Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Someday I will publish a book, Or So You Want To Be A Writer

By Eleanor Shelton 

My parents are getting old and have begun minimizing their possessions. My mother recently cleaned out several plastic bins of old photos and memorabilia from the basement. 

Each of her daughters received a package of “this is your life so far” images of childhood, awkward adolescence, marriages, pets long gone, and earnest school essays. Included in my package was a handmade book I'd made in 4th grade titled, Someday.

It went like this:

·      Someday I’ll cure all animal diseases
·      Someday I’ll be allowed to watch TV all day
·      Someday I’ll do something that people will be proud of

Each sentiment was accompanied by a stick-person illustration. I haven't made much artistic progress since. I don't remember this, but as I reviewed the dreams of a 10-year old, one page stood out.   

Someday I’ll publish a book

Our house was filled with books. My parents were always reading several at any given time. 

There must have been a kernel of an idea that publishing a book was something I wanted to do, which is strange because as someone with severe dyslexia, I could barely read and I hated to write.

Charles Bukowski, poet, novelist, and intermittent post office employee wrote a poem—"So you want to be a writer!” where he developed a list of warnings and then advises, Don’t Do It.

“unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don’t do it.”

Are we born with certain innate desires? Do the DNA strands create a helix of predestined drives? 

Or is storytelling a need that solidifies over time? Some may even say it’s a habit, like exercising or biting your nails. An activity you get used to doing every day without much thought.

Reading the old elementary school essays my mother had kept all of these years buried in some dungeon vault, I realize I was not a natural born writer.

“I had a dream that my family was visiting Germany when the city started to rumble and an 800,000-foot monster emerged that started smashing buildings and cars. I was scared,” began one of my stories from 1977. Clearly, I had just watched an episode of Ultraman. 

I think I’ve gotten better as a writer. Perhaps only marginally, but enough that I experience sufficient success that I keep going and don’t resort to murder or suicide, as Bukowski warns. This writing thing is a tough gig. I’m sure my 10-year old self never considered when adding it to my Someday dreams. 

Although writing a stream of consciousness piece from the point of view of the seated Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial, which I must have just visited, was a nifty little idea.

As soon as we begin our writing journey and the inspired words fail to materialize by magic, the workshop groups hammer us, and the rejection slips come at an alarming rate, we realize writing isn’t about a funnel of inspiration sent down to us from the gods of creativity.

There is no Muse or entitled genius simply because we want it.

As writers, we share a dream. It may have been mysteriously planted at a very young age or a slow growing hunger that finally demands to be fed. 

Bukowski admonishes, Don’t Do It! But I say, if it’s there, it’s there. Give in to it. I wake up each weekday morning at 5 am before my paying job starts to get a page or two written. Because you know what?

Someday I’ll publish a book

1 comment:

Kristin Owens said...

Lovely - Great advice for us all: sometimes you need to listen to your 10-yr old self. I guess I'll become a Dunkin' Donut lady.
Brava, Eleanor.

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