Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why I do this crazy thing

"Miss A Writes a Song" photo by mrsdkreps, cc license, used with attribution
 "Why couldn't I have wanted to do something easy, like brain surgery or theoretical physics? No, I had to be a writer. Sigh."

That was something I posted on twitter earlier this summer. I don't even remember what, if anything specific, triggered my frustration. Maybe it happened after staring at a blinking curser and a blank page for some time. Maybe I wrote it, taking a break from a difficult scene or edit. Regardless, I can tell you that writing has been both the hardest job I've ever done and the one I'm most passionate about.

It's not that my 25 year career as a physical therapist is chopped liver. I loved the work--it was rewarding, challenging, and ever-changing. I got paid to do something that helped people. Yes, as hokey as that sounds, it was one of my motivations--helping people.

But it wasn't my first love. No, that honor goes to fooling with words. For a long time, my father kept this faded piece of fat-lined paper kids use in elementary school in his wallet. My first story. I may have been in first or second grade and it was a story using homonyms. It was about my pet--a new gnu. He got a kick out of it and it may have been the first time I realized that I could use my words to entertain.

I'm not sure I've gone more than days without writing something since. Sometimes it was simply a line or two scribbled on the back of a napkin, others an entry in my journal, still others poems or story ideas. In fact, I wrote my first novel (or at least a few chapters of one) as a young teen in 1973 ish after having seen Star Wars about 12-zillion times that summer. It was (predictably) a perfectly dreadful fan-fic--my idea of where a sequel should have gone.

Alas, George Lucas didn't ask me and it got relegated to a banker's box that got filled with other scribbles, journals, poems, cards, and letters and got moved from place to place until it finally succumbed to our 2010 house fire. Trust me--it was likely a blessing.

So when did I decide 'hey, enough with this physical therapy thing, I want to make a living writing novels'?


I don't think I ever made that choice consciously.  I did return to writing stories after a long hiatus when my husband tossed a book he'd finished clear across the room (before kindles/ipads/smartphones, oh my) and said something like:

"You can write better than this. Why don't you write a book?"

So that year I did. And the next year, I wrote another. The year after that? A third. Somewhere along the line, I needed to dissolve my physical therapy practice for personal and family reasons. The next month, one of my queries bore 'fruit' and I was offered representation (:waves to Nephele Tempest!)

All in all, in the past 8 years, I have completed 7 1/2 novels.

And each one is as hard and as hard-fought as the one before it.

Perhaps I should take up theoretical physics next.

Today’s post was inspired by the topic “My earliest writing dreams (i.e., why I am a writer)”– July’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour — an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and find out their thoughts on why they write, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour group site where you can find links to all of the posts on the tour.


  1. LJ,
    Great post! I love that your father carried around your story in his wallet and how meaningful that was to you. It makes me want to continue to cheer my students' writing! Thanks for sharing.

    I'm glad you used Miss A's photo! She's one of my best writers. She also wrote a novel last year in 7th grade.


    1. Thank you for stopping by, Denise. I love hearing about young people writing and about their teachers encouraging them. :)