My father was an avid reader. Coming of age at the start of the Great Depression, he cherished books for their ability to let him escape to wherever they might take him. I inherited his wide-ranging tastes as well as his love of having books around the house, a library at our fingertips. The family room in our house had one wall filled floor to ceiling with built-in bookshelves, stuffed to overflowing with the World Book Encyclopedia, Reader’s Digest condensed book selections, biographies, histories, and anything else that caught my parents’ interest. The upstairs of the house was divided into two opposing camps, girls to the left, boys to the right, bathroom dividing the territories. But even here, each of the two bedrooms had one wall of built-in bookshelves that were jammed full of whatever piqued our curiosity. Our bookshelves were neutral ground to be raided at will, and with a thirteen-year age span between the oldest and the youngest child, the variety was immense.
Growing up, I packed equal amounts of books and clothes for our summer family vacations, pulling from this ready supply of available books. My youthful pride and joy, however, was my Nancy Drew collection. Over my childhood years, I collected every title, stored in neat, numerical order, along my portion of the bedroom shelves. My favorite finds were the books where different stories had been published under the same title. I knew the stories well enough to pounce on them when I found them. Those volumes were my reader badge of honor. Although we were held to a tight allowance, my mother always indulged our whims for good music and good books, oftentimes beyond our childhood means.
My mother was also writer, among many other talents, and I inherited my love of words from her. Long family vacations, viewed from hanging over the back seat of the car, were filled with challenges to use new words to describe my experiences. My mother couldn’t read in a moving car, so in the days before iPods and in-car movie systems, we read and wrote and talked our way across the miles. I spent countless hours with a map in my hands, navigating our journey across the folds and towns on its surface. In all their parental wisdom, my parents always challenged me to search the map in great detail, trying to find names of the towns and burgs and villages in alphabetical order. It took several vacations for me to figure out most maps also had an index. Smart parents. Their plan worked, creating a child who inhaled books and exhaled words, who wanted nothing more than to while away the hours reading or writing.
I still inhale books at a pretty good rate, and exhale words, shaping them, playing with them. I read every day, I write every day. I’m working on a manuscript that I hope will be picked up and published one day. But if not that one, there’s another story waiting to be told, and another after that. As a dear friend recently reminded me, writers write because they have to.
But there are moments when words tangle together, when my excitement to let them all come flying out wars against my own worst enemy – myself.
I recently made a mental connection between the woman-writer I am now with something I had nearly forgotten from my childhood. Something that not only helped explain those moments, that internal struggle against myself, but helped me relax about it, to try and accept it as a central piece of who I am, and who I’ve always been.
In this case, those moments battling my internal voice and editor and critic, I become a reluctant writer. According to Dictionary.com, reluctant can be defined as either of the following: 1) unwilling, disinclined, a reluctant candidate; or 2) struggling in opposition. Buried in the meanings of various synonyms, reluctant also “implies some sort of mental struggle.” Yep, that’s it. I’m neither unwilling nor disinclined, but a mental struggle in opposition? Indeed. But the challenge then is to just keep pushing, keep writing, and don’t let that inner struggle get in my way. A good, if older, post on writing tips was this 2009 post by Lisa Barone of Outspoken Media. We’ve all seen tips and tricks for breaking through those rough moments. But sometimes it helps to have a reminder, direct, simple.
Any favorite tips or tricks you’ve used successfully and would like to share?
Until then, Heigh ho, heigh ho. Back to work I go.