Some stories are born, some stories are achieved, and some stories are thrust upon the author.
Stories that are Born are the kind writers live for. They appear apparently out of nowhere, bringing with them the highest, purest kind of joy a first draft can give. But inspiration being errant as it is, the Born story is the rarest of the three. “I rarely argue with inspiration because it’s hard enough to be inspired,” Vikram Seth said once. He has probably said it more than once, but the video didn’t come up in the first four searches for him on YouTube, and I didn’t have the time or inclination to keep searching. You’ll simply have to take my word that those are his words. I could pass them off as my own, but coming from me people will call it a cop-out. More to the point, I’m giving Vikram Seth credit to show you that if someone who wrote one of the longest English novels says that inspiration is hard to come by, you and I won’t find it easy to define “hard enough.”
Of the ten stories in Pioneer Boulevard, only one was Born. That is, it had its origins in sheer inspiration. One moment I was reclining on my bed in my dorm room in Keele, looking at the tree outside my window and thinking of nothing in particular (I particularly remember that), and the next moment I was taking the three-and-a-half steps to my desk and turning on my computer. The other nine stories were Achieved. That’s a whopping ninety percent, to put it in uninspired journalistic jargon. (I only refer to “whopping” as uninspired. Arithmetic cannot help itself, but journalism should know better.)
Stories that are Achieved are the result of what bright people like Edison would say is 99% more necessary than inspiration: perspiration. Much as I hate to admit it, there’s no substitute for hard work. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a woman. You might be allowed to “gently glow” from the sebaceous glands, but from the pen you must sweat it out just like the boys. Nine-tenths of Pioneer Boulevard was Achieved by the sweat of my brow, sometimes dripping all over me at the Keele gym.
All writers will shed toil, tears, and sweat to Achieve a story, often with ruthless publishers, editors, and tutors holding the metaphorical gun to their head (which is not unlike that weapon being held to a journalist’s head by terrorists). Ah, but when that first draft is completed (never mind how Anne Lamott describes first drafts), the Achieved story produces a sense of achievement that is hard to put into words. Yes, even for a writer.
And then there’s a class of stories that is simply thrust upon an author with the request or, more often, the demand: “Here, author, tell me this story.” The story that will follow this Prologue falls in this category.
You may have noticed – or will now notice – that I have used the word author when referring to the Thrust-Upon story whereas I had used writer when referring to the Born and Achieved. This is a conscious choice on my part as a writer, because Thrust-Upon stories are only thrust upon writers after they become authors. Since my attaining authorhood with the publication of Pioneer Boulevard, which memorable event occurred exactly seven months ago today, I have realized that people expect authors to have an endless supply of stories for their entertainment. (The pronoun refers to the first antecedent, since people do not expect authors to write for their own entertainment.)
I have realized many other things besides, some of which it will be pertinent for me to share over the course of this story. Others it will be pertinent for me to share over the course of other stories. Still others it will be pertinent for me never to share.
Here endeth the Prologue.