I am a writer. That is not what I am, it is who I am. Unfortunately, this revelation didn’t dawn on me when I was young. For many years, I believed that lacking a college degree and being unpublished were things that thwarted my being a writer. I know differently now.
Writing is something that pervades my soul. It is rooted so deeply, it will never abdicate its authority over me. A compulsion to write has the kind of roots that can be locked away in a dark, forgotten closet for years, denied both nourishment and exercise, and yet will stubbornly survive. Though cut and burned and dashed to pieces, remnants will remain and resurrect from the ashes!
After years of halfhearted writing, I decided that writing must not be for me. I tried to stop. I thought I had stopped. Looking back, I realize that written, editable text continued to manage my thoughts. The stories I told my children were begging to be written and preserved for future generations. Rhymes arose insistently, plaguing me with their desire to be recorded.
When I could no longer escape writing’s persistent pursuit, I decided to embrace it – wholeheartedly this time. At first, the old self-doubts returned to plague me, and my work seemed less than satisfying. It wasn’t as flawless as I desired it to be. As Janet Hulstrand (www.writerswrite.co.za) says, “Bad writing precedes good writing. This is an infallible rule . . .” And so, I pressed on. I wrote and revised and revised and wrote.
Most of what I wrote was poetry, but, for the first time in my life, an urge to write a book began to materialize. This book, I knew, must be a children’s book, as that continues to be my favorite literary genre. An old character from one of the stories I told to my children darted through my mind, demanding, “Me, me! Write about me!” Old Mac had his way, and I began writing my first book.
After I had “finished,” it became disappointingly clear that my creation was not a book with plot, climax, conflict and resolution. What I had written was actually setting and character development, all of which had become very real to me. My main character and the people in the community around him were like old friends and family. I had even created a map of Old Mac’s hometown of Sunflower. My mind nearly bursting with fresh cognizance, I went back to writing.
Finally, I completed a rough draft of the book. It still wasn’t what I intended it to be, so I revised it again – and yet again. There were times when I very nearly gave up, but the persistence of those writer roots in me prevailed. I’m proud to say that my first book has been completed. There is a slight sting in knowing that I self-published the book, but honestly and surprisingly, I loved every minute of the entire process from beginning to end, including the long hours of revision.
Recently, I was telling a friend about some confusing contradictions I had read in a few articles on writing. (Okay, I confess, I was complaining.) She listened, and then matter-of-factly told me she thought I needed to quit reading those things and just write. I must remember to tell her what a wise woman she is.
There is still a deep need within me to search for and read “how-to” articles. It’s my research instinct. My reaction to such articles has changed, though. Discouragement does not consume me when I read something that tells me I am apparently doing everything wrong. I know better. I must do what works for me. If that means no one will want to publish my work, so be it. I must be original and true to myself (and heed those nagging words longing to be written down.)
At this point in my life, I feel more successful than I have ever felt. You know you are successful when you come full circle to your childhood dream and begin to live it. So, here’s my advice: if you’ve left your dream locked away somewhere in your past, go back and set it free! Embrace it! Don’t listen to those who tell you you’re doing it all wrong. Don’t settle on that first draft either. (This blog entry has been revised five times.) If it means you have to redo it a hundred times to get it the way you want it to be, redo it a hundred times. If you are truly a writer, you will probably do that anyway. My journey away from growing old and back into growing up has been worth every word I’ve rewritten!