Friday, May 7, 2010

I'd rather be Writing

The first time I consciously remember knowing I wanted to be a writer was in 7th grade. my homeroom teacher asked each person in the room what they wanted to be when they grew up then wrote it down. I'm not sure what the purpose was - maybe that was the beginning of  the SEOP's my kids have now.

 I was one of the last to answer [I was so focused on myself - because I was 12 years old - that i didn't pay attention to what the other kids said] When Mr. Harris finally got to me I confidentally said, "A writer."

 At that point in my life I had lived in Utah about 5 years and no longer correctly pronounced my 'T's'. They sounded more like 'D's'.

"A rider?" my teacher asked.

I started to say 'No' then stopped myself. I did want to be a rider too - a jockey. my love of books was equaled only by my love for horses. unfortunately, the only horses I owned were Breyer statues and, although my size was right, I was the wrong gender to be a jockey.

"No. A writer," I said, making sure to emphasize the 'T'.

I really don't know where the idea to write came from but I devoured books. I was an uncoordinated, untalented, imaginative child. The only thing I was really good at [besides testing my mother's patience and tormenting my younger sister] was reading. I probably read a book a day. Most of them were Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins, and Little House on the Prairie but I expanded into books that took me all over the world, to different cultures, different times and places, even different realities. It was an escape and entertaining.

Maybe it was the combination of receiving my first journal and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder that spurred the idea of writing my own stories. In my journal was reality; in my stories was my effort to understand that reality. My family was very imperfect. We would be called dysfunctional in today's terminology. [I love them all and have learned some insightful things in my adult years that have helped me come to terms with some of the things that went on.] In my stories I could take a fictional character and put them in situations like the ones I faced and let him/her deal with it. Usually the character was much braver, wiser, prettier, smarter, and more lovable than I felt I was and came out triumphant in every difficulty. Sometimes I wouldn't finish stories because I didn't know how to. But putting down the words helped me sort out life.

I took a Creative Writing class my senior year of high school and thought I would major in English in college so I could focus on writing. It didn't happen. I didn't click with any of my English professors [they are so picky about writing style! :) ] I fell in love with another major and eventually graduated in it. In the ensuing years I had no time to read anything frivolous, let alone write. my dream was pushed to the background as life took Its own direction.

I still found myself doing character profiles when I was in a crowd, or coming up with story plots for people. It wasn't until I'd been married a few years that I came up with one idea I thought would really make a good story. I had the whole thing worked in my mind. I'm sorry to say it stayed in my head for several more years as I 'thickened' the plot. I toyed with the idea of writing it down but I was busy being a mom and had kind of given up on the writer idea. I prayed about it off and on because I really wanted to do it but taking the time seemed so frivolous, especially if it never got published. I finally came to the conclusion to forget about it because I had only come up with one plot and if I truly wanted to be a writer I needed to have more than one idea.

That night I had a dream. when I woke up my first thought was, "that would make a great plot." I thought of it all day and came up with a story. And that was all. A week later it happened again - a dream with a good plot. And then it happened again. This time it really got my attention [remember it took the Nephites 3 times to hear the Lord, too] I realized I'd been getting some pretty blatant inspiration. I wrote the ideas down. Since then I have continued to have dreams with good plots [yes, i do enjoy sleeping and dreaming]. I haven't kept track of all of them because I'm trying to focus on the projects I have at hand.

My story isn't done yet. I did start writing but the guilt for doing something that seemed dreamy and anti-productive compared to family history, scrapbooking, quilting, or even house cleaning kept winning out. even with the dreams and really feeling I'd received them in answer to prayer, I still had doubts.

Then I met Josi Kilpack. She lives near me and had a book signing at our local bookstore. a few weeks later she hosted a book talk. I nearly didn't go but on the postcard for the event it said she would answer questions about writing. I went. She was awesome and saw right through to what was troubling me.

"There are a lot of choices out there for your time," she said, "BUT, if you need to do it to be fulfilled, do it."

Ah-ha!!! as Oprah would said say. That was the key. Writing never left me because I needed to do it to be fulfilled.

I attended my first Writer's Conference that year. It was put on by LDStorymakers, of which Josi is a part. There were about 70+ attendees. I made a good friend - Stacy Henri. I was awed to be in the presence of many of my favorite authors including Josi, Janette Rallison, and Rachel Nunes. More than anything I felt like I'd found 'my people'. I was surrounded by others who thought like I did and saw life as many plots all put together. It was so incredible. I came away with a huge headache and tons of information on how to write.

A year later I attended the conference again and that summer Josi invited me [after I'd been begging all over northern Utah for a writing group] to join her writing critique group. It included Ronda Hinrichsen, Jody Durfee, Ann Creager [who has since passed away - story for another time] and N.C. [Nancy] Allen. It has been a great experience to rub shoulders with them and hone my talent with their help.
Two weeks ago, I attended my fourth conference in 5 years. [this time there was about 470 in attendance - wow] I submitted two chapters in the First Chapter contest - one in romance and one in general fiction. I cannot put into words [even as a writer] the thrill it was to get a 2nd place award in general fiction and a $50 prize. [200ish entered the contest but I don't know how many were in each of the five categories] For the first time in my life i felt like I could really do something. [no, i am not trying to sound pathetic] I knew I had made progress in the last five years and this helped me feel it and has given me confidence to believe there may actually someday be a published book with my name on it.

Because I'm a whimsical person, it is hard for me to sit down and make myself write so that is my next emphasis. I do try to write every day but moods and life tend to get in the way. Having my writing group helps me produce and improve. I don't know what I'd do without them. They are patient and positive with me. this whole process feels like a set of mini-miracles that have led me to where I am. I really want to entertain, educate and inspire with writing.

 In fact, I think I will go work on a chapter right now.