This Writing Life

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On May second I realized a dream. I finished the revision of  my novel The Portrait. I didn’t really take the time until this past weekend to recognize what I had done. The dream I’ve nurtured and fed has finally came true. It was a five year journey, longer if I count when the idea actually came to me, and it took lots of hard work and many hours of research and writing and rewriting.

Why did I decide to write? I think I’m creative. I always have been. When I was younger it was visual arts that captured my interest. I used to pass hours and hours alone with my drawing pad and pencil shading with my finger to create depth and dimension, but I never had any formal art training. In fact when I went to college, I wanted to be an artist, but I thought I didn’t have the skill or talent to do that. I still think that’s the case because I’ve seen true artistic talent. What I have is not that.

I was pretty good at writing in high school, but I wrote for academic classes, not for pleasure. It wasn’t until I went to University of Georgia and took a class from my English professor, Dr. Kilgo, that I even attempted to write fiction. He challenged my class to write a short story. I think his idea was we were reading them, so we should have an idea how to write them. That attempt may have been the worst thing I ever wrote, but it opened my eyes to a new way to express myself. And in that first attempt I felt like a little kid who didn’t even know how to hold the pencil. That’s how clumsy I felt, but somewhere along the way fiction took hold of my imagination, first through reading and then through writing. Writing became how I made sense of my world.

Hemingway once told George Plimpton in an interview in The Paris Review, “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of.” Isn’t that lovely?

I write because I love putting words together to make something never seen before, never felt before I formed the image. I can create people who never existed, places and weather, sunsets and music, steaming buttermilk biscuits, anything I want! When I’m writing, I feel like I take part in something sacred, like I am part of a mystical experience and am a conduit for what I write rather than the creator. That may not make sense to some people, but it’s the best way to describe the creative act when the muse takes hold of me, when time passes unnoticed when I’m in the midst of the writing. I don’t know where inspiration comes from, but I know it doesn’t all come from me.

I found out after my grandmother died many years ago that she had harbored a desire to write and be published, but her dreams never came true. She wrote many poems, mostly about her children, and I treasure them. My son Erik is also an aspiring writer. He is so far ahead of where I was at his age that I am amazed. He has already written stories and served as an editor for his college’s literary magazine, and he has in the planning stage a science fiction novel I hope he brings into the world one day. I am so impressed by his drive and talent and know he will succeed beyond his wildest dreams if he chooses to pursue writing. I hope he doesn’t wait as I have to follow his dream but makes time for the muse in spite of life happening around him at lightning speed. Because that is what we all must do if we want this writing life.

These two people, my grandmother and my son, remind me that the great passions of our lives should drive our choices and guide us in what we do. It is never too late to choose to follow our passions where they lead. It’s never too late to fulfill a dream. My dream of completing a novel is realized, but I have many more books in my imagination waiting to be born. Do you have a dream nagging you, one that is waiting to be realized? Do you have the courage to follow your passion where it leads?

On May second I realized a dream. I finished the revision of  my novel The Portrait. I didn’t really take the time until this past weekend to recognize what I had done. The dream I’ve nurtured and fed has finally came true. It was a five year journey, longer if I count when the idea actually came to me, and it took lots of hard work and many hours of research and writing and rewriting.

Why did I decide to write? I think I’m creative. I always have been. When I was younger it was visual arts that captured my interest. I used to pass hours and hours alone with my drawing pad and pencil shading with my finger to create depth and dimension, but I never had any formal art training. In fact when I went to college, I wanted to be an artist, but I thought I didn’t have the skill or talent to do that. I still think that’s the case because I’ve seen true artistic talent. What I have is not that.

I was pretty good at writing in high school, but I wrote for academic classes, not for pleasure. It wasn’t until I went to University of Georgia and took a class from my English professor, Dr. Kilgo, that I even attempted to write fiction. He challenged my class to write a short story. I think his idea was we were reading them, so we should have an idea how to write them. That attempt may have been the worst thing I ever wrote, but it opened my eyes to a new way to express myself. And in that first attempt I felt like a little kid who didn’t even know how to hold the pencil. That’s how clumsy I felt, but somewhere along the way fiction took hold of my imagination, first through reading and then through writing. Writing became how I made sense of my world.

Hemingway once told George Plimpton in an interview in The Paris Review, “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality. That is why you write and for no other reason that you know of.” Isn’t that lovely?

I write because I love putting words together to make something never seen before, never felt before I formed the image. I can create people who never existed, places and weather, sunsets and music, steaming buttermilk biscuits, anything I want! When I’m writing, I feel like I take part in something sacred, like I am part of a mystical experience and am a conduit for what I write rather than the creator. That may not make sense to some people, but it’s the best way to describe the creative act when the muse takes hold of me, when time passes unnoticed when I’m in the midst of the writing. I don’t know where inspiration comes from, but I know it doesn’t all come from me.

I found out after my grandmother died many years ago that she had harbored a desire to write and be published, but her dreams never came true. She wrote many poems, mostly about her children, and I treasure them. My son Erik is also an aspiring writer. He is so far ahead of where I was at his age that I am amazed. He has already written stories and served as an editor for his college’s literary magazine, and he has in the planning stage a science fiction novel I hope he brings into the world one day. I am so impressed by his drive and talent and know he will succeed beyond his wildest dreams if he chooses to pursue writing. I hope he doesn’t wait as I have to follow his dream but makes time for the muse in spite of life happening around him at lightning speed. Because that is what we all must do if we want this writing life.

These two people, my grandmother and my son, remind me that the great passions of our lives should drive our choices and guide us in what we do. It is never too late to choose to follow our passions where they lead. It’s never too late to fulfill a dream. My dream of completing a novel is realized, but I have many more books in my imagination waiting to be born. Do you have a dream nagging you, one that is waiting to be realized? Do you have the courage to follow your passion where it leads?

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