This is a regular column featuring original fiction by and for high school students, provided by Figment.com, an online community writing site for young people.
You hate the fact that you still have to set an alarm, even though you work from home. And it’s not a pleasant alarm like the one you saw in a novelty catalogue that asks you to wake up with a polite English accent. That would not be sufficient for your borderline-comatose sleeping habits. It’s full-on screechy beeping that starts your day at 7:15, because you need as much time as possibly to be even slightly productive.
Your boyfriend hates the alarm, but he stands it because he loves you and wants you to write another book. He’s the one who persuaded you to try and get the first one published. Every day when he leaves for work as you sit at your desk, he taps you on the shoulder as if he’s trying to gently unstick the ideas.
“Pulitzer?” he’ll say with his charming half-smile as he walks out the door. “Nobel Prize for literature? Another New York Times bestseller, at the very least.” Oh, that’s right, the first novel was a bestseller. You forget that sometimes because it seems impossible and undeserved. You still think of his job as “the real one,” for crying out loud, even though you’re the one who’s actually brought in money. But right now he’s wearing a suit and you haven’t even put pants on yet, so it’s a difficult concept to grasp.
This new book is not coming easily, and you have a feeling nothing you write ever will. You don’t even really remember writing the first one; it happened because you had just graduated college with all of these emotions but no way to channel them. You know that’s not an adequate explanation of your writing process, and it made for some terrifically boring and awkward interviews during the press tour (God, how weird is it that you had a press tour?).
All you know for sure is that sometimes it feels like someone else was dictating the manuscript, and you just typed it clumsily with your index fingers. And that when it was over everything felt right, like your world had been knocked back into orbit. Finishing the novel felt like walking inside after standing in the cold; all the feeling rushed back into your limbs and equilibrium was righted and you could breathe again.
That feeling’s the reason you’re doing this a second time. Well, that and the fact that you’re obligated to write something else, because everyone expects great things from you as a “gifted young writer” and “prodigious talent” (their words, obviously). Your book, for some reason, sold. People liked it; they liked the way you write and the things you said. And even though you’re afraid you used up all the things you had to say, you try to come up with more because it would be sad if that really was it.
You’re typing on the computer that’s connected to the Internet, though you know it’s a bad idea. The idea of writing this book is so daunting that you will undoubtedly end up online watching funny cat videos instead. And you don’t even like cats. Anything to avoid the terrifying white space and the word counter at the bottom of the screen that seems to say “That’s all you’re going to come up with today, huh?”
You don’t even know if you like writing. You need to do it, and you like having done it, but you question whether doing this to yourself is worth it. To try and succeed with your weird little hobby a second time, when the first was more successful than you could ever have imagined. Being the author of a popular book is amazing. It’s more than you feel you deserve. But you know, in the back of your anxiety-ridden brain, that creating one celebrated work can still seem insufficient.
Like how Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. But then she never did anything else. And now she’s an elderly recluse, and some people don’t think she even actually wrote her masterpiece. What is that happens to you? This is how your brain works. Success and good potential don’t compute; it’s all worst-case scenarios. Of course, comparing yourself to Harper Lee in any way is a little ridiculous. You’re pretty sure that ninth-grades across the country will not be assigned your beloved classic novel for decades. Or ever.
But you still don’t want to be seen a fluke or a one-hit wonder, the literary equivalent of a song that shows up on one of those “I Love the [insert decade here]” shows. You don’t want to give up on everything and then hear people say “Remember that girl who wrote the bestseller at 22 and then disappeared? She sure got lucky.” You can’t let that happen.
So you make yourself keep working. You disconnect the internet and type, because you can’t afford to let anything distract you. When your boyfriend comes home you’ve written a few thousand words. You’re not sure if they’re relevant to the plot, or even if they’re decent. Honestly, you’re still not entirely sure what the plot is going to be. But he reads that day’s work and says he likes it, though of course he always says that.
You stop to go eat dinner, and as he talks about his day you realize that you’re really happy not to have an office job like he does. The fact that you can spend your days playing with words while wearing mismatched pajamas is mind-blowingly enjoyable, especially when you consider how a lot of less fortunate people have to make a living. You realize you should stop complaining, because it’s a waste of the resources in your brain. You realize that you’ve got to keep trying.