“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ~Octavia E. Butler
I have loved writing since the day I stuck a pencil in my mouth, sat at my mom’s typewriter and pretended I was her. Or maybe even before. I feel like stories have been swirling inside my brain from the time I could dream. Do babies dream? Maybe I was dreaming stories as a newborn. I remember long car rides with my family where I would stare out the window and imagine long and elaborate stories, my mind adjusting to whatever landscape we passed. My head was filled with stories of horses, far away landscapes and adventure. My dreams have always been vivid and often stay with me for days sometimes, and on occasion years, allowing me a space to throw around any idea, however strange or scary.
I started writing my first novel when I was about 10 years old and not surprisingly, it was about horses. The protagonist was, or should I say “is” since technically I have never finished this novel, Brenda Breyers, the horse-loving doll that comes with the Breyers horses that I collected for years and to this day are piled in a box in the closet at my parent’s house. I just can’t bear to part with them yet. Brenda falls in love with horses and a boy and her every moment is spent at the stables. I was lucky enough to ride regularly from the age of about 7 years old to 18 years old, leasing horses for years and finally realizing my dream of owning a horse at the age of 15 thanks to my generous parents. My writing became my reality, but sadly my novel never got finished.
There were so many books that captured my imagination as a child and as a young adult and they often centered around time travel with a side of magic. I wasn’t obsessed with fantasy, but I loved fantastical elements in stories. I wanted stories to feel real enough to be possible, but magical enough to not feel too real. I wanted to be able to throw myself into that world, and let it seep into my dreams when the book was finished. I wanted to escape, certainly, but I also just wanted to feel like anything was possible. That my own story was going to be a magical ride.
Since those first scratches of a novel, I’ve written thousands of words in all sorts of styles. I went to graduate school and learned how to write like an academic. I became a blogger and learned how to write from experience and the heart. I became an arts marketer and learned to write copy, sum up ideas neatly and write compelling press releases. During this whole time as I developed a variety of writing skills, stories continued to marinate in my mind, never leaving me, growing tastier and juicier and waiting patiently for their opportunity to be cooked to perfection. Okay, now I’m hungry.
I had a friend who once told me that she only gets a new tattoo if she’s been thinking about it for at least two years and the idea refuses to go away. I feel that way about writing — and tattoos for that matter. My current novel has been a work-in-progress for the past nine years and it refuses to leave me, thank goodness. I love my characters and I love my story, but life is very good at preventing me from finishing this passion project. Or maybe I’m just not so good at carving out the time for it.
Sometimes writing feels self indulgent to me and taking the time to write feels like a selfish act. But then I remember every time I have been moved by someone else’s words. Deep down, writers want to connect and to feel a little less alone in this world by sharing their stories, and maybe just maybe, someone else will feel understood and less alone too. I’m always so grateful for any work of art, from writing to film, TV, fine art and performing arts, that has been thoughtfully and lovingly made and is out there for me to enjoy. It feels like a gift to me and a way to navigate our turbulent world.
The writing project
This brings me to my point — I need to write more, and I need to write regularly, but my novel will not appear overnight and my creative writing muscles are a bit weak at the moment. Writing is so much like exercise and eating right – consistency and persistence will always get you further than anything else. I’ve decided to publish blog posts twice a week for the next six months, rain or shine. One post will be non-fiction and general musings or life adventures and the other will be a very short story based on five random words. I hope you’ll join me on this journey and if you’re still reading, you automatically get a gold star for making it to the end of this post. And hey, who doesn’t want a gold star? It was one of the best parts of elementary school after all. ⭐
See you next time in, The Adventures of the Persistent Writer who Refused to Give Up Despite Having to Adult and Have a Day Job.