An oldie but goodie, reprinted from my previous writing blog......
Being a writer doesn't feel like you think it will...
I was ten years old, writing my first poetry and submitting them to
contests, I'm not sure what I thought the life of a "real" writer would
be like. All I knew was that I loved to write, and wanted to do a lot
of it. I don't really remember a lot more of how I felt back then.
as I got older, perhaps a starry-eyed teenager, I guess I formed a
picture in my mind of what it would be like when I finally became
published, became well-known, or at least, well-read by intellectual
types. Maybe I would sit at a wonderful old oak roll top desk, with a
little lamp on the corner sporting a cheerful green glass shade. I
thought I'd be sitting at that desk all day with an old typewriter
clacking out page after page of wonderful Stuff. Or I'd be sitting by a
crackling fire, sipping cognac, pondering Great Thoughts.
it came time to go to college, I decided to major in art. To this day I
wish ONE person had said “You have talent. You should write.” It took
years of frustration trying to sell my artwork before I started writing
about it instead and stumbled onto a whole new path.
you know what? I finally got published. And it was NOT the way I
thought it would be. My first desk was a fold-up, rickety card table in
the corner of my bedroom in a low-rent apartment. I had an electric
typewriter by then, but produced a manuscript using plain white paper
and a lot of White-Out.
My first advance for a 250-page
book was $500. In those days, that paid about two month’s rent and a
few bills. Over the next few years, the royalties weren't much more
than that. But I didn't care; I was published!
first books were dry, dull, resource guides that took hours and hours of
research and correspondence. After twenty plus years, even that got
old, and my old dream started nibbling at the corners of my mind. To tell stories--that was the dream.
think you’ll sit down, and begin at the beginning, and write a story
from beginning to end. You think that if you have your little stack of
color-coded index cards, that you’ll have your plot all worked out, nice
and neat. Little do you know that once you put two characters in a room
alone, they’ll start a conversation and pass you by so fast your head
will spin. You’ll have no control over them, what they say or do.
You’ll be freaked out about this, but go with it.
won’t have set hours to work. You’ll feel like crap all day, have a cup
of tea at 5pm, then next you know it’s 4am, you’re freezing, and you
have a stack of pages beside you. You have no idea what you wrote, or
where it came from.
You feel Out of Control. You are a writer.
think that you’ll “dream up” the beginning of a story, and if you keep
working on it, you’ll work straight through from beginning to end.
Nope. Doesn’t work that way. The first inkling you have of a story
might be a snippet of conversation you hear over breakfast in the
neighborhood diner…”…after my first son was born, I had a flap of skin
that hung down to the floor, honey…” Take that and go with it. Turn it
into a character. Write about her, then see what she wants to do. Or
it might be a news story you hear in passing about a mutant rodent. Go
Here’s the Big Secret that it took me years to
learn. You don’t always start at the first sentence. Writing is not a
linear activity, it’s more of a spiral thing. It’s organic, it grows, a
little this way, a little out that way. You don’t have to know the
ending until you get there! Wow, what a mind-boggling idea that is!
sure wish I’d known this before the age of 50. I think it would have
helped me be a little freer with my writing and get to the authentic
stuff before now. I would have written more without having to know the
first sentence. I would have paid better attention to the folks in the
back corners of old diners.
Here’s the other Big Secret…you are not in control. Not really. You are a writer.
Bobbi A. Chukran