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It’s Day 4 of my week long writing retreat here in Kiawah
Island, SC. I thought I would post a
blog about this whole trip earlier than this, but I’ve pretty much been
hammering it out since I got here, and anyone who has kids knows how much time
and preparation it takes for Mommy to be gone for a week. To say I was busy before I left is an
understatement, and now that I’m here, I’m really busy in a different way.
My goal for this week has been VOLUME. One of my tragic flaws as a writer is my
uncanny ability to edit things before they are even down on paper. Spooky.
Basically, I have a tendency to procrastinate or never finish pieces because
my jerky inner critic is always telling me how crappy it’s going to be before
it ever hits the page. That dude is on
vacation this week. I came with the
deliberate intention of writing as much as possible. Period.
I don’t care if it’s good or the worst crap in America; all
I care about is page numbers. Now, this
might sound like a terrible plan, but all writers know what I’m talking
about. Revision is inevitable. There simply is no escape. The trick is having enough material to
actually revise. If you’re too busy
cutting out before ever putting in, well, you can see where this might be a
So each day, I’m just pounding it out and watching that
little word count go up and up and up.
And, in truth, it’s pretty satisfying.
I have told a lot of stories this week.
Yep, I’ve told stories, which when I think about it is sort of the point
of becoming a writer, isn’t it?
When I was a kid, I loved stories. I remember begging my parents and
grandparents to “Please tell me a story about when you were little.” I loved going to the library, I loved the
smell of old books and new ones too, I loved when the storytellers would come
for Heritage Day or for Book Week, and I loved writing my own—folding pieces of
paper in half, stapling them down the middle and writing and illustrating my
own books. “I love to make books,” I always
told my family, and I still do. Only
now, I worry about what other people will think about the book, if a publisher
will like the book, if I can sell the book, if the book might be worthy of a
Newberry Medal. Geez. Talk about killing something before it ever gets started. That’s probably the
quickest way I can think of to kill a happy little seed of creativity—tell it
that it has to grow up to make lots of money and win accolades.
The joy is just in telling the stories and having people
listen, which means, yes, I will want to publish at some point. But I swear, I am having so much fun just
writing this week, that publication and the threats that lie within that whole
world just haven’t seemed to matter.
And not only have I been telling my own stories, I’ve gotten
to hear some amazing, heart-breaking, uplifting, poignant and downright
hilarious stories too. I have some of
the best housemates this week. Aside
from being good cooks and knowing when and how to be extra quiet, they are some
damned fine storytellers. In fact, Lois
just crept in with a glass of wine because she didn’t want me “to miss out
because when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
I’m glad I chose not to
miss out this week. I’m glad I chose not to miss out on getting away and just
writing as much as possible, even if it’s not all great writing, and I’m glad I
chose not to miss out on good friends who also happen to be good writers with a
lot to teach me, and I’m glad I chose not to miss out on all these stories,
both the telling of old ones and the creating of new ones.
We all have stories to tell.
That’s what I think is so beautiful about them—everybody has one. My dream is to keep telling mine, to create
stories that kids want to read because they make them laugh and cry and think
about all the things that are possible because really, anything is. And I also hope to live a life that
continually creates more stories, so that I never run out and so Harper Lee and
Isaac can keep the tradition alive.
Tell a story to someone—especially a child.