Ever since I was a young girl reading Little Women and identifying with Jo in the garret, I have wanted to be a writer. I imagined myself the author of novels that would be read by thousands. My words, my stories, would touch their lives.
Of course, as an adult I woke up to reality – the reality that wives and mothers face every day: I had higher priorities than becoming a famous novelist. My dream would have to be postponed awhile, until I had raised my family, gotten my college degree, and achieved a degree of maturity.
Once my family was grown, my working life took over. As a teacher, I found I had little time or energy to put into being creative. Yet the desire to write – the need to write – nagged at me.
As a journalist, I had scratched my writing itch for awhile before I taught. Even after I became a teacher, I occasionally found time to write. Not that anything ever came of those endeavors, and the novel still awaited me.
When I retired, I knew that the time had come. Life is short; you can only defer a dream so long before it dies. So I began in earnest to write, write, write. I found a writing partner, joined a critique group, and wrote as often as I could. (I found, to my surprise, that the myth of retired people rocking on the front porch is baloney; your time and talents get sucked up very, very fast.) But I found time to write, because I had to. I resurrected an old novel, one I had begun years before and never finished. It did not work well, so I set it aside again and started another one, based on my experiences at a newspaper in the 1970s. Much as I wanted to tell that story, it was not the one that emerged.
In writing that novel (which I am now re-crafting), I found out something about myself as a writer. I suppose most writers set out with a plot in mind, with somewhere to go, then create and develop the characters who will get them there. That’s what I envisioned myself doing.
The story took over; the characters appeared; I became the navigator to see them through the process and was often surprised at what they said and did and what happened. The result was a piece of writing that astonished me. That was not at all the story I had set out to tell!
The same thing happened when I started to write Journeying, published by Five Star/Cengage in 2009. I had two ideas in mind – to recreate in fiction some of the colorful history of my hometown, Fort Collins, Colorado, and to honor frontier women, who were so amazingly strong, brave and indomitable. That’s how I began. Then the story and characters took on a life of their own; I was merely the conduit. It was a fascinating phenomenon.
I don’t know how other writers work; I have discovered how I do. I’m still not famous, read by thousands, but I am a published novelist. The dream is still alive.