In the beginning was the word…
as you can read in my Jo Meador Author blog, where I describe my passion for writing as “the dream I’ve held since nursery school …when I first saw a teacher turn a piece of chalk into a word that she picked from a book.” Foremost I wrote journal entries, the first penciled into a Betty Betz diary with key and lock when I was eleven. Turning twelve and hard up on cash, I erased all the childish entries and replaced them with equally unexciting events. Nothing ever happened to me.
At thirteen, still hungry to create my own written word, I took a Creative Writing class in summer school. Along the way from three to thirteen I had attempted stories and little verses that pleased my mother. By the time I was twenty I quit school and enrolled in a correspondence course presumably staffed by famous writers. After a few stories which had received little notice and sketchy commentary from decidedly NOT famous writers, I quit that too, discouraged. Now a wise old twenty-one, still living under my mother’s roof, I decided that I had not lived enough life to write about it. I then set out to get a life.
That life took off in the next fifteen years as I acquired a husband, spawned a daughter, earned a bachelor’s degree in English, and a secondary teaching credential. I had also put behind me a series of clerical jobs and two teaching posts to take the challenge of a career in data processing. That in turn drove me to a specialty in data management. In that time I had changed my mental orientation from liberal arts—music, art and literature—to mathematics and engineering, topics I was never good at in school. There was no miracle here, though. Fifteen years in music performance was the catalyst to a successful career in computing.
I took to my new life with zest, doing well at every turn. Funny thing, though, what made me so successful was all the work I had done earlier to build my writing muscles. I was still ruminating life through my journal entries, of course, but I was also more prolific in finished work than I had ever been before: writing executive briefs, technical proposals, reference guides, white papers, and dozens of the varying systems documents required by project management methodologies. I was also giving pitches to a cadre of audiences from vice presidents to clerical workers in banking, telecommunications and aerospace. I developed technical training programs that led to teaching opportunities at extension schools in San Francisco and Seattle. The burgeoning creative writer, so unsure of herself, had become a business/technology writer of some note primarily because she was in a field of professionals whose relationship with the written word was far from comfortable.
Arriving at 40 I realized with horror—really, a deep pit growing in my gut of having missed the last boat to Paradise—that I had not even begun to scrape at the edges of my BIG life’s goal. I wanted to be published. Not only that but I wanted to be writing fiction. [Aside: You would think that I might have consolidated these divergent desires into a combined Publish in fiction, but I hadn’t gotten that clever yet.]
I addressed the publication issue by turning my computing expertise into articles that were of interest to other data management specialists eager to jump on the data resource management band wagon. Those first articles turned into an opportunity to pitch an idea for a journal where I became a consulting editor and major contributor. Here I expanded my style to include columns, book reviews, interviews as well as articles. The journal also gave me an opportunity to experience firsthand the roller coaster ride in the publishing world where mergers and acquisitions created chaos in the editorial room. Before I resigned, I had trained eight senior editors in data resource management jargon.
As my time was absorbed in working, writing and teaching, I felt tremendously dissatisfied with life. Yet here I was living my dream! Or was I? Not yet. A major piece was missing. In the wake of all that success, I turned my back on the good life and chased the mystical beast of fiction—not just any fiction, but the art of writing novels.
A LITTLE STRETCH FOR YOU:
While I write in concepts, my mind is conjuring images, such as the image from nursery school.
Scan your own experiences with as much objecivity as you can. Therein lies the fodder for your own writing, the impetus for shaping stories and the emotions that will give your characters life. The undercurrents that drive you will be the motivation of your characters. At least, that’s how it’s been for me.