Last year, I mentioned that I might dabble more in writing. I've recently received some encouragement to write more blog posts, which I very much appreciate because I've been toying with the idea of becoming a part-time writer, semi-professionally...maybe. (I'll go ahead call myself an author when I someday get published. When that day comes, I'm also going to color my hair so my photo for the book jacket is a little more interesting. I'm thinking lavender highlights: they look natural at first, but on second glance, you think, "Wait, hair isn't supposed to be purple!")
This past summer, I listened to Gretchen Rubin's audiobook of Better Than Before, and it held an idea that resonated with me: When you were in fifth grade, what did you want to be when you grew up? The point of that idea is that at about age ten or twelve, we have a good gut feeling for our interests and abilities. Over time, though, money needs, job opportunities, and well-meaning advice complicate things and we often take a different course in adulthood. But what if we listened to that kid in us who knew years ago what we probably would still like to do today?
I suppose I've always known that I would grow up to be a multipotentialite. (See Emilie Wapnick's TEDx talk for the definition of this career path, of sorts.) From fifth to seventh grades I added multiple interests in my answer to "What do you want to be when you grow up?" I wanted to be a writer, an inventor, an artist, a game show hostess, an attorney, and/or a hotel manager. As college leered, the hotel manager seemed the most realistic of the five very different career interests. I declared a major in business management and never looked back. But now I am.
Listening to Gretchen's book, I realized that in one way or another, I've continued to play in each of the arenas on my list.
- Management: I didn't go into hotel management, but I did get a business degree in finance. I very much enjoyed the subject, and I've worked as a bookkeeper/treasurer in a couple of small businesses. More importantly, I've used the principles I started learning in business school to lead in my church and to manage my household. My tagline as a business-minded mother is that I am running my family on purpose, rather than off purpose.
- Attorney: I've coached four mock trial teams at Freedom Preparatory Academy and Provo High School. Thinking like a trial attorney is so much fun! I've loved teaching teens to think critically and to explore both sides of a case, forming arguments for and against, and sleuthing for dubious details. I also realized that pursuing a career as a real attorney would probably turn me into a negative person, always looking for ways to snare people with their words and actions. I'm glad to have not taken that course, but to still have some fun with it.
- Game show host: I didn't realize I was fulfilling this one until I thought back on the various games I've created for teaching and for fun. In the past eight months alone, I organized four group games to rotate through at a ward party; I put together a Jeopardy-style game for our LDS Primary's teacher training; last week I held a competition at the charter high school to help the students with a business-writing assignment; I've helped student body officers create a two-week-long, customized game of Assassin (we called it Target Tag) as a fundraiser; and I made two video quiz shows to cover all seasons of "Malcolm in the Middle". (If you want to play that one sometime, I'd love to host!) I love playing games, and I like creating them too!
- Artist: My artistic talents were never great, but I LOVE designing and building furniture. #3 and I are planning to make a large piece of artwork to hang over our piano. And every time I hear a concert violinist, my soul sheds tears, so I'll be pursuing violin lessons in the near future.
- Inventor: Patent attorney fees have gotten in the way of this one a bit, but I have designed re-usable display boards that my children have put to use through years of science fairs. I'm constantly coming up with business and product ideas...and trying to convince my children to run with them since I don't have the time right now.
- And then there is writing. Writing! I only recently realized that I've practiced this skill consistently, from the multiple journals I've kept since high school, to my lengthy emails (I apologize if you've been on the receiving end of any of those), to scripture study notes that become drafts of church talks, to blogging about our family. When I am a dissatisfied--or highly satisfied--customer, I always prefer to write a letter or an online comment rather than being verbal in person or on the phone. I just really love writing.
For 21 years, my writing has been mostly utilitarian. I haven't done much creative writing since high school. In my 10th and 12th-grade years, I had English teachers who showed me how to pull creative thoughts from my brain to a page. Going back to the magic age of fifth grade, I remember very well the praise I received for a few short stories I had written...
