(A note about these posts: I’m not a writing teacher. I don’t know enough to teach others because I’m still learning. I will have posts from other writers – posts with information on the craft and the business. However, I will share what I’ve learned on this journey.)
The chubby, young girl sits at the makeshift table in the musty basement and pounds on the portable typewriter, one of her Christmas presents from the previous year. Her father had fervently hoped she would enjoy typing and that enjoyment would lead her to a career as a secretary. He is wrong.
She is typing away, but not to learn how to type. She is typing away at a story, a story she is making up in her head as she types. She isn’t going to be a secretary; she’s going to be a writer, a journalist even.
Fast forward to a third floor classroom in an old brick building alongside Easton Hospital in Easton, PA. The girl is still chubby but she’s a bit older and in nursing school. The class is microbiology and she is not paying attention, but it seems as if she’s taking notes on the teacher’s lecture. She’s not. She’s writing a play. In a few days the teacher will proudly give her the test score from the information on the “notes”—an F. He has a huge smile on his face because he knows she wasn’t paying attention to his lecture. She doesn’t care. She likes her play about the Beatles being kidnapped by the KGB to play before an audience of Soviet teens (it’s the late 1960s). Eventually she gets a “B” for the year in microbiology. She still doesn’t care.
Nurse, wife, mother, single mother. Through all of those lives, the chubby girl learns about her love, writing. She joins writers’ groups and critique groups. She takes classes in novel writing. She reads and reads. In the late 1970s she’s seen carrying a thick paperback around, telling people, “You’ve got to read this book. This writer is great.” The book is The Stand.
Nurse, wife, mother, single mother. Through all of the reincarnations of her life, one thing remains constant. She writes. She writes whenever she has the time. She writes poetry. She writes short stories. She sometimes gets published, most of the time she doesn’t. She writes opinion pieces and feature articles for the local newspaper. She starts to write novels. She pitches at writers conferences. Sometimes the agent or editor asks for a partial or a full manuscript. She doesn’t get a contract but she keeps on writing.
On this journey that every writer takes, the writer thinks, “If only I can get this (poem, short story, article, book) published. If only someone will read/buy it. If only it can be a best seller. If only I can write another one, better than the last. If only…”
The “only” thing is the writing, the laying down of one word after the other to make a thought, a sentence, a story. One word after the other. There is nothing else, not the publishing, not the editor, not the agent, not the best seller list. The only thing is the story and the reader.
That’s what this writer has learn in fifty+ years of writing. The writer and the reader with nothing between them but the words, the language, the story.