Off the trail, into the unknown

Our world is a world of stories.

Stories to teach, stories to entertain, stories to make sense of the world, and stories to create it. Everything is a story, but what stories we pay attention to matter the most.

I tell my son stories almost every night when I put him to bed. It’s a duty I share with my husband (and I will never call it a chore.) Sometimes I lean on the written word, but that was by recommendation of his teachers, who told us it would help with his literacy. Most nights, though, I enjoy spinning tales for him and watching his reactions.

I’m so glad I have this instantaneous feedback. Nothing is as rewarding as a gasp of surprise or a chiming laugh as I catch him off guard with some bit of humor. His eyes get big, he leans in very close, and he’s quick to ask questions if something wasn’t clear enough or if he simply wants to know more. My son is a parrot – I know I will be hearing bits and pieces of my tale the next day over breakfast. What he pays attention to is important, and I notice.

His instant feedback is one of the best ways to remind me why I love storytelling so much. It gives me what I need to sit down, day after day, and put words on a page. Everyone has a book in their head somewhere, stories of characters they love, rattling around, chapters unfinished and scenes firmly envisioned. It isn’t as easy as it looks, though, and it takes a lot of patience, fortitude, and sometimes suffering to get a book translated from brainpan to word processing software. (Or paper, but eventually it all becomes electronic format.) It took three years to take The Corsican from request to .pdf, and with luck it will make it to Amazon this month.

Even now, with more time than I’ve ever had before to write, I’m still struggling with being a student and a mother besides. I am constantly trying to keep up with my grades, my son’s needs, and my other duties. I am quick to apologize for spending my time writing when there are other things to be done, and there are always other things to be done.

It is hard to be a writer. The competition is legion, the hours wonky, the pay chancy. It’s a fringe job, like styling oneself an artist. People are comfortable asking you to do for free what professionals charge handsome fees for, “for your portfolio.” The bottom of the pile is a raggedy heap of hopefuls, who either cling to you for support or despise you for being alive, and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference.

I know what I’m doing is risky, but the love of the word rests within me, and I’ve already denied it for too long. I have to keep trying, and work hard, and tell myself that the risk is worth it. I have to stop apologizing for my dreams and just stay strong in the face of all the distractions and life’s demands. I can’t give up now; not with the first taste of victory so fresh on my tongue.

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