Top Reasons Writers WriteI'm always talking to writers about why they write. Here are a few of their responses:
For the love of the written word. To exercise their fingers. Because the pen is mightier than the sword. So they can tell everyone they're a writer. So they can name their own characters. They want to work from home. A desire to be their own boss. To vent. To be understood.
For many their response is that they have to, need to--must--write. I agree. I can't imagine life without writing. Everyday it's as much a part of me as breathing. Whether I'm working on a novel, essay, article, or short story, or simply recording something in my journal, I don't feel whole unless I have a paper and pen in my hands, or a keyboard under my fingertips.
Sometimes we stumble upon who we are by accident, and what we want to do--or feel we should do--with our lives is thrust before us when we least expect it. Generally, however, it takes a great deal of hard work to find out what really makes us tick. For some people self-discovery is a combination of luck, divine providence, and introspect; something occurs in our lives that triggers a thought that leads to taking action.
My grandfather, H.L., was a person who experienced a mix of factors that ultimately led him to his destiny.
A self-made man he spent his life pursuing a dream: flying. Growing up he yearned to attend flight school, but his father clipped his wings. Being the eldest son of a poor farmer did not align him with those who could afford such luxuries. One day circumstance aligned itself with fate and he saw a magazine in an Idaho drugstore. In that magazine was a photo--a photo of a craft that hovered over the ice. It sent his mind soaring. If he couldn't take to the skies, perhaps, he thought, it might be possible for him to fly just above the earth . . .
. . .or the snow.
What ensued is legend in my family. Tales that have been told and retold: Grandpa's bold adventures in the snow bound vistas of western Wyoming and eastern Idaho, his travels to Alaska to sell his inventions--Sno-Planes--to Eskimos, and his desire for speed that led him to win the races that were eventually created to showcase his dream turned reality.
Over the years I thought it wasn't my right to tell Grandpa's story. My father and his brothers knew my grandfather much better, and for much longer, than I. They were the little boys who were right there with him, along for the ride as he flew over both snow and ice. But of late I've realized that there's part of the story only I can tell. The part of adoring granddaughter whose imagination was captured by tales of the past, whose mind took flight when the man she revered as a hero spoke of his life and dreams, his blue eyes dancing in delight with each reminisce.
And so, with two of my general fiction novels in the hands of publishers and two in the hands of agents, I've decided not to sit by the phone and wait for what I hope will be good news. I've decided to start my second young adult novel--the story of my life with my grandfather. Because even though what I've written so far is near and dear to my heart, Grandpa's story and how it impacted me is the novel of a lifetime I must write. I'm still doing the course work for life's class on who I am and telling this tale is part of what I need to do.
Almost seven years ago I ran across a website where authors can type in their name and receive a computer generated pen name. The site was good for a few minutes of diversion and a couple of laughs.
Since it's warm and sunny outside today I'm having a hard time focusing on writing. My mind keeps wandering, and on one of its forays into the world of daydreams the pen name site popped into my head again. Thanks to what surely must be sophisticated technology here are the top five suggestions for my suitable pseudonym:
Rosalina Lovellette Kind of romance writerly.
Ervin Reinstein How it ever came up with this based on my real name I'll never know.
Lilly Tagloff Maybe if I was a humor writer.
Lucius Ishmerton Lucius?
Linette Tollison This one's not too bad. If I ever adopt a pen-name I think I'll consider it.
Here's what I want to tell you: two weeks ago my youngest had a very important audition. The fact that it even came about was nothing less than a miracle. It wasn't something she asked for or even anticipated.
It fell into her life like a star shooting from heaven.
She held it in her hands with wonder. And a good deal of fear. This stuff only happens to other people, doesn't it? Like in the movies? Her questions caught me off guard.
I am a master of self-doubt, prone to view the miracles in my life as accidents--meant for someone else because I'm not deserving enough to receive them. Why? Back when I was not much older than my daughter I remember having one of the best days of my life. Everything was going well. I enjoyed a run of success in my schoolwork--things I hadn't before understood that finally came into view--and I'd recently made friends with several kids who enriched my life immeasurably. I asked my mother, "Why is this happening to me--all this good stuff?" Her response was simple and to the point: I don't know. She shrugged her shoulders and walked away.
I stood on the back porch steps and felt like a fool. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb! The impression left by my mother was that it was all an accident and I was a fool to think anything good could be intended for me. I've carried that experience around with me ever since.
Back to my own daughter. Her audition went well, better than expected. When the doors closed behind us she was overjoyed. She'd done the thing she never imagined possible. She'd conquered her fear and come out victorious. She wanted to jump and shout right there in the hallway. I told her no, let's wait until we get outside. Why? Ghosts from my past cast shadows I felt powerless to dispel. By the time we left the building she was feeling the phantoms of self-doubt herself. She didn't jump. She didn't shout.
Last Friday, I completed my YA manuscript. It's been six long months of agonizing over whether or not I was writer enough to do it, to finish what had been burning in my heart, but what had been held down by fear. Fear of failure. Fear of not measuring up as a writer. Fear of so many things I can't even name them all. When the finished novel was ready to go and I hit send I didn't jump. I didn't shout. Why?
I feel joy for myself. I feel joy for my daughter. Why is it so hard to let it out? Still, after all these years? I don't want it to be. I want to be able to celebrate, and so this morning I'm making a choice: chase away self-doubt.
As soon as my daughter wakes up we're going to make this the best day of our lives. The first of many.
Lori Nawyn. Mom. Fireman's wife. Author. Illustrator. Writing my way out of the shadows and into the light. I am the illustrator of the award-winning children's book What Are You Thinking? My first novel, My Gift to You, is due out October 2010.