Sunday, August 26, 2007

Writing and Freedom

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time writing in my journal, a thick spiraled notebook I had bought at Woolworths. I wrote about whatever came to mind- fears that I was forever stuck in small town Fortuna, the hope that something better and more exciting would come along. I wrote sacred things, secrets I could not share with anyone but God and myself. I wrote verses of abstract, experimental poetry, then flowery heart-wrenching lyrics, filling notebook after notebook until I had a stack hiding in my closet.

Within those pages, I also wrote about my dream of becoming a writer. My dreams of becoming a writer grew big, so big that one day I fond the nerve to tell my mother. I showed her some of the poetry I had written. She discouraged me and said, “You need a real job, a career. And, don’t marry the first man who comes along either. You need to be able to make it on your own.”

When I was in high school, I wrote some essays and short stories for English class. I turned in the essays, but I kept the short story to myself. I thought I would be laughed at, ridiculed. After all, they were not as good as the stories I read in books. They were not even as good as my classmate’s stories!

Many times throughout high school, I would bring up being a writer to my mother. The scenario was always the same- I’d share my passion of writing, she’d tell me writing was fine but I needed to set my sights on a job that would bring me money. Finally, one day, after I’d graduated high school but had not yet decided on college, she told me I was just jealous of my aunt who also enjoyed writing. I was devastated at my mother’s words!! She wanted me to set my sights on college, on a career, so that I did not have to depend on a man to bring in my money for me. She would do whatever she could to make sure I saw value in myself as a self-sufficient woman. But, I wanted to be a writer and make my living putting words on paper!

About a week later, mother asked me to sit down. “I’m sorry I said those things to you. You’re out of high school now. Why don’t you go to college and you can also write.” With that, she handed me two books: Short Stories that Sell by Louise Boggess and Make Every Word Count by Gary Provost.

That day was life changing for me because I realized that my mother’s intentions were good. At 17, she chose to marry after taking her GED and decided her career was as a stay-at-home mom and raising three children (three wonderful children, I might add). She never had the resources to make a living outside of the home. She wanted for me what she did not have for herself.

Today I saw the film Freedom Writers and was inspired and reminded about how freeing it is to transport one’s truth onto paper. I cannot imagine what some of those kids lived through, the terror they endured every day. Sometimes it seems that verbal expression is not enough. My teenage journals contained truths that I cold not verbalize. I believe that writing is the one true avenue toward feeling freedom within, whether it’s journaling, writing a novel, or writing an essay.

Many years ago, I gave up my dream of becoming that famous writer, or of making a living off of words. Today, I still write but I write because I love it. I’ve had some poetry and a short story published, and I am currently working on a novel. However, my motivation has changed. I write because I love the feeling of freedom when I put words onto paper.

My mother had been gone since 1985. But, if she could see me now, she would be proud. I listened to her when she told me to go to school and learn how to take care of myself. I didn’t marry the first man who came along. I listened to her when she told me to write for fun. Mothers know what they are talking about.

Every time I look through those two books, I am reminded of my mother’s wisdom.

© 2007 Susan Littlefield

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Life

I have not written in my blog for awhile. This month has been a lot of fun, especially with family and friends. A few weeks back, Don and I visited my grandfather, who lives almost two hours away. We always have a good time with grandpa- he is a small German man with silver hair, mild-mannered and sweet as can be. He has an outrageous sense of humor that keeps the family in stitches!

For several years, Grandpa and I have had a tradition of lunch once a month- a different person pays each time. At first, when I was single, it was Grandma, Grandpa and I. Then, Don came into my life two years ago and the lunch routine changed to double-dates! Now that Grandma has been gone for a little over a year and a half, it is Grandpa, Don and I. The physical dynamic goes through a change, but the lunch tradition stays an integral part of our lives. Many times, we eat lunch out somewhere, or when Grandpa is not feeling well, we eat in. If no other family is present, we almost always finish the afternoon with Yahtzee. I have never beat Grandpa at Yahtzee, nor did I ever beat Grandma. Two seasoned Yahtzee pros if you ask me.

Around February, we had a scare with Grandpa’s health- at 90 years old, he ended up having his gallbladder removed. Luckily, it was removed with a laparoscope and Grandpa was able to recover quickly. The doctor warned there could be residual effects with gallstones. Sure enough, just this last week Grandpa became ill again and had to go to the hospital. He went through a procedure where the doctors found a stone in his liver duct. They had to make an incision made and remove the stone. Keep in mind, Grandfather is now 91 years old. Yesterday, after undergoing this grueling procedure, and after the comics of the anesthesia wore off, he was back to himself and doing very well. Thank goodness!

In between the business, I have been writing on my novel. I am striving with all of my might to write every single day. I like the feeling of getting words on paper. It’s important that I get my basic story down in an entire first draft before editing and doing a rewrite. I don’t know how many rewrites I will actually do. Before submitting to an agent, I want to make sure it is thoroughly edited and written to the best of my ability.

At the Writer’s Digest forum, there were some threads concerning “book doctors” and self publishing. I have already made up my mind that both flow against my grain. I really want to go through the entire process of getting an agent and of my work being accepted because I put my own sweat and tears into it. I have learned from seasoned publishers that self publishing is practically suicide for a novel. I am all for self editing and traditional publishing.

This is all I have to write for now. In the last 15 minutes I have written 570 words, and I am proud as pickles (where did that come from?) about it! I would like to write more on my blog, but sometimes working on my novel and plain old life gets in the way!

Until next time….

Take it easy out there!

© 2007 Susan Littlefield

To Go Oxford....or Not

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