It’s the first Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The IWSG is the brainchild of Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh. If you haven’t already, stop by and see what it’s all about!
Nineteen years ago, my mother died of cancer. I was just thirteen years old. My mother battled cancer a couple of years before, and the struggle she and my family went through during that time got me started on writing poetry. She went into remission, but soon the cancer came back. After a battle through chemo and radiation treatments, she died in the hospital with family around her.
A couple of months later, my sister moved back in with us. You see, I’m the youngest in the family by eight years. My brother is the middle child and my sister is the oldest, at ten years my senior. At the time of my mother’s death, my sister, T, lived a good three hours north.
I’m sure there are many reasons why she moved back in with us, but I think one of those is because she wanted to help my dad raise me. I had just become a teenager when my mother died, and I think she realized that a woman who’d been through those angst-y years not long before would be a huge help.
The four of us quickly settled into a routine. Dad, my brother, and T went off to work early in the mornings before I got up, my aunt picked me up for and dropped me off from school (until I could drive myself), and I cooked supper. When they got home we would eat, then T and I would head to her room to watch all of our TV shows (Buffy and Xena FTW!!!). I would often take my journal with me and write about my day or jot down lines of poetry that came to mind.
My sister had an entire wall of books in her room. This wall of books is still there to this day and has been added to throughout the years, but I remember reading some of those books and falling in love with the worlds I visited just by turning the page. One of the first books I read was On a Pale Horse by Piers Anthony. I read it straight through and immediately got the next book in the series and then the next and so on and so forth. It was my first encounter with fantasy (I’d been reading Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys up to that point).
I also had my first encounter with SciFi. I read Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. While I found it difficult to read as many of these as I did Fantasy, I still considered Snow Crash to be my favorite book for a while.
I continued to read books, hang out with my sister, and write poetry throughout high school. Then one day, she suggested I write a story. I could honestly say I’d never thought of writing a story before. I’d always stuck to daily life, personal thoughts, and poems. But the idea intrigued me.
So, one day, I sat down at the computer and wrote out a three page short story.
It sucked. Seriously. It was so freaking bad. I mean, yeah, first drafts are supposed to suck, but this went beyond suckage straight to not-even-good-enough-for-a-rat-to-poop-on. Looking back, I can tell you it was basically just a summary of a story and not a very good story idea either. I knew it sucked, and back then, that was enough to get me to quit before I even started.
Years passed and I continued writing poetry and writing in my journals. I grew up, got married, and had a kid. I still read, but for a while, it wasn’t as voracious as when I was a teenager picking from my sister’s shelves.
And then it was time to have my son. I went to WalMart before I went to the hospital and looked around a bit. I saw a book on their shelves and thought about getting it, but decided against it. I knew I’d have other things on my mind before long. I sat in the hospital bed for a while with nothing happening and a nurse asked me if I read. I said that I hadn’t really read much lately, but that I love reading. She left the room and came back a little while later with a book and told me I HAD to read it. It was the same book I thought of getting at WalMart. So, while I waited for Little Man to decide it was time, I started reading.
Yes, that is the actual book. This was my hospital room while having Little Man.
Honestly, I didn’t get very far before breathing exercises and hand squeezing were a must. When I left the next day with my brand new baby, I tried to return the book to the nurse. She refused and told me to keep it – to read it when I had a chance. I thanked her and put it in my baby bag.
It was a couple of weeks before I finally got a chance to pick it up and read it. I devoured it. That weekend, Hubs and I went on our first post-pregnant date and saw the movie adaption of the book that had just come out in theatres. The book was Twilight. Before any naysayers start to bemoan the horrid writing, you must understand that I love the books with a passion, and while I do agree that the writing could have been better, I will always hold a special place in my heart for them. They helped me through a rough time in my life. Anytime I got mad or upset or felt the post-partum kicking my butt, I would pick up the books and read them.
And that’s when I decided to give writing stories another chance. I had one in mind that I’d been thinking about for a while. So, I started the necessary research. One day my in-laws stopped by for a visit and asked how the book was going (I’d started the background work at this point). I explained the plot, and then…
“Oh, that sounds like *this* book by *so-and-so*.”
I. was. crushed.
I was writing a book that had already been written. So I gave up. Again.
My journal continued to play a huge role in my life and for a couple of years that was enough. But that itch just wouldn’t go away and it finally got to the point where I had to scratch it or else.
I talked to my sister about starting another book, and she asked what happened to the one I’d been working on before. I told her about the storyline already existing, and she said two words that have been my constant and helped me sit back down at the computer two years ago…
Those two simple words sparked an epiphany. So, as I started writing another book (the one still in revisions – The Gifted), I got on the internet and started researching not just subjects for my book, but writing in general. And I saw just how right she was by asking that question. There are thousands of books out there all having to do with the same subject, and all are very different from one another. Just because the idea isn’t original doesn’t mean the story won’t be. Two simple words put that in perspective for me and gave me that extra push to sit down and write.
I still haven’t gotten back to that book I started researching four years ago. I have all the research and all the backstory I created for it though, so I will one day when the time is right and I know I can tell the story the way it deserves to be told.
To this day, my sister and I still exchange books and talk devoutly about the stories that have touched our hearts.
And because of my sister and those two words, I’m still writing.