I am participating in the Positive Writer contest, ‘How Writing Has Influenced my Life’ because from infancy to now, I have had a lifelong love affair with the written word.
While I would love to claim to be a child prodigy, reading at two, writing my first published work at five, that would stretch hypebole to the limit. However, I contend that input, reading or having others read to one, always preceeds and exceeds output, writing. So first, it was on the lips of my parents lulling me off to sleep with bedtime stories. Then after getting my own library card at six, I discovered the power of strings of words on a page and the magic of being able to read them all by myself.
I prefered books with few pictures. Why? Because without someone else’s illustrations the words carried me on their wings to a place deep inside where my imagination and the author’s story merged to become pictures in my mind. I read a variety of children’s books from classics to Nancy Drew. I read the Raggedy Ann series, where dolls and toys had a secret life at night. I loved the idea that someone thought that all up and then wrote it down…for me to READ and not only read, but maybe somehow to learn to write stories of my own took root. My growth as a writer from that tiny root has been tangled, stunted and almost snuffed out over the course of my lifetime.
I wanted someday to write like my favorite authors. In fact, many of my first writing attempts merely copied ideas from the stories I liked best. Hey! I was ten, I didn’t know anything about plagerism. In high school I wrote my first novel, with pencil on lined notebook paper and I developed an interest in poetry. While my novel mirrored scenes from my favorite soap operas, my poetry was little more than angst ridden poorly rhymed verse. In college, for a time I pursued a degree in English Literature, but later chose a more practical career. Still I wrote my stories on the side. I even sent some off to publishers. Rejection, rejection, rejection. I continued to write. I simply did not let anyone read what I wrote…AND I continued to read voraciously.
Then in 2003 I started a novel after entering the first chapter in a contest. I wrote 1500 words a day–that was my goal and I stuck to it. I read each segment to my husband who became my critic, editor, and encourager rolled into one. The book, the characters and even the plot and subplots surprised me at every turn. I started to relate to the people as if I knew them, because truth is they were a lot like folks I knew. Still terrified to send it to an agent or a publisher, I simply passed it around to friends to read.
In 2012 when I started blogging, I pulled out that novel, edited it chapter by chapter and published it on my blog of the same name, Braking Points. In 2014 as I fully retired and my seventieth birthday approached I started a second blog, My Seventh Decade, Year One. I plan to write until I cannot possibly do it anymore.
So how has writing influenced my life? That is the purpose of this essay. Three primary benefits come quickly to mind:
I am a better reader or in the case of audio books a better listener. The complexity of writer’s voices amazes me. Some terse and wisecracking. Others making conversation come alive–to the point if I am listening to a book on CD–I begin conversing with them, trying to guess the response, loving it when I do. Reading, listening to learn how to be a better writer. READING ALWAYS PRECEEDS AND EXCEEDS WRITING.
I am less fearful of the criticism of others and less needful of their praise. I have fewer than 50 followers on either of my blogs and only occassionally have comments. Of course, I prefer the nice things my friends and family say, but I have encountered my share of criticism. Doesn’t matter. DON’T WRITE TO PLEASE OTHERS, WRITE BECAUSE YOU CANNOT IMAGINE NOT WRITING.
I have also learned that writing is hard work and rewriting is even harder. And I know the second I hit the publish button on this essay, I am going to think of a hundred different ways I could have communicated better and just as many other ways writing has influenced my life. IF IT WAS EASY, IT WOULD NOT GIVE ME SO MUCH PLEASURE.
Writers are the voices for the stories they live and the stories others tell them. Without writing, even mine, some voices would be silenced.