Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Or maybe just wiser. But I found myself philosophizing my path into becoming the writer I am today and what I hope to be in the future.
I have always loved writing. And I do mean always. I have been creating stories and characters since I first learned how to write. I think I was probably making up stories in my head even before I knew how to put them down on paper (I’m ancient. There were no computers back then).
Many years ago (I won’t say how many but it was before the advent of the electronic mail) I decided to try the publication route. Until then I had written for fun, for myself. But I wanted to share my stories with the world, as terrifying as that was. So one day, when my oldest son was still a newborn, I wrote a novel, went to the library to check out a copy of the Writer’s Market, and began spending the little money we had on good quality paper, copying, and stamps. I still have the records from back then when the rejection letters came one after another, ripping my heart and my dreams to shreds.
I know now I wasn’t ready. I really wasn’t. I realize in hindsight that my whole life has been a long practice run for what was ultimately that moment in time when I decided to submit something during a PitMad on Twitter and got published.
My childhood years when my father took me and my sister on road trips around my country, visiting different places and learning new things were all research trips. Those years that our family lived in different places in Africa, learning new languages, new ways, news perspectives on life? Research. My days as an animateur at a Club Med-type resort were nothing else than groundwork for characters and plot twists. The earthquakes I lived through, the hurricane, the tornado scares…fodder for stories. Losing my dad, my grandmother’s many strokes, my c-section, yoga lessons, medieval re-enactment events, being bullied as a kid and as an adult, having a son with a mental illness…you get the point. Every step of my life is now a piece in a rather vast bank of ideas and resources for my writing. I feel blessed I had such a rich life so far (even though I always thought it was a boring life) and I pledge to use it in all my stories.
Some people take years to finish one novel. Others take years to gather enough material to write many stories. Which type of writer are you?
P.S. -Here’s a poem I wrote a while back about the sounds of my life (I’m almost sure I have posted it before but I’m too lazy to go look for it) that sort of summarizes the sources of my inspiration. I’m no poet so I apologize in advance. I hope you enjoy it at least a little bit.
The Sounds of My Memories
How does a memory sound?
My memories sound like ocean waves breaking against the sand,
Christmas songs sang out of tune,
Hail Marys and Our Fathers whispered at night.
My memories sound like my father saying goodnight
Or the last time we said goodbye.
They sound like my mother’s voice calling us to the table,
Teaching us to be kind.
My grandfather doubting men ever walked on the moon
And my grandma reminiscing about her honeymoon.
The sound of the Chestnut Man yelling
“Quentes e boas!” in the cold of the street.
The whistle of the Knife-Sharpening man,
Early in the morning, drawing us in.
An old pop song playing in the background,
The sound of pots and pans in the kitchen,
The national anthem playing on TV at midnight,
“What’s up doc?” and “I tawt I taw a putty tat”.
My memories sound like jet planes
Landing and taking off,
“Tighten your seat belts” and “Please, don’t smoke.”
My memories squeak like airport dollies
And old airplane rolling stairs.
They are thunder and wind of an African storm,
The roaring of the fast waters of the Congo River,
The incessant bartering of women at the market,
The pleads of the beggars in the streets,
The moaning of the sick and the lonely.
My memories whistle like the wind on Scottish muirs,
And growl like the Puffins at Dunnottar.
The crystalline sound of my baby son’s laughter
And the Scottish accent of my four-year old.
Carolers singing throughout the night,
A medieval tune played out of sight.
Whistle and “Captain Aboard”,
Crowds of Navy families crying goodbyes,
Or celebrating hellos.
The silence of a Pacific Mountain,
The peace of the Puget Sound.
My memories have so many sounds.
They whisper in my ears,
Quietly, soundlessly sometimes.
They yell at me,
Loud and piercing other times.
They are echoes of my past,
Little souvenirs of feelings, thoughts, impressions,
Tiny mosaics that made me strong enough to last.