It started out as a short story. Then it grew into something more. It wasn't long before I started calling it, The Novel.
There, I said it, I'm writing a novel. (That's the confession part.)
EB White, the American author and essayist for The New Yorker, once said in a speech, "I admire anyone who has the courage to write anything at all."
Personally, every time I write, my soul bears witness to the vulnerability of which White speaks. It has been a long and winding road for me to admit that I am a writer. I have no formal training in the field and I have no job that is specifically related to my ability to write.
Yet I am now becoming more and more comfortable with the simple fact that I am a writer, mostly because these days I do actually write regularly and I do enjoy it. That doesn't make me a success, of course, and depending on the crowd, it's still hard to tell others that I'm a writer. This is despite the fact I am already a published author with at least one book and several articles to my name.
But it doesn't seem to matter, especially when you take the plunge and add novelist to the equation. It's one thing to be a writer; it's quite another to be a novelist. At least, that's how it feels right now.
It feels like The Novel requires a special act of courage to write. And I feel that weight each time I give myself to it. I feel the insecurities, the doubts. I hear the naysayers. I face the demons. But then, this is all part of the adventure, part of the risk. Writing is dangerous. It's the wild that my heart thrives on.
In those treacherous waters, then, it helps to have someone else in the boat. As lonely as writing can be, genuine encouragement from others can go a long way in keeping you afloat. My wife is the only one who has read the early pages of my novel. She liked it, though she has wisely refused to play the role of critic. She gives me support, but not feedback, at least not at this point. We know each other well enough to draw those boundaries.
That's why I was so pleasantly surprised when I discovered that a friend of ours in Delhi was also working on his first novel. Unlike me, he's a journalist. Like me, he's a foreigner and a family man. He's much farther along on his novel than I am, but we can relate. He knows what I'm going through. We compare notes and talk about the process. We haven't read each other's work, mostly because he's not writing in English. But we've told our stories in outline and given each other those nods of affirmation. We keep in touch, and it helps.
What are the chances of meeting another novice novelist in a city of 15 million people? How much more strange would it be if a third such person was added to The Club?
I met the third member recently, and I must say that I wasn't immediately surprised that he also was embarking on the journey. He's already known as a writer and he's a prolific reader of fiction. I had heard of him before we met. I had even read him. He happens to be a reporter and blogger here in Delhi, an Indian writing in English. A day after hearing his Confession, it did strike me how fortuitous it was to have met another potential member of The Club. I told him then that there was yet another one of us in the city. He was similarly amused.
Could it be that a fourth member would come forward even before the first meeting was called? Yes, indeed, it happened. I met him a couple weekends ago. He made his Confession in a group setting and I approached him afterwards. We talked and I told him about The Club. He's also interested.
The fourth member is, like me, not a journalist and not even really working as a writer. He's an established business professional who is getting bored with his work and is becoming more interested in writing. He has begun work on The Novel but admitted that he could benefit from some prodding and probing from others.
We haven't met as a group yet, and I'm not sure when we will. It's strange but it almost feels like the group is getting too big before it's even begun. However, it does seem evident that such a group is needed, and I must say, I already look forward to the day when there are four more published novels in this world and each of them has a reference to The Club in the acknowledgements.
Note: I have purposely not mentioned the names of the other club members, nor have I described them too carefully. After all, this is my confession, not theirs.