Sitting in a waiting room recently, I read an article on Holly Rowe, an ESPN reporter who is undergoing treatment for cancer. She continues to work and carries on with her life. I can’t find the exact quote, but she said something like, “I don’t want cancer to be the most interesting thing about me.” And that stuck with me. I keep repeating it to myself when my mind becomes consumed with my state of affairs, or when I feel tempted to post a milestone on Instagram or even before I post to this blog.
So, to kind of pivot onto something hopefully more interesting—I wrote a book!
It’s a thriller, 70K words about, that I’ve been writing and pecking at since 2013 when it was just some scribbles on my laptop notepad. It's a story of a young woman in a shitty job in a stifling cubicle (gee, wonder who that was based on?) who starts reliving her childhood in lucid dreams and long, drawn out hallucinations. Except it’s an alternate childhood, or one that evokes scenes of a creepy ass crime that she’s either completely making up, or she's repressing because it was so damn terrifying.
The first drafts were terrifying(ly) bad; I had a friend have a look at it. I was bashful—mortified—actually, because I didn’t know the first thing about writing fiction, let alone a novel. And so this friend kindly read it and asked some pointed questions that led me to further drafts and several complete rewrites. Years and years I would work rabidly on it, then would put it away for a while, rinse and repeat. I was so embarrassed I didn’t tell anyone about it. Because I didn’t want to admit I wanted it to be a real thing.
But part of me must have, because during this time, while in grad school ostensibly learning about web development, I took a fiction workshop elective. It was semi-helpful, but also a little disheartening getting my work ripped apart by a bunch of 23 year olds. But a couple years later, for my final grad elective, I chose a memoir class, a 6-week intensive course that served as both an emotional dump and a crucial tightening-up/exorcism of some bad writing habits. I swear I’ve benefitted more from non-fiction and journalism courses (“omit needless words”) than navel-gazing creative writing workshops where everyone’s out for themselves and thinks they’re more creative and original than everyone else.
I realize I’m not omitting needless words here, so I’ll cut to the chase. I’ll hopefully have my book, “The Hollow,” on Amazon via Kindle by the beginning of next week. I’m sending out an email to close friends and I’ll also post the link here. If I can pay back the editing fees, and maybe a little extra to pay some hospital bills—that’d be freaking sweet.
I started a new Instagram, too, Nikki.Writes, where I can more freely talk about writing and try to plug the book and disassociate myself from my cancer life.
Of which I’ll say one last thing. My doc took my hands on Wednesday and looked me in the eyes intently and told me, "You're o-kay."
Do they train them to do that? I mentioned a couple healthcare professionals who’ve done/said this to me, and it seems a spur of the moment thing. I’d like to believe it’s a genuine, "Yes, you’re fucking okay, Nicole” message the universe is trying to convey. And another instance of this, maybe: While I was having convulsive back pains in the car the other night, tears streaming down in a poor-me moment, I looked up at the sky out my windshield, and eked out, “Dad, are you with me?” and I got home and my back pain had significantly eased up. Life is a crazy and beautiful thing.
Anyhooters—hope some of you will check out the book, which will be here, hopefully by Monday: www.nicolebarrell.com.