Sometimes the best ideas are associated with a red couch. . .

NaNoWriMo Day #18 – Writing requires a self to provide the words

By M.K. Anderson

My good friend and agent asked me to do this post: “How did you choose writing or how did it choose you?” Simple.

I found myself using the time I set aside to write instead Photoshopping the face of Gritty, the new Philadelphia Fliers mascot, onto Karl Marx.

There is a specter haunting YOUR NIGHTMARES.

I, like a lot of writers, knew I was a writer when I was very small. From middle school on, it was my identity. The thing I was good at. Something nobody could take away.

At nineteen I was assaulted.


After, I could not read or write. Not even for school, not for years. Apparently common for trauma victims. I could white knuckle through the pain of trying every day, refusing to mourn. Still couldn’t write. Time moves on. Eventually, I had to as well.

I was (and remain) bad at math, but it was possible. Limited school writing came back, though it was torture. See, writing requires a self to provide the words. Math, by contrast, is boring. It requires no self-reflection. No space for memories to breathe down my neck and bloody my nose.

I got an accounting degree.


A few years passed where things got better. I had friends, a husband, stability. I was doing okay at work. Started reading a little again. I didn’t attempt writing because, well, I was done with that.

A couple weeks before Christmas of 2015, I went with friends to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hated it the first time. Went again, because that’s what fans do.

I loved it. I think seeing it a second time gave me permission to find what was good about it. There was a bright, abandoned, impoverished young woman who kept going, and a man driven by rage. You might think I only identified with one, but you’d be wrong.


Every down moment for a week, I felt an urge I had trouble naming because I hadn’t felt it for such a long time. I was in an airport on Christmas Eve with no internet. Just me and my thoughts.

With nothing else to do, I drafted a chapter. Once I had internet, I posted it. It took off. My follower count grew by two orders of magnitude in a day.


I wasn’t a writer, if I’d gone back to writing it’d be too much. But that wasn’t writing. That was fan fiction. I could do it.

It was like breaking a dam. I wrote so much, 500,000 words in less than a year, that it became hard to find new things. My fiction was increasingly unrelated to the movies. I wrote contemporary, post apocalyptic sci-fi, historical romance, horror. Fandom friends who worked in publishing told me I was growing out of fan fic. If I stayed, didn’t seek out peers and critique, I’d develop bad habits that would be hard to unlearn. They said if I really wanted to make it as a professional, I had a shot. Not everyone does.

So. What did I want?


I could have decided to stick to fandom. Easily. If I wanted fans and approval, I had that. I wrote a chapter a night and woke up to fifty people, daily, begging me for more. Published writers are lucky to get five Amazon reviews. I joined professional writing communities which, far from laudatory, sneered at any hint of self-assurance I had. For good reason! I didn’t know how to pitch or self-edit. Those skills each took a year of daily study before I was minimally competent. I asked an agent in a Q&A —My future agent, in fact! Our first interaction!— if it was okay to call my own writing “literary” (“Yes.”). I still wrestle with that label. I wrote and queried a book I loved. I didn’t get rep for it.

It would have been easier to crawl back to fandom. I had reached acceptance, Goddamn it. Why pick open old injuries? Every rejection hurt. Every hint I didn’t belong was met by something in me that agreed.

I kept writing.

Last year in November of 2017, I started a novel for NaNoWriMo. I only did 30,000 words that month. Didn’t “win.” Another failure. I queried it in April, braced for rejection. Erik offered rep in May. We’re doing revisions now and will soon be on submission.

May I brag a little? It’s good. You will love it.

I know the story of how I would never be a writer. That story ended at nineteen. Maybe this is a mistake. Maybe the sixty years after that is an epilogue where I mourn or fail to mourn me, a writer, long dead. I know that story. I still tell myself that story.

Let’s tell a different one.


M.K. Anderson lives in Austin, Texas and is currently revising a novel on fandom in the wake of the 2016 election.  For updates on her writing, sign up for her mailing list here.





2 Responses to “NaNoWriMo Day #18 – Writing requires a self to provide the words”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: