The Journey

As it has been a long hiatus, it seems I should provide some explanation even to a somewhat spartan audience (i.e., me, my partner and friends, if I tell them).  I trust that will change as the universe unfolds.

2011 – I wrote it! Or at least the initial draft.  The process started slow but steady.  Soon, with more muster than I’ve ever found, I tapped a vein and drew from it.  I joined the Writer’s Center, participated in an excellent novel discussion series taught by novelist Susan Coll, refined my outline, pulled the previous writings into line, found my voice, identified new settings, discovered the characters and detailed the plot.  By autumn I was writing nearly a scene per day, which was necessary in order to have a completed draft to give my parents for their 60th wedding anniversary.

The experience was more satisfying than anything I’ve done, a marriage of professional and personal accomplishment.  By the end I felt a strong desire to see it published and successful. I believe in the story, and I trust my writing.  So that has become this year’s journey.

I’m working on it.  While the essential tale is unchanged, I’ve touched everything during the editing process – rewriting, shifting, expanding and snipping from various scenes. I’ve spent weeks smoothing the flow and language and phrasing and word choices.  Along the way I’ve sent out draft copies to a wonderful network of friends and colleagues, who’ve provided thoughtful and wide-ranging feedback.

The editing process continues, but is slowly transitioning to the next critical step – publishing.  I attended the NYC Pitch Conference in March, a gauntlet that proved valuable in helping me shift my focus to how the world of publishing functions.  I left with the contact information for two editors who would like to see the manuscript “when it’s ready.”  A week later I sent a single, tentative agent query, which promptly crashed and burned.  Yet it served as the impetus to jettison the original opening chapter, to which I had clung despite recognizing the style didn’t fit the remainder of the novel and knowing the writing was not as strong as it needed to be.  Both issues are now resolved, and my novel has a more fitting opening with a truer voice to the rest of the tale.

So now I sit with a list of about a dozen agents and a mostly complete template for my agent query letter.  I intend to send them out in groups of six, modifying and tweaking as I proceed.  It may take weeks or months, but I trust I’ll figure it out, as I have the previous steps.  In short, I feel good – even confident.  As I joked to Susan, “I might as well be confident.”  It’s true, of course, but some of the confidence does stem from the response from my early readers, my focus group as my friend Janet coined them.  Through all the critiques, hearing the message that the novel touched them and made them think, as well as various versions of “I shouldn’t be surprised, but you can actually write . . . like really write!” That was the best validation ever.  It gives me hope that perhaps the story that has stuck with me for so long might resonate to a larger audience as well.

It will take effort and probably more luck than I care to admit.  But I intend to see it through, and have faith it will happen.  In the meantime, I might as well be confident that it will.


Word Cloud

I am getting back to writing this week after a hiatus longer than anticipated with our move. I’m writing in my journal and organizing my novel. This is the year I finish my novel.

I’m not ready for another blog entry, but enjoyed finding a site that creates word clouds from links to urls. Apparently here is what shines through from my entries thus far:

Wordle: Art of Becoming Blog

I Write Like

Not much to say at the moment. Well, much to say perhaps, but not ready to spill it. I could blame it on time, but that’s only partly true, though life’s currents are rather tumbly at the moment.

In the meantime, I submitted two snippets to the online “I Write Like” analyzer. Apparently it performs an automated analysis to determine your writing style.

The results were rather amusing.

From a portion that contained a fair bit of dialogue, it determined I wrote like Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone with the Wind.

From a segment of description, containing a fair bit of internal thoughts of the main character, it determined I wrote like Arthur Clarke, of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Hmmm, that combination could be good or horrid, I guess ;). Maybe the next great sci fi epic is within me . . . if only I were interested in chasing after it.

I write like
Margaret Mitchell

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I write like
Arthur Clarke

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I remember reading once that when you dream, any sense of time passage is distorted. In other words, suppose in a dream you find yourself running down a hall, then jumping into a car and speeding away, before stopping at a gas station where you’re confronted by a Clint Eastwood (Dirty Harry edition) type. The sense of time to take all those actions is much longer than the minute or so involved in the actual REM cycle from which the scenario sprang. I’ll resist the urge to swim around the internet for a few minutes figuring out if my recollection is correct and assume the basic point is valid. It’s a challenge I face every time I sit down to draft a tale set in 1918. Sometimes you just have to say, “I’ll check that later” or you never get anywhere. Trust me . . . I know.

So, at any rate, if my understanding is correct, then last night I had the most concise dream of my life. Even in recounting it, the action in the dream took only an instant. Nevertheless, I woke up thinking it was profound in an abstract, humourous way.

The entirety of the dream was this:

Two ferocious dogs attack each other out of the blue in a public square. One dog gets knocked into a third, who meekly jumps back to its concerned owner. Then my eye catches yet another dog walking with a couple. The last trio, dog included, remain blithely engaged in their pleasant outing, seemingly unaware of the melee a few steps away.

Then I woke up. That was it. I couldn’t tell you what the dogs looked like, or the people. I just had some random impressions of them and the setting, much like daily life sometimes. The quick surveying you complete when you walk into a room or join someone in an elevator. You get the feel of the situation, adjust or ignore, and move on. The dream felt like I was standing nearby and glanced upon hearing a commotion.

I woke up thinking, “That’s it!” I had this sense the dream was poking me to consider what is the center of attention in my life. Where do I choose to stand? How do I participate? What distracts me? I was so worried I’d lose the fleeting images that I jumped up, forgetting the pad of paper I keep near the bed for dreams involving the novel. Instead, I stumbled into the den. I’m certain I would have forgotten the dream because I had a hard time recalling why I was up when I picked up the pen. Thankfully it came to me, and I scrawled a few words before heading back to bed.

I’m not a devoted dream analyzer, but I think they can provide insight. After weeding through silly, random ones, I think you can pick up a few clues from the others. My best dreams are ones that reveal something I don’t want to admit. My subconscious pulls me aside like a good friend or respected mentor. You know, the ones willing to tell you your behaviour was actually a bit shabby or that your work wasn’t quite up to your normal standards.

I could wax on about interpretations of the dream . . . the three different actions in the different groups, the example it offers for considering point of view in a story, etc. I’ll save that for another time because I really need to focus on finishing “the draft” for now. There is one tidbit that applies to the novel, being aware of a character’s anger. But I’ve noted it elsewhere.

Mainly, I just wanted to get the dream down on paper since it struck a nerve. The message I received is this. I know I have a natural tendency to fight, even if only in my head with real or created villains representing all that infuriates me in the world. I know I want to be contented, placid amid life’s turmoils . . . committed to understanding, seeking wisdom. But the reality is I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about the gaping chasm between the two. All three points of perspective exist within myself at any instant. I have embodied them individually at various times of my life, promoting each as my own center of attention for a time. I want to be more aware of that ability, to realize I can step aside if I find myself stuck. The perspectives aren’t as far apart as it feels, and the only walls between them are the ones I construct.


I haven’t posted in a while because I was actually writing the novel. While slower than I’d prefer, the progress was notable and encouraging. Unfortunately I’ve slid off track for the past couple of weeks. But in doing so, I have found a silver lining. I now have a clearer understanding of why the blog is necessary. Apparently it is my conduit for working through things that block me . . . not drafting the story, but the act of writing. I can resolve issues with a scene or a character in many ways – long walks, long showers, notes in my journal. But the deeper stuff inside me, the clutter in my head that sabotages the wiring that brings stories to my fingertips . . . well, that ends up here eventually, when I recognize the issues or am ready to face them.

So I’m back, needing to talk about voices.

When I was younger and more intuitive, I used to go for runs routinely. They kept me sane and grounded. Like the sand pyramids I mentioned in my first post, the runs were a natural form of meditation. From grade school through college and even well into my twenties, I would run. I always said it was to keep in shape, and it was. But that was only part of the truth; it was also a way to fend off the demons. I’d trot along having imaginary arguments with people over tense situations, lamenting aspects of myself, or grousing about the state of the world. As an aside, I also taught myself to type while running, mentally pecking at a keyboard in my head for a full semester senior year, fearful I’d blow my grade point average due to fumbling fingers. I should probably edit the last comment, but I won’t. I’m glad I took typing. It proved to be a skill I needed after all and I use it everyday, so it is a funny point of pride.

But on the other more personal matters, the running did wonders as well. At some point during the exercise, my heart pounding as I observed the passing scenery, my head would clear. I would suddenly recognize that, deep down, I was ok. I’d even experience flashes of wisdom, understanding I was but a small part of a huge performance, just as everyone else was. So no matter what disagreement or discomfort or righteous anger I might feel, I knew it was necessary, even miraculous. I knew I existed in the universe and was endlessly fascinated by that reality.

It was a mindset I carried with me, close to the surface. I can recall meeting people casually in my younger days, chance encounters when traveling for instance, thinking, “Out of all the people in the world, now and in the past, I met this person and we shared this funny anecdote or routine occurrence or infuriating episode. Isn’t it wonderful that we did?” I can remember being places and appreciating the stupendous ways in which the universe clicked. I traveled to New York City for the first time on a work trip, and had a few extra hours after a morning meeting. So I walked down to Central Park, stood on a rocky bluff and thought, “How cool that I would happen to be in New York in autumn, on this day when the wind is blowing so hard that bright orange leaves seem to be raining from the sky. And that old couple on the bench and those little kids down there on the slide are here too, experiencing it as well.”

That was the voice that accompanied me. It made me feel safe and fortunate, and it gave me confidence.

Somewhere along the way, that voice got muddled, or trampled. I started putting my own voice in its place. The angry or sad or simply frivolous chatter grew louder. In the din, I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, hear the voice that spoke to what I knew in my heart. I still sometimes made a fleeting connection, but it was like glimpsing a dream through a fog, all the detail and colour drained from what had once been a precise image.

One time in DC shortly before we decided to move to Canada, I found myself in a total rut. On a whim, I decided to go jogging outdoors. I guess I wanted to reach back and find that connection again, though I didn’t realize it consciously at the time. But somehow the idea came to me so I changed clothes, went outside and stretched, and began to jog. I had gone less than a block when I ran headfirst into a sign post, smacking my forehead so hard it left a mark. I had become so disconnected, so distracted, that I couldn’t even navigate what was going on in my head with the physical world around me. No, I wasn’t so absent-minded that I stepped in front of buses, which in DC would be a death wish. But by that point I had virtually lost the voice. I had reached the point where all I did was function. I did what I needed to do, or what I told myself I needed to do, and that was the entirety of my life.

So where does that leave me now, for what I’m trying to accomplish? I don’t have the full answer yet, but I’m working on it.

I know I’m in a better place now. I still don’t jog outside often. I find it easier, and enjoyable, to use the small gym in our building. But during a break from the rainy chill yesterday, I decided to go for a run outdoors. I jogged down to the seawall and instead of wandering around the gentrified Yaletown portion, I turned instead toward the developing end of False Creek. Along the way, I jogged by the temporary pavilion in which they’ve begun practicing for the Olympic opening ceremonies. Drawing closer, I could hear the orchestra playing . . . Johann Sebastian Back, Orchestral Suite #3 “Air on a G String” ;).

I smiled as I jogged, suddenly aware of all the voices that compete as I go about my day. Suddenly I was

. . . a little kid thinking, “Oh I don’t want to be hearing this because it’ll spoil it when I hear it during the actual ceremony,” as if “Christmas” would be ruined if I jogged by the same spot everyday.

. . . back in Ohio, hearing Doug’s voice, telling me about classical music, opening my eyes to it. Ever the teacher, he gave me an appreciation for why the music was important, what it had meant to him, and tonally why people could be drawn to it even if they didn’t understand why.

. . . a cynic, bemoaning the fact the organizers of the program were sticking to a well-tread routine, planning to tug at strings (literally) to move a worldwide audience. I thought, “Geez, they’ll probably be a little girl in a balloon drifting over some mountain backdrop while the haunting melody wafts through the darkened arena . . . spare me already.”

. . . to which the little kid chimed in, “Gee, that would be cool . . . and Jim and I are gonna be there.”

. . . only to spark a twinge of guilt, fretting at being part of the “elitist party” the Olympic protesters denounce endlessly.

Those voices were all there, in a split second, ready to battle for my attention. But it was the voice that recognized and spoke to all of them that made me smile. I was hearing it, above all of the jumble. That voice is alive, and I do experience it again these days. When I find a groove for writing, it is the voice that accompanies me. More importantly, it is the voice I need to be with me. Between that voice and “the editor,” on the lookout for phrases I find clever that just need to be chopped, a chance exists that I might create a tale worth reading, a story that says something about life, in a way that speaks to me and to others as well.

The challenge is holding on that voice. Or maybe it isn’t about holding it. Perhaps it’s about learning to quiet the others so I can listen for it.


I made a couple of key discoveries this week and am regrouping a bit as a result. The lines are blurred, but some of the change is inside myself and some has to do with my writing. As I awaken to the reality of writing, trying to put words to paper, I’m beginning to understand my life and my writing are intertwined in ways I don’t fully understand and never truly appreciated before.

Maybe that is why I have the desire to write. Perhaps it is a means to get at those things I have been too afraid or too immature to touch. I have been shedding my ideas of finality and conclusion for a while so I don’t believe there is a single “bottom line” reason for my desire to write. I accept it is a matter of finding out how it fits in my life and how large a part it plays, reaping whatever gifts I can from the experience. I am beginning to accept that, as humans, we simply exist. What we do with the time we have is just motion that goes on as long as we do. We can choose progress, and our motion can be a dance. But we can choose to stagnate if we wish, and flounder about in one place. It is our choice.

For someone so introspective, or who has always imagined myself to be introspective, I wear blinders. I don’t see myself. I refuse to see myself. I rationalize my weaknesses. I hide behind unconditional love and pretend it’s approval, or consent. I tell myself I’m just fine.

That’s not the truth, or at least it isn’t the whole truth. I think I’m lovable. This isn’t some pity party. My life has been good, but I have issues. I have addictions. I have fears. I paralyze myself, wrapping myself in anger and frustration and distractions so I don’t have to deal with those things. I entertain myself with shiny little objects I find. I convince myself that emotions over things I read, or see on the street, or watch on TV are real . . . a vital part of my life. But they aren’t, not really. They may give me glimpses into my life, or my psyche, but they aren’t my purpose. If I spin myself into them so tightly that I don’t connect to the people I know and love, then it’s just a waste of energy. I might as well be drinking in an alley somewhere for as much good as it does me in taking care of the things that matter, even if I clean up faster because I was spared the more painful addictions that exist in our world.

So I have reached a point where I am at least facing reality a bit. The main reason I am is because not doing so was acting like a clamp on my writing. I could get a few words out, some interesting paragraphs, even scenes that were cohesive in themselves. But the big picture, the breakthrough writing that progresses a story and plot . . . well, those continue to fall through my grasp. Instead my stories grate along, choppy, locked up like gears jammed on my mountain bike. Worse yet, large chunks just stay locked in my head entirely. And when that happens, my solutions are not solutions at all. I pull out my collection of false stages and act out a stale routine of riling myself up in anger, or sexual titillation, or idle amusement. I give in to those things we called “procrastination” before “yada yada yada” was coined by Seinfeld.

I have no illusions I will ever be a perfect person. I long ago gave up the illusion of perfection in which I, unlike most people, fully invested. But I do know I have to be honest with myself to become a better man.

Today I took down the little affirmations I had posted for myself on the computer. I replaced the admonition to “Write!” and the glowing observation the universe had placed me in this spot at this particular time for great things (I’m summarizing). Instead, I cut to the chase. Here’s the message I must face on a daily basis:

“If you can’t bother being honest, don’t bother writing”

The truth is some writers write witty things, cute plots, amusing anecdotes. Some writers are filled with wonderful tales of adventure, mystery, thrills. All of those writings are gifts, and I commend any writer who succeeds in any genre . . . I hope to join them someday. But my writing, for whatever reason, comes from a serious place. The stories I conceive or that reside in me concern weighty topics, painful things. I trust they possess hope, even joy. But I don’t daydream about comedies. I drift off into imagined worlds where people face pain. My characters hurt. They struggle to understand. So if I can’t be honest about my own pain, and flaws, and addictions, then I’m never going to get their stories out on paper. I’ll never do the characters that speak through me, that reside in me, justice. If I can’t do them justice, then I’m just wasting time and money. They’ll die in my head, and I don’t want to lose them.

I may never be the man I want to be, though I”m working on it. But I owe it to my protagonists, those souls that visit me, to be honest in telling their stories, in giving their worlds a place in ours.

On a final lighter note, I did add one more reminder to my computer. It’s a note of three words . . . “Say it simply.” With my new policy of honesty, I had to accept that some of my imagery, which I lavish over, is just that – imagery. If the story is true and honest, the action could take place in a black box. It would feel just as real. I am a big believer in setting, and probably always will be. Where I am in the physical world plays a big part in my own emotional landscape. It’s why I’ve been seeking “home” for so long. But when the description I write of the hillside dominates the two figures walking along it, that means I’m not getting at the root of what they have to say to each other.

So that is the lesson of recent weeks. In a way my conclusions put me back at square zero, but I’m ok with that. Still learning to crawl and wanting so desperately to fly . . . I think I’m going to get used to that longing.

No one ever said this would be easy. I just didn’t realize how hard it would be, one more thing I didn’t fully face. Yet I do feel relieved so it must be alright.

