Tag Archives: passion for writing

The Narrative Bug

16 Oct

BKS_l_BooksByTheFootLast night my ten-year old daughter caught the narrative bug. This was quite a surprise as my husband—the elementary school teacher—was always having to push her write anything. Isa is lucky (or unlucky and she will undoubtedly assert) to have a built in teacher at home who knows how to teach all the tricks for writing the essays needed to get you through school—or life, for that matter. The tricky part is that when it’s your dad telling you what to do, one tends to resist the help. And one also tends to whine a lot—or outright cry at times.

That was our story until last night when Isa decided to try her hand at narrative writing. Her dad gave her an old laptop and she went into her room for an hour and wrote. Now this kid has always been exposed to literature—in fact, she’s quite the book junkie. Case in point—just yesterday at school, she got to eat In-N-Out with the principal because she earned so many Accelerated Reader points (not sure if rewarding reading excellence with junk food is the right way to go, though.) Isa reads all kinds of stuff—Percy Jackson, Diary of Anne Frank, The Book Thief. She even pretends to read the New Yorker, but I know she’s really only looking at the cartoons. Her idea of a fun afternoon is to head to the library.

A book so good you can't put it down.

Her favorite thing to do.

Before bed last night, she brought the computer upstairs and asked if she could read her first couple of chapters—yes—chapters! Mind you, there were short chapters, but still. Not only that, her first paragraph hooked me right from the start. The voice of the protagonist—an eleven year old girl named Fiona Garcia (is that a great name, or what?) is so likable and funny that I can’t wait to find out what happens to her.

You’re probably thinking—get a grip, Jess—it’s just a story. It doesn’t mean Isa is going to be the next Pulitzer Prize winner in Literature (hey, you never know) or even become a published author. I guess the reason I’m so elated about Isa catching the writing bug is because I wish I had embraced writing more when I was young. To see such light come into her eyes when she talks about her story reminds me of my own childhood passion for creative writing. I remember often being told I was a good writer but as I lacked my own internal self-motivation, I allowed my writing bug to fly away. Now, over forty years later, I’ve managed to recapture that bug and although it’s often difficult, I think I’m managing to tame my it enough so that it won’t fly too far from home.

I’m more than happy to support Isa in all of her writing efforts. I will lovingly make suggestions and eagerly help with any editing requests. What I won’t do is tell her about the crushing self-doubt, fear of rejection or hitting that hard wall of writer’s block. I’ll let her discover these things on her own.

Where the magic happens.

Where the magic happens.

I’ll keep you posted on Fiona Garcia’s exploits. Or maybe Isa will. She just told me this morning that she wants to start a blog.

Oh Lord. Here we go.

A Novel Idea

12 Sep

I have a secret: I’m writing a novel.

There—it’s out there. Whew. I’m uncomfortable telling you this because it sounds so ridiculous. Sure, I can play a Bach Fugue on the piano, grow exquisite flowers in my garden and bake a delectable batch of cookies. I can even write a good blog post once in a while. But write a novel? Keep dreaming, girl.

Voice of tiny person sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear:

Why in the world are you telling people that you are writing a novel? Keep your big mouth shut, you idiot. Now they’re going to expect you to finish it someday!

After all, who am I to think that after only a few years of semi-serious writing I could possibly have a novel in me? Although this past year I’ve devoted a myriad of hours developing my writing skills (well, not quite a myriad) I still have a difficult time believing that I am clever enough, captivating enough, or focused enough to actually get it done. And even if I did get it done, would anyone actually care about what I have to say?

Voice of tiny person sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear:

I’ll answer that question: Nobody cares!

Unfortunately over the years, I’ve romanticized the dream of being a writer in my head, yet I ignored the crucial part of turning this dream into a reality: I never wrote down the words. I just let them run through my mind like quiet conversations or static background noise, too afraid to listen in and take stock of their meaning and validity. Instead I suppressed the urge to create through words and focused on playing and teaching the piano because that’s one thing I knew I could do well.

But words, not musical notes, have always been my true love. Since I was a child and discovered that a good book could take me to a place where I could change into someone else—into someone better, I’ve always been most comfortable losing myself in a good story. As I age, I’ve become even more of a voracious reader and often read two or more novels a week. Yet now that I’m finally writing regularly and becoming more aware of the writing process, I find that reading a good book can be agonizing at times because every so often, my little friend Envy rears her ugly green head. She’s more than happy to tell me that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to string words together in a seamless succession of perfect stitches the way a really good writer can.

Recently I read a fantastic book by Gillian Flynn called Gone Girl http://gillian-flynn.com/ and I’ve got to say, I supremely enjoyed it.  The disappointing part is that now I almost have to dislike Gillian Flynn because she is so good at doing what I have yet to learn to do: crafting a story with fascinating and fallible characters, creating an out of the ordinary plot, and writing riveting dialogue. I almost have to dislike her because I know that for a very long time I will not be able to compose word such as these:

“…the sun climbed over the skyline of oaks, revealing its full summer angry-god self. Its reflection flared across the river toward our house, a long, blaring finger aimed at me through our frail bedroom curtains.

Wow.

This is probably what I would’ve come up with:

“….the sun came up over the trees in an angry red haze. It shone on the river behind our house and came through the windows, shining in my face like a bright light bulb.”

Voice of tiny person sitting on my shoulder whispering in my ear:

Trite, trite, trite. Dull, dull, dull. TRY AGAIN!

Okay, I’m playing around here—I could do better than that. The point is, I’m like one of my adult piano students who comes to the lesson and enthusiastically exclaims: “I really have this dream of playing ‘Fur Elise’ (please God, any piece but that one) And even though I only took six months of piano lessons when I was seven, I know that with a little bit a practice I can learn this piece!

Now, the old me would mentally roll my eyes and kindly tell this student that Fur Elise is harder than it sounds (and that would be the truth) and that one should never start with something difficult because you may get frustrated and sad and end up truly resenting Beethoven for writing such an exasperating piece. (Oh, and by the way, you’ll never in a million years be able to play it well.)

But the new me might say, Why not? Anything is possible! And then launch into my spiel about the importance of consistent practicing.

The truth is I can’t expect something magical to happen without putting in the time and the work. And maybe—just maybe, if I spill my guts and tell you my secret, I’ll feel more obligated to put in the time.

Because if I write it down, it becomes more than just a possibility.

And to the little person sitting on my shoulder whispering all those negative comments in my ear: Take a hike, baby.