A month after my 30th birthday, I had a stroke. I was paralyzed on my left side and my language skills were greatly affected. While I lay in the ICU, terrified that I would not live long enough to see my son become an adult man, I began to bargain with God/Higher Power.
My prayer/request/plea was to just live to see him become an adult. That was it. I didn't think I had any right to ask for more than that. So, once I reached that goal, I made additional bargains, and one of those was "Please, let me live to publish a book." Just one book. Again, I didn't think I had any right to ask for more than that. Well, I lived to see that goal and then some, and then I decided to stop making bargains. I decided that I would just live every day of my life like it was my last and that included approaching my passion --writing -- with the reverence it deserved, so I went about the task of writing every single day.
Some days, I write pages upon pages, and some days, I write a sentence or even a word, but I never lose sight of the blessing it is to have words come to my mind in the form of stories. I relish this ability to write because several times in my life I was close to that not being my reality. When I lay in that ICU in 1998, I did not know if I would ever speak again, let alone write a word, so I honor and respect the Word. I honor and respect sentences, paragraphs, dialogue... all of it.
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with autoimmune diseases. Almost overnight, I had to give up on playing competitive tennis in my age range and because of the intense pain and depression, I thought I might have to give up on writing too. Thankfully, I am still able to find the words in spite of how my body sometimes renders me senseless with pain. Yet, the words still show up, just like a miracle. The words don't always show up as quickly as I would like, but, nonetheless, they show up, so out of respect to this gift, I write, even if it is one or two words on the page. I do not allow the sun to set on my passion for storytelling because I never know when the day might come when I can no longer think or move my arms and hands. So, I pay respect to this ability and I don't take it for granted. If the words honor me with their presence, I honor them by putting them on the page.
I am not writing this blog post to guilt anyone. We all have to figure out what our journey is in life. I just choose to recognize the inevitable, which is -- I am only here for a designated period time -- a millisecond, in the grand scheme of things. I could be here for decades and decades or no longer than it takes to type a period. No one knows, and because of that, I have to live life with a wild abandonment. I have to push the envelope and make sure every story that lives inside of me gets the opportunity to be told. I don't want to leave this earth feeling regret or sorrow. I have seen too many do just that. When it becomes time for me to "exit stage left," I want to be able to whisper to the ancestors, "I did what you wanted me to do. I told your stories and I didn't leave anything out."
So, yes, I work extra hard at my craft. I push and I push and I set deadlines. I meet those deadlines when possible and I don't make excuses. I show up even when I would rather sleep or watch Netflix or take something for the pain and sleep. I work when others are resting because I know what it is like to have Death show up at my doorstep. I know what it is like to say to Death, "Not today. Please. Give me a little more time." And thankfully, Death has always turned back around and shuffled off into the night, but I know eventually, she will come, wrap me in an embrace, and that will be it for this leg of my journey. At that point, all that will be left are the Words I left behind.
Soccer player, Pele, once said, "Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do." This writing life is HARD, but oh so rewarding and I want to release every word that is living inside of me out into the world.
Today, March 18, 2021, I received the AUTHOR copies of my soon-to-be released novel, When Stars Rain Down. Today is a day of celebration, most definitely, but today is still a day of work. Just because I received my Author copies of my book didn't make my students go away and it didn't change my very demanding writing schedule.
I high-fived my husband and son, and then, I went back to the work at hand. I had just finished teaching my last Zoom class for the day, and it was time for me to return to my next novel that will be published in 2022. The work doesn't stop just because there is good news. That is the part of the writing life that a lot of people don't know or understand. This path that I am on sounds good in a Facebook Live when I am breaking open boxes with fresh-smelling, new books inside. It all seems magical. Dreamlike. But the part of writing that most people don't understand or "get" is that it is time consuming, at times frustrating and overwhelming. It is a lonely lifestyle and often it is unrewarding. BUT it is still the only life I can imagine living.
I tell my students all of the time, if you want to be a writer because you want to be rich and famous, this isn't the life for you. Oh, I'm not saying it can't happen, but I am saying that the chances are not great that the outcome will have that fairy-tale ending, so there better be a motivation beyond just "I want to see my book in Books-a-Million." Most writers I know are not famous and they wear multiple hats to make end's meet. They work multiple jobs while sometimes taking care of a spouse/significant other, elderly parents, children and pets.
Oh, if we are lucky, and many of us are, we are able to take off a hat or two (for a time) when we get a nice advance and/or publishing deal, but those lucrative deals are far and few between. Most of us write because the idea of not writing is worse than the sleepless nights, the friendless days (we ran them off with all of our excuses), and the perturbed family members. We get up at the crack of dawn or we stay up until the wee hours of the night, and we research and write and write and research. We chug caffeinated sodas and teas and coffees. We binge-eat sugary sweets to keep us awake and alert. We skip the gym because that 's an hour or two we could be writing. We bow out of birthdays, anniversaries and holiday parties because the muse is louder than the guilt we feel for not attending those events. Yes, we love the excitement of seeing our names in print, but most of us make the sacrifice because the storytelling gene is strong. We would be lost without the imaginary friends who show up demanding we tell their stories.
So, yes, I am relishing the excitement of this day...once again receiving a box with books with my names on them... but my writerly mind has already moved on to the next group of demanding characters who want me to get back to work on telling their story. And like an obedient servant, I will heed their call.