A flood of emotions and observations occupy my head since the writer’s conference this past weekend. I am left a bit shaken and uncertain, yet it does feel like something broke free so I’m relieved as well.

I attended two formal sessions, if both could be considered formal, and a short editing session. I added the blue-pen session at the last minute, deciding on Friday that I had to hand my work to someone at some point so I might as well start with the short story I wrote for their short fiction competition.

The first class session, entitled “Fire Up Your Fiction,” was a great 1-2-3 / a-b-c introduction on how to have fun with words. It included a couple of short exercises on how to kick-start your writing, “getting in the side doors” as April, the well-named instructor, described the process. The class was free-form yet structured, with timed exercises and timed discussion periods filling the 2-hour time allotment.

April loves the play in writing and the creative energy it uses and produces, and her passion is contagious and genuine. Attendees could choose to share your exercise works or not – most, including I, did. The feedback was positive and warm. She believes writing is its own teacher so she felt it important to incorporate writing exercises. The class provided a message I needed to hear, and I found it encouraging and comfortable like a cozy blanket. It also provided me an exercise I’m already using with a bit of help from Jim, which is a nice touch.

The editing session that followed shortly after lunch was eye-opening. After marveling over my creation for a week ;), enjoying the way I successfully echoed past and present, created evocative visual images, and surprised both myself and my reader with a short story that took a surprisingly unexpected painful turn yet offered a nebulously optimistic closing, I guess I expected – or just wanted – some little “verbal embrace.”

And I got it, sort of. A very mild embrace, something along the lines of “This is very nice.” Period. Then Bernice, who I liked instantly, quickly moved to page 3, where she had placed an asterisk. She commented, “This is what I really saw as the heart of the story, and I was thinking maybe you should try to start with this.”

I listened, discussed, remaining gracious as I attempted to fumble through this foreign tongue. I quickly slipped into a typical habit, one spurred by the internal dialogue I always have at times like this – “I’m obviously no good but maybe, if I’m nice enough, they’ll like me anyway.”

Inside, or course, I wanted to say, “But that asterisk doesn’t mark the beginning! It’s not the point of the story; it’s part of the realization! In a 4-page story, you shouldn’t have to know in the first sentence where the surprisingly short journey is going to take you. It wouldn’t attract me to a story so why the heck would I want to write something that way?”

Still, it was eye-opening; and she was encouraging. Quite encouraging, actually, giving me valuable hints and insights from decades of teaching and editing and writing. She asked about my rituals to start writing each day, which I know I lack. She encouraged me in a manner that felt genuine to keep writing. She immediately shared her belief that I should focus on the novel and gave me her card, which didn’t strike me as something one would do if they felt the person in front of them had no potential whatsoever. Perhaps it was wishful thinking. But after my rather mild bruising (in retrospect), it felt good to look at it that way.

I think I understand now why writers fear – and possibly loathe – the editors to whom they entrust their life’s work, hoping for public exposure. It must be akin to negotiating with God after a long life filled with questionable dealings, convincing Him (or Her) that your heart was in the right place, truly it was. Shouldn’t that count for something?

By the day’s end, though, I felt pretty good. I skipped the afternoon panel discussion and walked around the island. It felt almost magical, the warm summer sun beaming down upon me, deer crossing the street in front of me on queue, strolling along the bluffs over a small cove, and meandering on the trails in the regional park when I decided I needed some shade. Jim joined me on the island, and we dined at “Blue-Eyed Mary’s” near the ferry terminal. As we downed a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc over a great BBQ chicken and summer vegetable dish, all felt fairly right with the world despite my lingering emotional nervousness from the first day.

Day Two, on the other hand, was a journey into the heart of all my fears. I took the ferry over, sluggish after a second weekend morning of rising earlier than normal. I enjoyed the ride, as I always do. You’re streaming out over the water in the morning sun, surrounded by lush mountains, so you have to work hard to feel negative. However, I felt myself receding from instead of embracing my brave, new world. I avoided Pat, the chipper older woman in the flowery frock who had struck up a conversation with me at breakfast the morning before. I proceeded up the hill from the cove, pacing myself between two groups of fellow writers, whom I had pegged accurately on the ferry without knowing for sure.

The session was miles from the safe haven offered the day before. The presenter, whose name escapes me at the moment (which might be telling), is a crime fiction writer with a published series of novels. She also co-founded, as she explained, one of the most respected journalistic review websites today. I was awed somewhat, yet put off by her frantic nature as well.

Around the table of 9, including myself, were 3 additional published writers, 2 other writers with nearly completed manuscripts, 2 serious crime fiction writers, and the partner of one of the published writers “just there for fun.”

My attitude was good, but the ebb and flow of the much less formal discussion was unsettling. The “most acclaimed” published author stuck me as a bit pleased with himself, perhaps rightly so. The interactions of the group often felt stunted despite the friendly surface banter at play in the conversation.

More disturbing, the guidance seemed antithetical to my basic spirit of writing. I found myself thinking I could never write the way they described, even given the possibility that crime fiction is a different animal than other forms of writing. Talk of every scene advancing plot, debates over whether conflict was required in every scene, stern absolute cautions to never use flashbacks or have a protagonist describe themselves all just seemed too sharply ruled and left me fearful that anything I ever write will be blithely dismissed out of hand.

I did chuckle at one point. My favorite attendee, a young woman not yet published but clearly serious and intelligent, made an observation that crafting images for scenes is a bit like “co-creating with the reader.” Mr Pleased seemed to enjoy that observation quite a bit, and I found myself wondering if the phrase might not find itself on the inside cover of his next highly acclaimed work.

All joking aside, it was clear what was happening. My confidence was shrinking as I sat hoping the two hours would pass more quickly. I was engaged, even witty at times, but I had labeled myself at the start as the newbie in the group, and I felt every interaction afterward was in the context of that definition.

The bottom line is that is reality. I am the newbie! I haven’t completed a damn thing, a few random short stories excepted. I’ve never faced rejection, or even sought acceptance. And I have to face that I am terrified I’ll discover I don’t have the tenaciousness to finish a work that truly means something to me, or possess thick enough skin to endure the scratches and scrapes being a writer requires.

After all, I gave up on this idea twice before – once as an 18-year old after a 15-minute conversation with my parents when I couldn’t even express what I actually wanted and again a decade ago when I finally worked up the nerve and fulfilled the basic commitments needed to dip my toe back in the water.

Now I need to learn how to produce a completed novel. And, beyond that, I must be ready to weather the potential rejection even if I convince someone in the industry to give it a fair reading. That is the reality. It’s the reason I woke up on Monday morning, equipped with a plan, yet wondering as I showered if I could yet finish the real estate coursework by the end of August deadline.

So where does that leave me? Well, the good news is not with more than I can handle. I have the power to change the things I must in order to finish the novel. I must write everyday, or at least each weekday – 3 hours minimum. I cannot watch or read or hear the news, or engage the internet until I have completed that basic effort. As the crime fiction writer said, “If you write each day, eventually you’ll have all the material you need to put a novel together.”

In the afternoons I’ll type in what I’ve written, take care of tasks, write on the blog, and engage the world however I need. I’ll work-out, either when I first awaken or sometime in the afternoon. After 4 pm, I’ll clean and prepare for dinner. I can stick to that plan, vacations and Olympic hoopla excepted.

The best news is that I did learn valuable lessons this weekend, two from the session that most terrified me.

* I learned I actually have a point of view on how I write and how stories should develop and flow.
* The crime fiction writer shared her own lessons on getting into writing, discussing how she could now admit to herself and others that she first began interviewing writers in hopes of “finding the secret.” She said the interviews taught her one key ingredient – any successful writer actually finished a work at some point. That was the common element ;).
* I learned a surprisingly simple way to start writing each day, and it seems to work.
* I learned I need to put pen to paper. As Bernice pointed out, your brain works differently when you type on a keyboard. My best first drafts normally come to me when I write in a notebook. I’ve always instinctively known that, but I never truly recognized the consistency of the observation. It is freeing for me to write in a notebook first, and then type what I’ve created into the computer.

I know I absorbed a lot, and I could probably grow that list to double or triple if I tried. It was worthwhile, in part because it was unsettling. I am a good observer, and I absorbed a great deal just watching and listening and feeling.

Of final note, I also have a goal now – a definable goal for this writing adventure, whether it is stage one or the entire journey for me. By June 30, 2010, I will complete my novel. I will compose the story I’ve had in my head and toyed with from time to time for 25 years this summer. It will be my novel. If an editor reads it and it gets published, I’ll be amazed and relieved and thrilled. And, if not, I will be as well. It will be my answer to the lingering question that has haunted me for so long.

And when I’m done, I will move on with the gifts and lessons the experience provides me. I will be a better person because of it.

Saying that isn’t quite as scary as it once was.