I’ve been thinking that maybe I’m done with fiction. Not forever, but for now, and maybe for a while.
Projects are my jam. I like the structure of this many words, on these days, in this form. At the beginning of April, already more than half a month into my quarantine and growing bored, I thought I’d try writing a little story every day. April is good; there are only 30 days. 500 words would be easy for me; for NaNoWriMo, I’ve done 1,667, and I did 750words for years. I even decided to write fan fiction because half the work is done for you.
But I didn’t make it to the end of the month. I hardly made it to the end of the first week.
It’s a pandemic! What was I thinking, trying to set myself a deadline? Of course I wasn’t gonna succeed, and there’s no use feeling bad about it. Not like I was getting paid for the project, anyway. It was only fic.
Fan fiction wasn’t the first stories I wrote, but fandom is where I learned to write in public. I learned about feedback, editing, and collaboration with the other writers I met online, the ones who loved Smallville or Stargate: Atlantis as much as I did—which is to say, we saw the potential underneath the camp. I was already calling myself a writer, but now I was writing for other people. And they were reading what I wrote.
So I wrote more. I wrote my own stories. I sent them out to publishers who published the writers I knew in fandom, and they published them! It wasn’t a lot of money, but if I just wrote more stories, I could make more money, right?
I tried. For a lot of years, because I knew the stories of rejection eventually lead to an agent, a book, a career. I knew this because I saw it happen, for friends, IRL and online.
It hasn’t happened for me. But I choose that verb “hasn’t” purposefully. It hasn’t happened for me—yet. While I might feel old at 38, I know I’m young. I know there are years and years ahead for me to try again. But right now, I’m trying something different.
It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed writing like I have enjoyed writing these letters to you. In recent years, I’ve even struggled writing letters to my favourite friend, my best penpal, and I write those letters by hand. There’s an ocean between hand-writing and keyboard-writing (and then another channel between tangible and intangible keyboards). When I begin to doubt my skills, I go back to pen/cil and paper, and I remember, oh yeah, I can write.
This time around, these letters are doing the job. God damn, I can write. Maybe I should be writing non-fiction instead? But every time I think again about doing the freelance thing, a wave of media layoffs follows, and I wonder what’s the point? Trying to publish essays? In this pandemic economy?
There’s usually a photograph to break up the text in these letters, akin to the ephemeral-filled envelopes I mail out to friends. Once you get on my penpal list, you can expect unexpected packages to arrive, spilling out with zines, stickers, magazine cut-outs, and anything else that reminds me of you. And I almost included the book outline I hastily scribbled down earlier this week, but—after a lifetime of documenting my work online—I’m gonna hold that one close a little longer. Like my favourite, the mushroom, it needs time to grow in the darkness.
Instead of a photo, here’s a one hour loop of Frank Ocean’s cover of “Moon River,” which I’ve been listening to off and on this morning (I can’t really write with music).
After two Sundays at the market, I have today off (and it’s a gorgeous one, of course). All Day Breakfast will be back June 7th and 14th, and I’m very much looking forward to what I might bake. The garden is full of chives, popping open with purple seeds to ensure their return next year.
I hope I get to see you next year, too.
Hey there! 👋 I’m Jessica Driscoll, a baker, teacher, and writer, living on the unceded territory of the SEMYOME (Semiahmoo) Nation in a beach town outside Vancouver, BC. I’ve documented my creative experiments online since 2002, and I sell the products of those experiments at markets around the Pacific Northwest. This newsletter helps people keep track of my wandering attention span and follow along as I figure out what works. Currently, I bake on Instagram and sell at the White Rock Farmers Market, as well as online at All Day Breakfast.