Seven Steps on the Writing Ladder
- Having the Tools
Mom was very busy with the four of us, but she had a brilliant idea which made it possible for any of us to explore. There was a card table in the corner of the kitchen, and piled upon it were crayons, pencils, construction paper, and the marble pattern notebooks which I still buy to use for journals and for ideas, drafts, etc.
(She also played music much of the day – from classic to contemporary and though she was not a scientist, she couldn’t help but notice the calming effect of that.So, I wrote little stories, made greeting cards, and all. The diagram below is the result of many hours of doodling before I made my career choices.
My first success in writing was winning the annual Clean Up Week song contest in Grade Two. Another student and I were rewarded with a book. I felt good for at least a day!
- Getting my very own library card, my most precious ID, was my key to the universe.
Getting my library card was like Christmas. Visiting that brick schoolhouse became a regular trip. A bunch of friends would walk the mile to the public library to return and take out books. The librarian made suggestions.
We used pencil and newspaper print to write the registration numbers of books we wanted. There were no computers, so if we were looking up information for a report, we had to copy by hand, remembering to write the title, author, date published. Pluto was still a planet back then.
Reference books did not leave the library, so we did a lot of hand-copying. The pre-teen books, then teen classics were full of adventures we didn’t even dream about.
We all walked home. We did know that causing any trouble was a recipe for disaster, so we only acted up at home. I love reading and I still read many books, expanding my list to areas which I never dreamed of.
3. Making writing a priority
Periodically our teachers would send our best work into scholastic writing center contests and we’d proudly bring home a certificate.Writing was a major chunk of our school days, and as we plowed through “the classics, there was in-class reading out loud, questions to answer in writing, and a few tests. I thought it would be cool to write for a living. I knew from a couple of artists and musicians in the family to keep my day until I was sure.
Shakespeare in grade nine? It’s true, but I don’t think it makes sense. I said yes.
4 Learning to Write – I used to have to write in secret, After I was married, my EX-Hubby said it was a waste of time and how much could you make on writing anyway? Even though I was afraid of my shadow, I was not afraid to write.I knew there was something in my Mind or in my heart that hurt a little, something that wanted to come out and become literature. I don’t feel guilty about having a perfect cup of coffee on my table. I wish I had a maid just to keep the coffee coming. Sometimes I feel guilty just because it is a beautiful day outside and I am inside.. Ten minutes on the back porch heals that discomfort, especially on snow days.
I don’t feel guilty about having a perfect cup of coffee on my table. I wish I had a maid just to keep the coffee coming. Sometimes I feel guilty just because it is a beautiful day outside and I am inside.. Ten minutes on the back porch heals that discomfort, especially on snow days.
For me, the turning point was a moment in which I found myself deeply wounded because my family and some of the least favorite friends didn’t care about my writing, This afternoon, it hit me: why should they take it seriously even though I DO? For quite some time, writing has been my number one priority – not counting the days I gave birth to the children, moving across the country again, and periodic major “sorting days” to keep organized. I write in the morning to midafternoon, every day. With few meaningful exceptions, writing is first—come rain, shine, holidays, or illness.
Make this commitment and from that moment on, you are a writer.
- Maybe Writing Really Isn’t Worth It and I Should Quit
Hey, just because you’re now a writer doesn’t mean this gig is suddenly easy! Some of us will face this conundrum many times in our writing journeys. I have to admit that several times, I did not have the stamina to write. There were two causes – first, I have a chronic illness which is rather painful sucking away energy for a while each day, and second, I didn’t have a source of positive reinforcement. I had no batteries. Well, I am also legally blind and cannot drive. But oh well, everybody has something!
Several times I considered quitting, and this is an important question for every artist. I sit calmly, enter into my deep soulful self, and sort through the stuff in me, bringing the really good stuff into the light of day and onto the keyboard. I agree that If I’m going to continue this, then I really should renew my commitment every so often, thinking about and embracing the nature of who I am and who I have become over the years.
Like KM, I spend part of my time in the dark night of my soul. And it is not scary. I am able to feel real feelings, to intuit unusual sadness, to read what others are thinking, to look at a person I know very well, and practically finish her sentences.
- Will Reading Other Writers Make me a Copycat? No way! I don’t live with the Bronte sisters or in the back room at Edgar Allan Poe’s place. I don’t use strong spirits to blot out my bad memories; I have a mental condition for that. I have read books that take me into new places, into old, nearly dead places, where I can sprinkle a little stardust which I keep in my right shirt pocket.
- I am obsessive about spelling, grammar, usage. AND I have a good time crafting cool sentences and paragraphs. Should I worry about becoming an old woman with glasses who likes to chat with the postal delivery guy?? My dear daughter could attest to this is who I am NOW. Kids!
As K.M. says: The art of writing is uniquely suited to make us feel unworthy. Not only are we baring our souls on the page for everyone to gawk at, we are also working in a field in which monetary compensation is decidedly the primary yardstick for “success.” Perfect copy is required.
My motto is a set of reminders: Keep walking! Keep writing! Keep breathing! Call my brother once a week! Don’t lose my crochet hook! And try not to talk ALL the time!
About Mary E. Latela: She has published 15 creative non-fiction books, is working on a memoir, was a teacher for a hundred fifty years, is an ordained minister, and now lives in the Midwest (again!) @LatelaMary firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks to my writing friend. She is quite young: I am not. Otherwise we are very alike. Enjoy!