Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wisdom from the Past

At ten years old I attended my first writer's conference. I was a delegate from my elementary school, chosen by my teacher, and I felt like I'd stepped into a sort of Wonderland. Granted, my teacher chose me because no one else in my class enjoyed creative writing, but I considered it a prize nevertheless. I carried a freshly printed copy of my "winning" manuscript with me, was given a nametag sticker, and was then herded into a controlled mob of elementary age children on a large university campus.

I remember my nerves when placed in a small group and asked to share part of my story out loud, in turn. What seemed so fun and brilliant before now came into a new perspective, that of not being alone in my pursuit of telling a story. I can't remember any of the other kids' stories in detail but I do recall getting my first taste of inadequacy with my own talents. I learned then that I needed to work hard at improving my craft and I needed to take the time to consider what I wrote about.

In one of the workshop classes I felt my first thrill: a real author had come to speak to us. I can't remember who she was now or what she wrote; at the time that didn't seem important. She was one of the inititated, a professional who had her story printed by a publisher and sitting on bookstore and library shelves. I am grateful to this now nameless author, for dispelling one myth to me that day. She looked us all in the eye and said, "There are no new ideas. Everything that is thought of has come from something else already told or written."

My young heart rejected this at first. How could this be? I'd never read anything like my story before. (I can still feel justified in thinking this at that age because I was already a voracious reader.) Over the years that author's words have stuck with me. I understood them better each year. Now, I'm no longer ruffled by them. It's alright that there are no new ideas. There are endless ways to twist them around, reinvent them, or combine them. Kind of like music. There are only seven notes. With those seven notes, musicians are able to create new works of music every year. Fascinating concept.

This one piece of my past resurfaced with those grains of wisdom. What bits of wisdom do you remember first learning in regards to writing?


  1. The first story I posted in a writing workshop got ripped to peices. This person did line edits and pointed out every, single problem. I really thought it was a great story, and written well. Boy, was I surprised.

    I still cringe when I think about it, but it was a lesson I needed to hear.

  2. My first ms was almost 400 pages, over 120,000 words, and riddled with adverbs. Good thing I found out right away that it was a complete disaster. Still, it was heartbreaking to think of all the time and effort I put into it. On the plus side, it made me realize I am capable of putting together a book. =)

    I'm a better writer now. Though I'm equally a work-in-progress as my ms. Together we're WIP 1 and WIP 2. lol

  3. Darke--ouch! That's never fun. But I agree, sometimes we have to go through those kinds of pains. Developing not only the tough hide and the know-how to make the writing better--it's kind of like being a teenager again with all the growing pains. =)

    Cherie: I hear you! It's hard putting in so much time and effort into a manuscript and then finding out how much revision it's going to take to fix it up. I think you as a WIP is going to turn out just fine. =)

  4. Hello Clippership,

    Great topic today. My writing journey began late in my life. I wrote my manuscript in three months and was fortunate enough to meet a talented writer who took time to personally critique my story. This gave me hope and at the same time made me realize that I knew nothing about crafting a good story. The only things that motivated me was my own passion for the storyline and a belief that this reviewer saw something there that might sell. Five years later and after many revisions/edits it is complete awaiting an editor and cover artist. I do have a full out to an agent and am waiting to hear her opinion. She promised to either love it or give me hints on how to improve it. In the meantime I am hard at work on its first sequel.

  5. David, that's fantastic! I really admire your perserverance and I hope it pays off well for you.