So, you write?
Children’s laughter and the hum of adult conversation swirl around us. The breeze ruffles the scented plants and wafts pungent smells of garlic and lemon balm towards us. The dancing foliage of the gum trees glint in the sunlight. The sky is a brilliant seamless blue. I lean back in the foldup chair, relaxing into this annual tradition. My friend leans forward, showing his teeth in a friendly smile.
‘So, what are you up to these days?’
‘This and that. I’ve almost finished my Masters in creative writing. I working on a number of writing projects.’
‘Ah.’ He strokes his chin. ‘So, what do you write?’
‘I blog a bit, write poetry and I’m writing a YA fantasy series.’
His eyes glaze over. He nods his head. ‘Mmmm… are you published yet?’
I shift in the sagging canvas chair. ‘Ah well. No, not yet. It takes a…’
He leans forward, his voice taking on the weighty tone of a priest. ‘You know, I’ve always thought that everyone should write at least one book.’
I bit my lip.
He means well. He is just trying to make conversation. He, like so many others, just doesn't understand that writing a book takes at least some talent, time (lots of it), passion, resilience and constant learning and refining of the craft. He has no idea how hard it is to claw one’s way out of the slush pile hoping to get one’s work published or how repeated rejections can plunge a writer into a deep pit of despair.
Sometimes I feel like Wile E. Coyote, continually hitting a brick wall or rock face time and time again, long after most sensible people would have given up the hopeless task of chasing that elusive roadrunner. But then there are the moments of exhilaration as the words flow onto the page, or characters come to life or a story finds its perfect ending. It can be tough but it’s addictive too.
I understand what my friend is trying to say. I do. Everyone has a story worth telling. This resonates with me for, after all, aren’t we all made in God’s image? Aren’t we all precious to him? Even the most unassuming and ordinary person has probably had something exciting happen in her (or his) life. But that doesn’t mean writing well is easy or that anyone could be an author. As Laura Resnick says in her blog:
Realistically, if you're not already writing, the chances that you're ever going to start writing are marginal. Most people never get past just talking about writing.
Additionally, most people who start writing a book never finish it. (And most people who finish writing one whole book... never sell it and never write another.)
The only people who write, who stick with it, and who have a serious chance of becoming professionals are the ones who can't stand not writing.
Of course, publication is not the only goal of writing. And writers can also write poems, short stories, blogs, journal articles, comics, scripts, devotions, even words of encouragement in greeting cards.
I find it easy to get discouraged when years of effort seem to yield few results. Yet I continue to write because I’m passionate about it and I believe God has lead me to this place. I continue to set goals. Yet I also realise I need to hold on to my writing dreams and expectations with an open hand – not clutching tightly but being willing for God to lead me where he wants me to go. For in the end, it’s not about me and my success – it’s about Him and allowing Him to touch and inspire other lives through me.
A ball bounces between us, almost grazing my nose. One of the young boys runs up and retrieves it.
I take a breath and lean towards my friend and nod. ‘Tell me, if you were to write a book what would it be about?’
He sits back in the chair and rubs his chin. We spend the next several minutes discussing the things he is passionate about.
By Jeanette O’Hagan
Standing on the precipice
toes gripping the edge
curling, trying to stick.
but the airy void.
It’s a long way down
Words shifting on the page
blurring and twisting
like Mobius strips.
What seemed brilliant
and drifts away.
A clamour of voices
whisper on the wind,
buffeting up, teasing
at the outer silences.
It’s a long way down--
Get a grip.
spread your wings
Jeanette O’Hagan © 8 January 2014
Resnick, L. ‘Twenty Things NOT To Say To A Writer: A Handy Safety Guide, in Laura Resnick, http://www.sff.net/people/laresnick/fun%20stuff/lists%20of%2020.htm#NOTtoSay