This past week was the vacation week in between SNHU terms. I had high hopes for the week, I was gonna get started on upcoming work for the first week of the new terms’ classes and pump up my WIP word count. Weeeeeell…I got week one work done for one class, and I wrote a couple hundred words in the WIP (still under 10k words…blah…). I still have today, though…maybe I can get some work in on week one for the OTHER class and still do some writing. We’ll see – I’ve got laundry to do, I’ve gotta make some dinner eventually, and I’m enjoying the Olympic swimming and some of the other sports, so…priorities, man.
One of the questions I get a lot is, “What is like to be a writer, like, for real?” That’s not an easy question to answer, and anything I say won’t necessarily apply to any other writer. So, I’ll do my best to explain what it’s like for me to be a writer. Get ready for a roller coaster, kids.
As a teenager when I started reading for fun, I couldn’t get enough of fantasy stories. I wanted to live in the worlds I read about where magic and mystery were the name of the game. I devoured fantasy series like the best bakery cake ever, and was always hungry for more. For me, books were (and still are) treasured pieces of art; just like a painting or a song, someone put a lot of time and effort into creating that book, and in my eyes it should be revered and held sacred. I have WAY outdated reference books taking up space in my bookshelf because that book represents someone’s hard work and dedication to their subject, and whether or not it still applies, it’s still valid and should be respected. But anyway…I digress. Back to the subject. Reading all those books made me wonder if I could do that, too. I loved all the books I read, but I always found something that I thought I could have done better, or different, or in a way that I thought would be more satisfying. And thus, it started. I was probably thirteen.
Starting out it felt like I could do anything – I felt like I could rule the world with a stroke of my pen or a keystroke. It was the late ’80’s, and I would sit at a coffee table with a typewriter and tap-tap-tap out stories that, too often, made little to no sense. Thank goodness those atrocities have been lost to time…
The next step in my writing evolution came with the realization that if I wanted to write stories that would mean something to someone, they had to first be believable. With that came a thirst for knowledge, a need to know how things and people worked, and an insatiable curiosity to just learn…stuff. Thus started a habit that my family still teases me about to this day. When I had time alone I would read the set of printed encyclopedias that my parents had. I would start out wanting to learn about something specific – let’s say, horses, for example – but then I would read everything from the front cover that caught my eye until I got to the entry for horses.
My guys – my husband and son – call me a storehouse of useless knowledge.
I’ve got all this information in my brain now…just little bits and pieces that serve no practical purpose…and if I don’t have the info at hand I at least know where to go to get it because something will tickle in my brain that says, hey, you’ve read something about this before…you just gotta find it again… I’m not trying to boast here, just to point out that writing fiction isn’t just about making stuff up. If your entire world is created, readers have nothing to relate to, and that’s a problem. If your reader can’t relate to your world, they won’t enjoy your world or be invested in your world.
So, here I am, researched out and ready to create. I was probably 18 or 19 and absolutely enamored with comic books. I decided that comics were where I wanted to be, and I started contacting some amateur comic producers. I learned a lot – there are so many facets to comics creation, and I was just a cog in a great big wheel. It’s not that it’s a bad thing, but it’s not what I thought it was. I worked in it for about a year, made a lifelong friend, but it’s not for me. Creative control is a big deal for me, and there are just too many others involved in comic creation for my tastes.
So, back to it. At this point, I was trying to go to college for journalism, decided that wasn’t for me, then went through a bunch of other majors, a bunch of other colleges, all trying to do what made the most financial sense rather than following my passion – writing. I was also courting the man who would be my future husband. I didn’t have time for much writing “for fun” but I thought about it all the time. I didn’t have much support; my parents were more supportive of me going into the medical field rather than something creative like English or writing. I wasn’t happy, was stressed all the time, and ended up dropping out of college altogether, and since have been a secretary. That was…lessee…around 1997. I started working in the field at about 13 years old, working summers for my dad doing office work, so I knew what I was doing…kind of. So…like, almost 30 years as a secretary now.
Gah, I didn’t know this would turn into a personal history…sorry about that…
I didn’t turn back to writing “seriously” until I was an adult, married, and a mother. I decided that I could do it, and I was going to do it, and so, I did it. I wrote a novel when my son was a year old, and I subbed it to around 65 agents, all of which gave me a big fat no. I still have all the rejection letters somewhere. It was then that I had second thoughts – was I really a writer? Maybe I’m not capable of producing something that people would be interested in reading. I didn’t write again for almost twenty years.
In that time I raised a child and just worked one mundane secretary job after another. I didn’t read much for fun anymore, and I certainly didn’t write anything. Just the thought of looking at that blank white page gave me horrible anxiety. I knew I couldn’t do it, and if I did, it would just fail…again. So I didn’t do it. I decided when I started coaching high school swimming that I should practice what I preached (since I was preaching a college education), so I returned to college and got my bachelor’s degree, this time in something *I* wanted – English. I thought that I would go on, get a post-grad certificate and teach high school, but nah, that’s not for me. I decided that a creative writing MFA was more my speed, and so here we are.
Basically, all that is to say that being a writer is hard work, and your writing work is the sum of your experiences. Yeah, I took the long way around to say that – sue me, I’m a writer, whadda ya want? Creating is stressful. Consistency, realism, fantasy elements, characters you care about – it all takes a toll on the creator. Your heart and soul is on that page, and when rejection strikes, or you get a bad critique, it’s like a knife to the heart.
So, if you’re reading this blog entry and think that it’s basically saying, being a writer sucks, don’t do it, it’ll stress you out, leave you depressed, and drain you completely, well, I hope you don’t take that from this. It’s not – it’s exhilarating. It’s freeing. It’s pure ecstasy when that scene you’ve been mulling in your head for a week gets put on paper and it just clicks into place, makes perfect sense, and feels like home on the page.
Basically, DO IT. Pour out your heart. Who cares what others think, and remember that if you want to publish – if that’s your goal – there are others in this industry ready and willing to help you make your creation shine like the diamond that it is. It will work. You just have to be willing to put in the blood, sweat, and tears to make it real.
Thanks for reading my ramble this Sunday. As always, I welcome your comments, and if you’ve got a story about what your experience is like being a writer, I’d LOVE to hear from you! Like I wrote at the beginning, it’s different for everyone. Our journeys are never the same, even if we’re all headed to the same destination. And dontcha know, the journey is where the best stories lie!
Happy Sunday, y’all!