I’ve recently rejoined the work force. No way, no how was I ever going to dust off my degree and return to my old life as an Interior Designer. Uh, uh. The last thing I need in my life as I nurture two rambunctious teenagers, a passel of mismatched dogs and a bookful of characters who refuse to cooperate, is a job that extends beyond the bounds of 8 to 5 with irritating meetings and revisions that stick in my mind like gum on the bottom of my shoe.
So, instead, I accepted a job as an administrative assistant in our local Extension Office serving the 4-H community at large. No stress, no outrageous responsibilities – just the ordinary workings of your average, every day secretary. You’d think having been an organizational leader of a 4-H club for 10 years would have prepared me for this adventure, right? Okay, so I manage fine with the common garden-variety enrollment forms and procedures, but nothing equipped me for the details, most minor, some very major, that continue to explode around me. . .
. . .much like writing a novel -- you knew I’d work this in somewhere, didn’t you?
For most of us, the love of writing sprouted from the love of reading. How many of us haven’t at one time or another uttered the infamous words, "I can write better than this!!"
And thus we have the birth of an author.
My mundane admin asst position with limitless rules and regulations mirrors the clandestine twists and turns we take as we craft our book. Let’s skip past the obvious elements of simple character, plot and ending and dig deeper into our craft -- isn’t that what we’re always being told?? I’m talking about unearthing some good stuff here, you know what I mean?
Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, yada yada, and live happily ever after. Yup, that’s the way I saw it, and years ago, that’s the way I wrote it. This is afterall, a romance.
And I’ll have you know, my mother loved my writing.
But the rest of the world didn’t. Boring, predictable, cliche. Now, that wasn’t the feedback I got from my crit partners. When I used to go out on Critique Night, my husband and kids would lay wager whether I’d come home with any hide left on my bones or not. No, these short, concise evaluations came from contest judges. And my response?? Pffft, what do they know?? Well, pretty soon, I began to dread paying the $10 - $15 entry fees -- don’t snicker! Yes, I’ve been writing since postage was a minor irritant on my tomb-worthy Priority Mail envelopes -- only to expect similar comments, especially when I’d wait up all night waiting for the coordinator to call to tell me I was a finalist. After a loooong while, I talked myself into looking at a change or two offered by some sympathetic judge whose sincerity twiddled through the pages.
Hmm, dark moment? Give them a situation that looks impossible then have them overcome?? Make’um laugh, make’um cry, make’um wait??? This was when reason began to war with instinct.
I’ll never survive this.
This is a book! People expect larger than life.
But I don’t like fighting.
You’re not the one fighting.
No, but my children are and I don’t like ugliness.
It’s gotta get good and ugly before you can clean it up and win the reader with the happy ending.
I want to cry.
And in those tears sits the truth. Writing is hard work. We go against everything rational and safe in our sense of survival to give our readers a ride they’ll never forget. We devour movies and sitcoms looking for clever twists to life; we walk through fields of flowers or beside highways of heavy traffic to try and see the world through someone else’s eyes; we write and re-write until our eyes cross and our finished product doesn’t resemble the original idea in the least.
Ah yes, those irritating traits we now possess that make quirky situations stick in our minds like gum on the bottom of our shoes.
I was less than a six-month tenured employee when the task of preparing all the necessary files for the office-wide Affirmative Action audit was thrust into my lap. I recognized the Black Moment of my otherwise happy job yawning before me. Fight or run? Sink or swim? Do or die?
It’s okay for those frantic thoughts to run through our minds and it’s perfectly alright for them to race through your hero/heroine’s mind, too. Being honest with ourselves puts us higher up on the food chain. God gave us the ability to reason through our problems, and God gave us the desire to encourage one another to be our best. God loves us enough to never give us more than we can swallow.
Go and download the score sheet of a contest you respect. Look at the elements the judges are to consider. Do you have them incorporated in your story? Be honest now, okay? Does your dialogue so natural? Are you using all five senses? Have you sprinkled in enough, or too many, commas?
How badly do you want to enter the Rita? Participate in a booksigning? Be recognized as XXX’s lead author?
See the truth, face your fears, and stifle your impatience. God has good things planned for us.
Oh, and BTW, here it is, a year later, and I’ve been gifted with a new office chair and two lateral files of my own. Next year, I’m hoping for an electric stapler and keys to the postage machine.
May God’s blessings fill you abundantly!!