Friday, May 22, 2015

Whatever Made You Want To Write A Book?

"Richelle, whatever made you want to write a book?"

That's a good question. One I've been asked more than once. And if the answer were as simple as "Well....just because", I would end right here. But my personal motivation came from a mix of circumstances perfectly intertwined. Honestly, it's a miracle I ever made an attempt to put a lengthy story on paper.

Picture this...

It was one week before Christmas 2006, and I was sitting at my computer filling out Christmas cards. It has always been tradition to include a short family letter, nothing big, just a line or two about the accomplishments of each family member. The house was eerily quiet with my husband at work and my three boys gone for Christmas break. I missed my children terribly. Painfully even. My thoughts were bogged with concerns for them. Are they okay? Are their needs being met? Are they safe? Are they happy? Do they miss me?  But to worry over your babies is normal for any caring mother. That's what I kept telling myself after whispering the hundred-and-twenty-seventh prayer on their behalf.

I realized all this worrying wasn't doing me any good, but when your life revolves around your children for so many years, what's there to do when they're gone?  I needed something.  A hobby or.... well, something.

It occurred to me that I had finished scribbling out yearly accomplishments for all my kids and my husband, saving my own for last. It wasn't because I'm bashful or humble or that I was saving the best for the finale. The truth was, I just plain couldn't think of anything to write. What had I accomplished in the past year?

Hmmm. Well, I had worked, outside and inside the home. I had made 1,100 meals if not more. I had washed 2,000 sink loads of dishes if not more. I had laundered, folded, and put away 600 loads of clothes (say it with me now, "if not more.")  I had mopped floors, vacuumed carpets, changed sheets, scrubbed toilets, washed mirrors and windows and screens. I had weeded and re-weeded the garden, mowed the lawn, and given haircuts to my family.  I had driven kids to and from school, scouts, mutual, karate, track, and whatever other functions they needed to attend. I had tucked my boys into bed with 365 nighttime prayers and bedtime stories. I had done all the regular, runaround, expected, mommy/housewife stuff.

But the question that troubled me was "What had I accomplished above  chores?" What could I write on the Christmas letter?

I had nothing. That fact made me slump even further in my chair. Already moping about missing my boys, my spirits sank lower realizing I had done nothing extraordinary in ages.

Did I mention that this was twenty years since my high school graduation? Oh yes, that too was on my mind. Twenty years! Where in the world had the time gone? What about all those amazing things I was going to do once I got out on my own after high school? What happened to those talents I once utilized in my youth? I no longer sketched or painted or danced or sang or played piano or performed in theatrical plays. My talents had been set aside for years. Neglected. Abandoned. How had that happened?

So there I sat bemoaning lost years and the fact that happily-ever-afters don't come in happily-every-days when a sudden whisper of inspiration hit. A simple but powerful thought.

"If for the past twenty years you had written just one sentence a day, you would have composed a novel by now."

Don't ask me where it came from, but the idea was like a slap in the face--admonishing and yet inspiring. 

Could I write a sentence a day? Well, yes! Easily! I could do that in seconds!  But what was there to write about? I mean, you need a story in mind, right?

The fact that I was brooding over high school memories took me back to the days when I used to finish classroom assignments so quickly that a good chunk of time was frequently left to idle away. And what did I usually do with that time? How had I spent all those free moments in class?  Quietly drawing and daydreaming.

I had my favorite fantasies too, those I would revisit and expand on over time. My most preferred was about a girl destined to rule a world that thrived in another part of the galaxy. This was the story I had never forgotten. Truth be told, it was a daydream I entertained many times as an adult. Especially when I needed a healthy escape from reality.

In that moment of what I consider divine inspiration, I determined to write a book. A novel. The story of my favorite daydream. The account of Queen Eena of Harrowbeth.

I vowed that in twenty years from December 2006, I would at least be able to say I had written a novel, even if it meant doing so one sentence per day. I started typing those first few words that very moment.

There is more humor to this tale than you might realize.  For you see, if you had asked me five minutes prior to my epiphany if I would ever attempt to write a novel, I would have laughed hysterically and exclaimed "Are you crazy? Have you any idea how impossibly challenging writing a novel would be? It would take like...... forever!"

You should also know that my college degrees are in Mathematics and Natural Science.  No English literature.

Also, there's that tiny bit of truth I should probably confess: for all my life I've had a passionate distaste for writing. Are you laughing yet?  Okay, how about this....

Honest and true story.

In school my worst subject, not that I didn't earn high marks in the class, but the one area of study I groaned about the most was English. I hated writing assignments. And I think the reason why I hated them so strongly was because no right answer ever existed.  Not like math where 2 + 2 = 4, no arguments.  But in English class I could scribble out a paper that one teacher stamped with a big letter "A" while the next instructor scowled and scratched a scarlet letter "C" on the page.  Writing became a matter of trying to please some disinterested adult whose head you could hardly get into. Not to mention the fact that the subject matter we were forced to write about was usually depressing and utterly boring.

And so I loathed writing.

I remember the day clearly when as a teenager I stood up from the kitchen table to stretch my stiff muscles.  I had been working hard on an English paper, and as I rose to my feet, I made a firm, bold statement meant for any ears in the house. "I hate English. I hate writing. Knowing my luck I'll probably grow up to be some stupid writer!"

Well said, foolish teenager. Little did I know the twisted ironies of life.

And so, many many years later, pushing forty years of age, I sat at my computer and determined that I would accomplish a feat I deemed highly challenging. I figured it would take years, but the odd thing was, it didn't seem so impossible when I looked at the goal as merely a few sentences compounded daily. The more I wrote, the more I found myself craving free moments to add additional paragraphs. I discovered there was an enormous difference in what it feels like to compose a work meant to please yourself versus struggling with a composition meant to impress someone else. 

It's actually freeing.

And sweetly delicious.

And unbelievably addictive!

So I will eat crow and admit....   I.  Love.  Writing.

No, no, I'm far from being a Victor Hugo or a Charles Dickens, but I profit by as much joy from the journey as I'm sure they did.  And it pleases me.  I hope that for some readers out there my stories prove entertaining enough to please you as well.  So, there is my answer to your question, "Whatever made you want to write a book?"

1 comment:

  1. Life has its twists and turns, and fortunately some turn out favorably. This one did. It's interesting how often we end up doing what we had begrudged doing earlier in life. I'm glad you took that first initial step and began writing a novel, for it has provided me with hours of reading. I've enjoyed your novels of the Harrowbethian Saga, Dandelions-The Disappearance of Annabelle Fancher, Secrets of the Noble Key Keeper, and your one-a-day quotes, Smile Anyway. Keep on writing and we'll keep on reading. Arlene Starr