The audience for the LRWN blog varies from university professors to creative writing teachers to high school teachers, memoirists, genre writers, librarians, bloggers, those who just love to read, and those wonderful folks who are brand new to writing. For most of those listed above, the world of writing is an ordinary part of every day.
But it’s not ordinary for new writers. For many new writers, entering the world of writing doesn’t even seem like a remote possibility, but rather it is a presumptuous, crazy aspiration. Meeting authors and beginning to write is a hand trembling, heart pounding, impossibly unbelievable, extraordinary dream. We should remember that.
The desire to write stories began one Christmas, when I was eight. Santa had given my older brother a white rocket with red fins and the letters USA decaled on the side. I wrote a story about a mouse commandeering that rocket and flying it to the moon. My mother was proud; my brother told me not to touch his stuff.
In my teens I spent two summers working with the Youth Conservation Corp in the Superior National Forest and the BWCA. I kept detailed journals that my naïve youthfulness knew I would need when I wrote that bestseller about my experiences. Positive I was compiling potential Pulitzer material, I even remember telling a dear friend to keep the letters I wrote to her because when I was famous they would be worth something. It’s okay to laugh here, really–I can take it. There were novels in my future, scads of them. I just knew it.
Then life happened. Marriage and a daughter. Quilting and crafts, church and volunteering, Brownies, dance lessons, swimming lessons, skating lessons, starfish costumes with hand-sewn spangles, birthday parties, lazy afternoons at the lake, road trip adventures. And I let my writing become rare and sporadic. Oddly guilt ridden, too. Perhaps because my readings tended to exact the same reply from my non-literary husband: “You have too much time on your hands.” The more of that I heard, the deeper I tucked the desire to write. Time, after all, is a commodity a stay-at-home mom might have too much of. But if there is none left over for me–for you, then really, is there too much?
The less I wrote, the further away the possibility being a writer became. Eventually it was something too amazing, too impossible to even dream about. Writing a novel would be like becoming a movie star; nope, sorry that ship has sailed. Then one day at Target I came across a book by one of my favorite authors: Stephen King. Except this book wasn’t a horror story, it was titled On Writing. I paged through it with a trembling hand, then placed it back on the shelf. I stared at it. My heart beat with anxiety. Is it possible? Could I be so presumptuous? I finally remembered to breathe, then took the book back off the shelf and placed it facedown in my cart. I underlined and scarred it with notes as I waited for my daughter at a Fargo track camp, glancing around to ensure no other parent could see what I was reading. I didn’t want even strangers to think I was so bold as to presume to be a writer.
But the more I read, the more the impossible became possible. Even to this day reading that Stephen King book evokes the heart-thumping trepidation I felt as I finally stepped into the writing world.
I devoured that book, then those by Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, and James Frey. Anything I could find related to mystery writing in particular. I took free online writing courses from Barnes and Noble: mystery, fiction, screenwriting, and forensics. Dozens of books and writing magazines later, I attended a summer workshop, which led to a crazy big adventure to the University of Wisconsin- A Weekend with Your Novel. (Disoriented, I ended up driving the family minivan out onto a dark pier, “Why is there water on both sides of the road?” (but that’s another story). The first LRWN Conference led to joining the Fergus Falls Writers group, then joining the LRWN Board and chairing the annual writer’s conference.
And suddenly, I look around amazed. Here I am immersed in the writing world and thinking of myself as a writer. How did that happen? Somewhere along the way, as I read and learned and wrote, I also changed. From a trembling housewife with impossible dreams to someone who thinks it just might happen.
I know you are out there, too: reading this and hoping. George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be who you might have been.” Welcome to the extraordinary.
Author’s Bio.: Lois Reff has published a monthly motivational newsletter since 2002. She enjoys learning about and writing in the genre of fiction. She has participated in several Barnes and Noble writing workshops, and the Weekend With Your Novel workshop at the University of Wisconsin. She is an active member of the Fergus Falls Writers’ Group. She is currently working on a mystery novel. She and her husband, along with six pets, live north of Fergus Falls by Jewett Lake. Lois is serving as the LRWN Conference Director.