I recently read something that said: Reading is dreaming with open eyes. That may be true, but it made me think about what it’s like to actually write the stories. Is there something that you’d love to do, but you’re afraid to do it? Or maybe you don’t have the money or resources? I suppose both of those would bring you a little closer to understanding the feeling I’m referring to.
Personally, I’m afraid of heights. I can fly on an airplane without needing to dope up on sedatives, but I don’t like to be up high and feel like I’m not secure. Just the thought of looking down from a hand glider terrifies me. On the other hand, I think it’d be such an awesome sight to see. So…for me, writing is kind of like flying a hand glider and looking down in awe without the fear.
So far I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a few days when I kind of felt like I was dragging my feet on writing a scene…they’ve popped up sporadically. But I don’t stress about it. Instead, I read or work on writing or editing another project. If it continues, I eventually just force myself to write it, and then it gets better. I haven’t had a terrible case of writers block, though—there has never been a day where I sit in front of a blank screen and feel like writing is something similar to pulling blood from a stone. To the contrary, I have so many stories rattling around in my head, that my biggest challenge is what to write first. I understand writers block is not so uncommon though, and I’m hoping my good fortune continues.
A lot of people have asked me about the process. Some friends (and even old boyfriends) have asked me if they are in my books. The answer is no. Writers typically pull from experiences they (or people around them) have had when they’re writing. We may also pull from personality traits found in ourselves (or in the people surrounding us) when we build our characters, but the story is still just a story. Fiction is make-believe.
Some people have asked how to get started or have said that they struggle with the concept of putting words on paper. To this, I can only suggest that maybe writing just isn’t a good fit for them. Why do something if it’s not fun? I can only speak for myself, but in doing so I can tell you that my biggest problem is often that I can’t get the words out fast enough. My brain is always spinning with characters and plots and dialogue. Like I said, I have so many stories to tell, that I constantly have to choose which one to tell first. I finished the draft of my first novel (400 pages long) in 5 weeks—while I was still working as a Financial Advisor, raising two young kids, and taking care of a seventeen-year-old exchange student from Italy. And it was easy. Since then, I’ve gone through multiple edits, finished a second novel, and started a third. Now I’m also working on getting the first one published.
When I ended my first book, I did so with full intentions of spinning it off and using one of my supporting characters as the new main character in my next book. But then I woke up one morning, and this new character, Ellie, appeared in my mind. She manifested and kept nagging at me for days. I still don’t know where she came from—only that I eventually had to sit down and start writing her story. At this point, I had only a beginning and a premise of what Ellie was struggling with. A couple of days later, I had an outline of the story, and soon, I had completed the whole thing.
From a rough outline, I know the basics of what will take place, but I don’t know exactly how each scene will play out until I start to write them. Often, I sit typing the words as fast as I can, thinking, “Where is all of this coming from?” I literally have no idea where it comes from! The characters kind of just start to walk and talk and move through life on their own. The writer is simply the device they need to make it to paper.
In the middle of my first book I pulled an all-nighter. I was on a roll that night, but I finally forced myself to go to bed around 11:30 P.M., knowing that I needed to get up in the morning with three kids. Problem was, I got to bed and couldn’t sleep. The characters were talking in my head. I could hear them acting out scenes that I hadn’t yet written, and the noise was so bad, that I finally had to get up and begin to write again. At 6:30 A.M. I was still writing when the teenager woke up, as I was at 8 A.M., when the younger kids rose. After I put them on the bus that morning, I was exhausted. But I got some great scenes down on paper, and the noise in my head finally calmed to quiet. It was a great feeling, but I’m thankful that it has only happened once more since then, because it’s physically and mentally draining.
The best days of writing are the ones when you find yourself laughing at the computer screen while you type, or when your heart begins to pound at the drama of a scene, or when your eyes get misty with tears from something sad tapping through the keyboard—when you can feel the characters as if they were real and standing in front of you. Days like that bleed into night, and even later, when I’m trying to settle into sleep, my mind is often still flying like a kite over the euphoric feeling of the story from earlier that day.
This may sound strange, or it may sound intriguing. Whatever your perception of my explanation, I can only say that for me, the experience is exhilarating. Stephen King once wrote, “An author is a person who has trained his mind to misbehave.” I love that quote.
Someone recently asked me why I wanted to write—because I love to do it, or because I want to be successful. My answer came without hesitation: Both. I love to write, but if no one wants to read it, then what’s the point? Because it is a hard job, it does take a lot of time, and you do pour your heart and soul into it. I hope that the stories I write will resonate with the people who read them and be a welcome distraction from the stresses of life.