That Compulsion Known as Writing
I spent the holiday with my family in Disney World. I can’t tell you if it’s the happiest place on earth, but on December 26, it might have been one of the coldest. I did get to go through the Haunted House twice, so that made ME a happy camper.
I wandered out of the spooky mansion, noticed this gypsy caravan, and took it for an omen. I choose to believe with all my heart that good times are ahead for me in my chosen profession.
See, I’ve always wanted to be an author–and I’ve always moved toward that goal.
I started writing “books” when I was seven. Back then I stapled together sheets of paper and decorated the covers. I wrote poetry inside.
I started winning awards for my work when I was in middle school. I started an authorized newspaper back in Griffith (IN) High School and nearly got kicked out of school for it. (The stupid journalism teacher was angry that my readership was higher than hers. Wonder where she is now. Who cares, right?) The next year I wrote a musical. Yes, you read that right. As a high school senior, I wrote a musical complete with songs, music and full three act script.
My friend Doug Brendel even helped with some of the lyrics. He survived, apparently unblemished. Doug is now a missionary who makes regular trips to Bellarus. Check him out: http://www.dougbrendel.com/
Doug and I and our third amigo, Bill LaDow, all became authors. Bill wrote a biography of racing giant Ray Nichels. Check it out: http://www.legendsofnascar.com/Ray_Nichels.htm
My point? Early on, I recognized in others that spark, that drive toward creativity. And when you hang with other authors, it rubs off. Oh, I don’t think we ever sat around and said, “Gee, I’d like to write a book when I grow up.” In fact, I know we didn’t. But we saw in each other a different type of thinking, a way of processing the world that demanded we express ourselves.
When people find out that I’m an author, they often confide, “I’d like to write a book.” Some even say, “I should write a book.” Or even, “I could write a book.”
I always try to answer their questions honestly. Or to encourage them. Most of them walk away unhappy. They want me to do more. One woman wrote last week and asked me to help her “make the connections I need to get published.” A younger woman slipped me a note with her email address. “I need you to help me write my book,” she said. “I’ve gotten it started, but I need help.”
Sorry. It doesn’t work like that. I sure wish it did, but it doesn’t.
What I really should tell them is: Go lie down and hope the urge will pass.
It’s a hard road, and there’s no clear path. I don’t think any two of my author friends has the same publication story. I think the road ahead will get murkier for the publishing industry. Almost all the names on the bestseller lists these days are authors who’ve been publishing for a while. “Guaranteed” bestsellers, if you will.
But as Nancy Pickard said at Bouchercon, the only part of this that we can control is our willingness to sit down and write. And when we write, we can only work as hard as possible to deliver the best possible story.
Clearly for me, this writing “thang” is a compulsion. It’s how I survive. How I make sense (when I do make sense) of the world. It’s something I can’t live without.