I met with a young lady named Hayden the other day for lunch. She wanted my input and help with an idea she had for a children's picture book. She had only college writing experience and was uncertain as to whether or not publishing a children's book was a goal that was attainable. I politely disagreed and offered my services, however modest they were.
You see, in a former life, I was a Reading Specialist and Literacy Staff Development Leader for other educators. I was fortunate to have been mentored and guided by many talented and well known authors such as Patricia Polacco, Ralph Fletcher, CarmenAgra-Deedy, and Lester L. Laminack to name a few. If you aren't an elementary educator, these names may be unfamiliar unless you have read some of their works to your own children. If you haven't enjoyed them, I highly recommend these outstanding story-tellers.
IF YOU ARE A SKIMMER, SKIP DOWN TO, WHAT IS ROW80?
Hayden arrived, enthusiastically trotting into the restaurant with laptop tucked under a tentatively confident arm. I enjoyed a not-so-fabulous winter squash bisque as she talked at length about her ideas for a picture book. There were so many directions her story could be taken and so many points of view it could be told from that she wasn't entirely certain how to get started. Being the nerd I am, I withdrew the massive stack of resources and examples I had collected in anticipation for our meeting. As we spoke and munched, I slowly began to remove the items from the table. At the end of our lunch, there was nothing left on top of it but the heels of our unfinished sandwiches. She already had everything she need to start writing her story. And she had SO many amazing stories to tell.
That brings me to my point. Finally, right??? As Hayden and I finished our conversation, I recalled what Ralph Fletcher, published author once stated to my class of 5th grade students when visiting our school. He said, “If you want to be a writer, you must live life as a writer.” Although Mr. Fletcher was most certainly not the first or only author to ever speak to this mindset, that particular quote resonated with me that day.
And yet somehow, in the past three years of writing and being published, that thought became tragically buried beneath the rhetoric that is the publishing world. This is, until that day when Hayden and I met to discuss her ideas. She said, “I don’t really know how to get started.” My answer to her was, “Start writing.” At the same time, I came to the realization that much of the writer’s block I had been suffering from had more to do with writing for the sake of writing than writing because I had something to say.
Later that week, I came across a tweet by a friend and fellow writer. It was an invitation to something called ROW80.
I've never been much for writing challenges, mostly because challenges of any kind make me want to wretch. That, and I already have enough self-doubt as a human being on my own, without repeatedly failing at challenges to remind me so. Only this one, this writing challenge was one I truly wanted to participate in.
My #ROW80 goal is to write 30 minutes every morning, three days per week. Now, this may seem like I’m setting the bar pretty low. And I am. But for right now, that is far more than I have been writing in months! (By the way, my 30 minute timer just went off and I’m not going to stop writing this until I’m finished with what I have to say.) I am hoping over the time the challenge takes place, I will regain my writing endurance. If for no other reason, but to share what it is that I have to say.
To live life as a writer.
My question to begin with was, “How do you know when you are a writer?” The answer in my mind, and the one I hope Hayden took away from our lunch meeting is this.
I highly recommend you check out my friend Starr’s blog, The Insomniac’s Dream. She is a truly gifted writer and the epitome of living life as such. Also, you should check out the #ROW80 sponsors and consider the challenge for yourself. If I can do it, YOU can do it!
P.S. I would LOVE it if you followed by email or social media over there on the side of my blog to find out what I have to say about other stuff. Believe me, I have a LOT to say.