The Rain Cometh

This past few weeks my little town of Eagle River got bombarded with a barrage of rain and wind, so much so that our lights winked out. It was troubling at first – How will we make food now? How many candles do we have? – and aggravating – Did you see that tree? Why do they have power? – but we rode it out. Eventually I got used to waking up with no power or having the lights flicker off, I even kind-of liked the darkness.

Last night, I woke up, grabbed a flashlight, and started writing, actually writing with pen and paper, which in the beginning felt odd as my computer is my usual means of getting thoughts down. I got to nestle down in my chair and take out my notebook, grab a pen and ink the pages. And in doing so I discovered two things: 1) how horribly slow (and messy) writing with a pen actually is and 2) how nostalgic it can be. I was reminded of my youth and the many camping trips we used to take. Those long days when I would lug a cup of hot chocolate out to a nearby rock, hunker down, and scribble out ideas of plots, of characters, of settings and scenes. These scenes were not my best, the characters, bare boned, the emotions, clunky… but they were there, written down on pieces of paper, created by me.

But not actually “created by” me because back then, dare I write it, I usually wrote fanfiction stories centering on Digimon and Teen Titans. Yes, it’s the truth; I started writing first in the worlds of others before I had the courage to create my own. Fanfiction.net was a sanctuary for my young mind. (For those of you who haven’t had the experience, it’s a fansite dedicated to writers penning their own spins on popular TV shows, books, and comics.) It was an online community yet every one of my fanfic pieces started out on paper, started out just by me jotting random thoughts on the page and then crossing them off again, reading them to myself only to change a word here or there, and playing with characters of others imaginations.

Last night, comforted by the patter of rain on the window, I remembered. It was fun. I discovered my craft on fanfiction, I discovered how awesome it was to write and then, eventually, how exciting it was to create my own works. Later on, I discovered how amazing it was to create a character, to see that character blossom and become real to me, and to others. There are heaps of pages carrying only characters on them, hair color, eye color, skin color, personality, history, habits, plans. I would carry around my notebooks everywhere, tangible proof of my efforts, only to transfer the stories to the screen and post the new chapter, only to check back a few days later to see how many hits I got, how many reviewers commented, and what I could do differently. Then I would take out my notebook and scrawl some more.

Last night, I scribbled on paper and too soon finished an outline for one of the books in my novella series. Too soon I put my pen down and yawned. Too soon I curled up in my bed and went to sleep. By the afternoon the power was back, bright as ever, and my computer called to me.

I guess, if I really wanted to, I could write on paper my ideas. I could dismiss my computer and use penned up ink instead. But I know myself too well. I know, for example, that my typing skills are faster than my scrawling, that because of that my ideas flow quicker onto the page on the computer and forget less. I know, on a day like today, I would much rather type then scribble. I’ve gotten used to that form of writing. That is not to say I’ve forgotten how to jot down things on paper, rather I’m just much more comfortable typing it up instead. I used to have reams of paper, heavy in my hands, filled with inked ideas. Now, today, at this moment in time, I have folders on a desktop. Multiple folders sure, but folders nonetheless, not a hardcopy, rather an electronic one. Sure my computer weights heavy in my hands too but it’s not, and will never be, the same as paper. I’m not saying that we should all go print out every folder we have on the desktop of course, I would never do such a thing, but I am saying that we should remember the time when we did do everything on paper, when we scrawled stories onto parchment instead of type them into a computer memory storage system. I’m not saying don’t use your computer, I certainly won’t stop using mine. It’s easier, less wasteful, and quicker this way.It’s just… sad almost that this is the new normal.

Unless I go camping again, of course…

Until next time!
Warm regards,
Kellie

Postscript – you should know, however, I still jot down ideas in my notebook when I’m on the run, or when I’m too sleepy to actually type on the computer. Most of those notes end up looking like a child’s scribble or randomly stop or, my favorite, end up being longer than the actual page itself so I wind up trying to remember what I wrote anyway rather than actually reading my notes.

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Do Writers Write Alone?

Firstly, I wanted to apologize for not posting last Friday – the end of my week went sideways and Friday was no exclusion to the insanity. I did, however, manage to scrape a third place in a local contest. It was not a perfect work – I should have spent more time on it, actually, if I do say so myself – but I’m glad to have gotten third. One of my friends, however, got first! And rightly so, her work was beautiful, as always. If I actually wore a hat, I would tip it to her. “Next time, though, I’ll get first, danggit!” (So shouts my inner muse.) I won a $10 gift card to Barnes and Noble for my efforts!

I have, however, had some time to think during the past week and, as they often do, my thoughts wandered to the craft of writing. What makes a person a writer? Well, many things. People tend to have this fantastical idea of the writing folk. They assume we are a conglomeration of solitary strangers locked up in rooms for hours on end, typing on a keyboard or scribbling on paper, only to emerge, amid crumpled-up ideas and ink-stained coffee cups, with a completed – and best-selling – novel. People who do not write believe that people who do, do so alone. And, sometimes, that’s true. For some people, the writing process is a solitary creature, waiting to capture authors in its lonely gaping jaws and, sometimes, only death can relieve them of this existence.

But, for most, is writing truly a solitary process? Do writers truly write alone? I doubt it. Truthfully, writing can’t be a single-person process. We may believe we’re alone, but our friends and family support us as we type or scribble every word. The things we have learned in school guide us. We may come up with our own characters, but our fellow writer help flesh them out, give them meaning, and add new perspectives. (Especially if you belong to a writer’s group, which I highly suggest you try!) Even as we sit in the stillness of our rooms “locked away from the world,” the world is still with us, inspiring us. The blade of grass, that falling leaf, the certain look a stranger gave another are all with us. The books we have read linger in our minds, the characters we’ve loved and hated, the plotlines we’ve adored, the descriptions we’ve aspired to try, the authors of these works help us. And don’t think that odd quirk of an old friend won’t come back in some form or another. Even in the solitary place of our minds we are not alone, our inspiration is with us. Not in a physical form (although muses can be physical) but in the sense that our inspiration is there, our muses push us onward.

The act of writing may be done in a solitary place, but we are never alone, not in the true sense of the word. We have help from a myriad of places, of people, and of things. Sometimes, in the emptiness of our rooms, when the only sound comes from our fingers pounding the keyboard, it’s hard to remember the help we actually have. Writing isn’t a one-person process. We have too much outside help to believe it actually is.

So I return to my original question – what makes a person a writer? Well, a lot of things – dedication to the craft, a willingness to read and learn, and the ability to write is always a plus – but there is one other detail some people tend to overlook… help.

Till next time.
Warm regards,
Kellie

PostScript – I completed a rough outline for Book Two! This story just started a year ago with a single paragraph portraying a single emotion. Now, Book One is in the editing process and will soon be queried out and Book Two has a completed outline! Will the wonders never cease?