My family was headed to a reunion of sorts, and my parents knew my great uncle would be there. He was a writer and poet who taught at SFSU and the University of San Francisco. My parents encouraged me to grab my little portfolio of stories on my way out the door, so I did, though I didn't know why it mattered. That afternoon, as we relatives all sat around chatting after the meal, my dad told me to show my folder to Uncle Stan. It was one of those few moments that stand out clearly. I remember the room we were in, the chair that my Uncle Stan sat in as he held my blue vinyl folder and perused my work. He praised my writing, and suddenly it clicked that I had a professional praising a work I had very much enjoyed creating. It was thrilling! My favorite story in the portfolio was based on a drawing I had seen. My fifth-grade teacher had brought a series of pencil sketches to jog our creativity. We were to choose one and write about it. In the picture, a woman was sleeping in her bed. A book lay open on her nightstand. (Are you ready for the creepy part?!) A plant was growing from the open pages on her book, it's trailing vines cascading toward the bed and floor. Was this a twist on Jack and the Beanstalk? Did the plant represent the woman's dreams that were formed by what she had read as she fell asleep? I took it a different direction. I wrote a story about a murderous plant that would slowly elongate its tendrils to strangle people in their sleep.
*For the record, I had a happy childhood and I don't like horror movies, so I don't know where that dark angle came from at such a young age.*
Thanks to the encouragement from authors, family, and friends, I've decided to give writing a serious go. I had a dream at the end of this past September that prompted a story line. Kent and I spent a weekend conversing about the plot and characters. In October, I tagged along with Kent on a two-day business summit where I holed up in the hotel room and wrote for thirteen hours. I cranked out eight chapters that weekend, and couldn't wait to get back to my keyboard! At home I found myself stealing twenty minutes here and there to go write a little more, because it always energizes me to put words on
paper, er screen. I soon discovered that I can get by on six hours of sleep pretty easily for five days out of each week. So now I wake at 5:00 a.m. to write for an hour each day--and I'm not taking that hour from my family time.
In mid-October, Kent introduced me to a podcast based on a writer's manual of the same name, The Story Grid. I've made both resources part of my daily and weekly education to develop my skill. One episode mentioned Scrivener, a software for writers. It was the fourth or fifth time I had heard this software recommended by other writers, so I decided to use their 30-day trial.
My timing was interesting. Scrivener is a sponsor of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and they offered a 50% discount of their software for anyone who successfully completed the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a 50,000-word novel draft in the month of November. I figured, if I can't (yet) get paid for writing, at least I could save $20 on the hobby, right? So I accepted the challenge. And I disappeared for a month.
My November's numbers: 50,000 words (which equals about 200 book pages) in 30 days is 1,667 words per day. I quickly found that it took me about 90 minutes to write my daily quota. I could happily spend three hours at a time writing, but that was rarely an option. Near the end of November, when I was also updating my front room...
|Bookcases! For the first time in eleven months,|
our front room is not under construction.
...I missed a few days of writing and had to make it up with several long sprints over Thanksgiving Break. November 30 I was still down by 4,175 words, and I had to have it done before picking up my kids from school at 3:00 p.m., because nothing productive happens after that point. I wrote from 5 to 6 a.m., then for two hours after breakfast. I set an appointment for an oil change and showered, figuring I could write while I waited for my van to be serviced. At the shop, seven minutes after plugging in my clunky, hand-me-down-laptop that only holds its charge for half an hour--but it handles word processing!--I was joined by an older gentleman who regaled me with his stories for the next hour. (Argh! But yea! I have more material for future stories! And he has nearly convinced me to go into intelligence work. My fifth-grade self never considered being a spy...but maybe. Hmm.) Back home, I snarfed lunch and got back to my keyboard with an hour to spare. At 2:38, I finished what I thought was my last chapter for the day...and I was 49 words short. At 2:47, I finished a scene and uploaded my draft for NaNoWriMo's confirmation that I had done it! I hadn't. Their word count software was different from mine, and I was about 180 words short. Grr. At 2:50, my calendar notification reminded me to pick up the kids. I ignored it. At 2:55, it reminded me again. At 3:03, I uploaded the new draft with the beginning of a new scene...success! NaNoWriMo acknowledged my 50,015 words and sent me this lovely, digital certificate:
At 3:07 p.m., I texted success, "Done!", to my friend, Mindy, who had been checking on me all month. Then I may or may not have broken the speed limit to get to the school, hoping the children hadn't minded waiting in the cold. They didn't. It took me at least ten minutes to round them all up. (Why had I hurried?)
My manuscript now stands at 73,385, including my words from October. I still have a character to kill off and a twist on a love triangle to write. Looks like I'll be cutting out about 20,000 words before I'm ready to publish a 400-page women's fiction novel. Luckily, the self-publishing prize codes from NaNoWriMo don't expire until June, so I can take a break from break-neck writing and its consequential driving habits, and maybe try out another new interest. (Just kidding--I'll wait until January to start violin.) I'm going to spend the rest of the year enjoying the festivities and supporting my multipotentialite husband and children in their many and varied interests. Happy busy December!