookshelf (thanks, Mom). Pulled from the start and drawn past the halfway point in less than two days. Not by some Harry-Potter-Hunger-Games type easy read, but by a book that starts with a middle-aged woman lounging in a boat with her husband while he fishes. (While I Was Gone by Sue Miller, if you’re curious.)
How can such a mundane scene be so immediately gripping? That is the kind of thing that fascinates me. That is the kind of thing that reminds me of why I want to write, specifically why I want to write fiction.
Not to suck people into some action-packed mystery thriller, nor to prove to myself that I’m creative enough to create an entire world with my words alone, but rather to explore what life is about and what is at the core of people. My aim isn’t to entertain but rather to harness the power of narrative to discover, in some part, what is true, real, beautiful, and essential.
I suppose frustration and disillusionment are part of a writer’s lot. Times of self-doubt and doubt in the medium of words on a page. What could I possibly have to contribute? Why would I invest so much time and thought into something so abstract and elusive? But there are also those wondrous moments of inspiration when everything seems possible. You feel capable of capturing that vital sense or essence with your words. You feel capable of crafting something wondrous, something just beyond the edge of your vision, sure to come into focus as you step toward it.
It’s an amazing feeling. Now I just need to take those steps and keep taking them until I find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.