The Best of Life

Being a writer, to me, is about as good as it gets in this world.

To you, as a reader, that could mean a lot of different things. Either you read that as it’s a beautiful wonderful thing that I love or you read it as “boy, she needs to get a life”. And that’s okay. Honestly, it means both things to me.

Some days sitting at my computer creating alternate worlds is a amazing wonderful dream come true. I wallow in the lives of my characters, cry their tears, laugh at their jokes, and cringe at their pain. I get mad at my antagonists and tell them off. And I regret having to leave my sanctuary to go cook supper.

Other days, I sigh and wonder what in the hell I’m doing cooped up alone with a bunch of make-believe people day dreaming their lives away.

But isn’t that how everyone’s life goes?

Last weekend I had the joy of welcoming into the world a new baby goat. Yes, you heard me right. A goat. We raise goats … and turkeys, chickens, ducks, and rabbits … and a huge garden.

I mention this because the whole birthing process was simple, and yet, all of the literature and classes we have taken on raising goats made it seem like the most complicated thing in the world. But it wasn’t. Our mama goat, Artimesia Gentilschi went into labor. She grunted for a while and then produced a water sac. The the bubble of amniotic fluid appeared and inside we could see a foot. Moments later another foot appeared. She pushed some more, grunted away, bleated at us as only a pregnant woman could do, and then the nose appeared. And eventually the whole baby goat slithered out onto the straw, slimy and wet.

It kicked and moved it’s head as we cleaned it off with a towel. And then it bleated loud and strong.

It was simple.

So why did all those classes and workshops and books on birthing goats make it seem so difficult and life-threatening?

The problem with being human, with being able to reason, to imagine, to day dream (as all writers do) is that sometimes we daydream the wrong things. We can think up more problems than we will ever experience in our lives. And then we worry about them. And then someone comes along and tries to help us not worry about them by telling us how to be prepared to deal with every single eventuality that might come to be. But does it make us worry less?

No.

Writing, or any creative endeavor, can be the same way. Instead of just getting the story on the page, we fret over the commas, the voice, the tense, the spelling … until we spend an entire day and we’ve only added ten words to our novel. We end up frustrated or feeling worthless or making rash decisions like “I’ll never be a writer.” (Writers can be a little dramatic sometimes too. Eh?)

But the fact is, no matter how complicated other authors or agents or editors or publishers or classes or workshops make writing seem, it isn’t.

Writing a story is as simple as putting the words on the page. Because until the story is on the page, there is no story at all. And if there’s no story, then that is when you need to do something different.

I’ve been reviewing other people’s writing of late. A LOT of other people’s writing. Some of it is good, others not so much. Some of it is downright awful. And yet, every single thing that I have read has a story somewhere on the pages. Beneath all the omniscient voice and misplaced tag lines and undeveloped characters, a story sings out wanting to be heard.

That is what I try to focus on. What is the story?

For me, all of that other stuff, is fixable. Anyone can spell correctly, construct a perfect dialogue, or stay in voice. But not everyone can tell the story behind it all.

A couple of authors I’ve had the displeasure of studying under would disagree with me wholeheartedly. They would say that if one isn’t always working hard to get the perfect word on the page then they aren’t working hard enough and they aren’t telling a story worth reading.

Whatever.

I love writing. And I love writing because it is a process. I can put a story on the page and come back in a week or a month or a year and develop everything surrounding that story. I can correct the spelling. I can fix the voice errors. I can complete the dialogue. I can develop the characters.

But if I don’t have the story … I have nothing.

For me, everyday is spent in a state of day dreaming. Walking through castles or eating dinner in a cafe in 1934 or hiding in a crypt with a vampire. How could it not be as good as life gets?

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