I haven’t been faithful or loyal to my writer’s blog. I was trying to turn it into an inspirational blog, but I realized that I was leaving out the most important component. The writing. People ask me all the time how I started writing and how I dedicated myself to writing a book. Before you can even think about publishing, you have to take your ideas and express them on paper (or computer screen). And, writing the book is the challenge most people aren’t ready to meet. It’s daunting. The first page is easy, but it’s a commitment. So, I think I should gear my inspiration to the writing, rewriting and publishing process. I can add some value here.
But, first, let me share my own writing story.
It’s a love story and just like any love story, there are parts where it’s sweet and parts where it is brutal.
It started when I was about seven years old. I loved reading and then I started getting ideas for my own stories. They would be a couple of pages on loose leaf. Over time, it increased until I was filling several pages in a notebook. But, it remained something I did that no one knew about. I wasn’t confident about my stories.
Then, I reached seventh grade and, an English teacher who would nurture my writing held a writing contest. The topic was baseball. I wrote something that was a couple of pages and turned it in with little thought. As he announced the winners, I was barely paying attention because I didn’t expect to win. The other winners were nice stories about baseball, but then the teacher announced the winner and said my name. He asked me if he could read it to the class. I was shocked and embarrassed but intrigued I had never heard anyone read my writing. It was only in my own head.
The story unfolded. The opening described a baseball player stepping out onto the field with bases loaded in the World Series. It described the energy of the crowd and feeling the weight of the bat against his shoulder. His anxiety, sweat dripping down his brow and the wind whipping past him as the ball landed in the catcher’s mitt behind him. On the third pitch, his bat connects with the ball and sends it sailing into the stands. They all round the bases and then they lift him on the shoulders as he comes to the realization that they won the World Series. I was impressed with my own story. I read it years later and could hardly believe an 11-year-old had written from that perspective.
From there, my teacher asked me to share more of my writings with him. He would correct them and give me notes. Then, he would have me share it with the class. I gained more and more confidence in my writing. Before I graduated, he made copies of my final writing and said he would share it with his class as part of the curriculum. I was published, sort of. The same teacher presented me with two writing awards during graduation. It cemented in my mind that I had a real talent. But, I couldn’t let myself pursue it full-time. I thought it was a lofty dream.
I would always return to writing. It was my way of processing my world and, to be honest, the characters wouldn’t leave me alone. I would hear bits of dialogue in my mind and it would haunt me until I wrote. My computer is full of files where I capture soundbites and bits of ideas that just come to me. But, the desire to write a book never left me. It also scared me.
Writing is a great process. It can be fun because you type and the words seem to flow as if you are connecting to a force bigger than you. But, writing also doesn’t care about your attention span, grammar, syntax, or the numbness of your butt after sitting for hours staring at a computer screen. As the words flow, you can lose track of everything. I used to come home from work and write until I would look up and it was time to go to work again. I hadn’t slept a wink.
The one thing I can say is I didn’t just jump to writing a book. I started with short stories. They went from five pages to ten pages and then into the thirties and fifties. I had writing goals. I would force myself to write a minimum of ten pages. Eventually, I started writing a hundred, two hundred pages and, finally, bust the three hundreds. It takes endurance. It’s like someone running marathons. You start out with one mileage, but as you get used to pacing and push yourself harder then you can go further and further. It’s not for the weak. There are days when you have to fight yourself to keep going.
But, that’s the writing part. The writing part is like the honeymoon phase. The real marriage comes in with the re-write. That is where you learn what you are made of and how committed you really are. You end up cutting your most beloved parts of your work because it doesn’t serve your story but serves your ego.
But, that’s for another day…