Tonight I had the honor of speaking to a group of Frederick County students and their proud parents at “A Celebration of Writing, Storytelling, and Sharing,” a County-Wide Young Author Celebration sponsored by the State of Maryland, the International Reading Association Council, and the Frederick County Reading Council. What a humbling experience to be before such an impressive and accomplished group of young people. My comments were as follows:
I’ve always loved to read. I was that kid hiding under the covers with a flashlight past bedtime trying to finish the final chapter of my latest Nancy Drew book. I’ve always believed that a love of reading leads to a love of writing until eventually you realize you simply have a love affair with words. Both become a part of your soul and you just can’t imagine your life without them.
I didn’t publish my first book until I was 52 and I’m currently working on my third book. The wonderful thing about writing is that it believes in equal opportunity. It doesn’t matter your age, race, culture, or gender. It’s available to us all. The only barrier exists in your mind.
I believe 3 things make you a writer: Consistency. Heart. Courage.
Consistency – Write every day. It can just be for 10 minutes if that’s all the time you have but write something every day. It builds discipline. It creates habit. Your brain and creative spirit are like any other muscle in your body and writing every day not only develops them but creates a desire to do more.
Some days I work on my book. Other days I write a blog post. Still other days I simply write a Facebook post about something that’s been on my mind that day. But most days I write in my “Best Part of Day” book– my approach to Journaling. I try to capture something positive, fun, or funny that I witnessed that day and record it. For added fun, I often write it like a headline in the newspaper to stimulate my creative thinking. Think of writing like eating – you wouldn’t think of skipping it for a day. Eventually writing becomes like food for your soul.
Heart – Write for yourself. Don’t write what you think your parents will like, or your teachers, or even your friends. Write about what’s in here, your heart. Write about what gets you excited. I call that finding your voice!
That’s exactly what I did when I wrote my first book. I wrote for me. I didn’t know if anyone would like it or buy it. I didn’t care. I wrote stories that made ME laugh….made ME cry. Because of the positive feedback and success from that book, I wrote a second, but this time I felt pressure! What if people don’t like this one as much? What if they don’t think it’s as funny as the first? I want to write this story but will they appreciate it? Would they rather hear about something else? I started second guessing myself. I began writing from my head instead of my heart. And it took me a while to turn it around. Fortunately I did. So always write for you..
Courage – If you write in a way that is transparent and authentic, it takes courage to put it out there… to let others see who you really are and what you believe. The bottom line is that not everyone will love what you write. Some won’t be able to understand or relate to it. And that’s ok.
It’s been said that what most people fear is not failure, it’s judgment.
In all the years I’ve been writing, the hardest piece I’ve ever written was a blog post this past December. It was on the Tuesday after Christmas, known as Giving Tuesday. This day affords people a chance to make online donations to the nonprofit causes they believe in.
My husband has a disease called Parkinsons. We decided that day to go public with this information in hopes that people would help us raise funds and increase awareness. I cried the entire time I wrote the blog post. When my husband read it, he did the same. And then I hit the SEND button and we both cried. It took great courage to write what was in our hearts that day but it felt liberating when it went out into the world.
My hope is that you will always be brave.
Three things…. Consistency, Heart, and Courage.
Keep them with you always.