Friday, October 19, 2007

Writing what comes naturally

About ten years ago I decided to embark on a writing journey that would lead me to children's literature. I took a course, went to college and obtained my Early Childhood Education diploma, and generally felt that the best way for me to be "normal" was to write happy, cheerful children's books.

The first story I wrote still had an element of sadness to it so I quickly packed up the story and went back to the proverbial drawing board. My only comfort was, "Hey, if thousands of other writers can write happy, so can I."

The second book was a bit happier but still had feelings of loss, loneliness and fear. Ok, not exactly what I was driving for but it still was a child's story. One where the character has to overcome being lost in the woods. No problem, not happy, happy, joy, joy but there was a happy ending, friendships were found and a world of wonder was opened up for the character. By jove, I think I'm getting it.

Third book was a dud, fourth, fifth, sixth book had some potential but still there wasn't that happy feeling I felt I should write. Where was that darn cat and why wasn't he wearing a hat?

I tried funneling my darker stories into poems. A way to clear the mind and only ignite happy feelings. I decided that not all children's books were happy and I could write ones that weren't brimming with quirky rhymes and overjoyed snufflebums.

With that new thought in my head, I danced to the computer, typed out a story and came up with another dreadful piece. Even after revisions! The flow was wrong, the speech halting, the voice was lacking. So many things could be listed as wrong and it destroyed my confidence.

It was at that point that I turned off the computer and left my stories hanging in the air around it like cobwebs drifting in the wind. I was defeated and I put aside my dream to be a writer. I felt like a complete failure. I couldn't write happy...wonderful, now what was the point in even writing.

I left it like that for years. I fought the headaches and nightmares that plague me whenever I am not writing and eventually they went away. Yippee, I'm cured! I didn't feel the urge to scribble nonsense on a piece of paper and was happy just being a mom and teacher. Writing could be for another life.

It's pretty obvious that that isn't where the story ended. The muse had other plans for me and I am sure that somehow she orchestrated the whole thing. My need to feel fulfilled, my feelings that somewhere along the road I had lost who I was or who I was meant to be. I needed closure with so many things and the muse was sitting there ready to pounce, pen in hand as she signed my name up for a journalling group.

The first night I sat there with a pen and book in hand and thought, "What am I doing here?"

There was so much I wanted to write, I felt it spilling from me as surely as tears do when I watch "Iron Giant". By the end of the night, I had filled several pages and I felt a burning need to fill the whole book. It was at that point that I knew I was a writer.

At first I thought I should try my hand at children's books again but the Muse in a wonderful stroke of genius decided that since I write darker stories, that was where my direction was going. Much to my surprise I began writing Lost Souls and it was a horror novel. Me writing a horror novel. I was floored.

Next the story idea came for The Murders of Lillian Ross and then another and another. Not all of them are horror but all of them have darker plot lines and I have never felt happier with my writing. It was at that point when I realized that I don't have to write happy stories to be a successful writer. I can write darker novels and that is just fine. It doesn't make me strange or a million other descriptions; it just makes me a writer.

My stories aren't as dark as some and they do have happy parts to them. They just aren't bursting with bright sunshine, chirping birds and laughter. They are the slower happiness, the lazy smile when you wake up, the laugh after the pain, the tears that send rainbows sliding down your cheeks.

That is where I am now. Writing what comes naturally, not fighting the muse anymore, well at least when she's not being difficult, and enjoying what I write. I hope that a million more stories find their way down to my fingertips and out onto the screen and I hope that I won't forget to write what I love and what comes naturally to me. I really feel that my journey has just begun as a writer and I am looking forward to all the vistas that I will see, even if they are sometimes cast in midnight.

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