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My Writer's Journal

What I'm afraid of

I'll get back to my occasional series On Becoming A Writer in the next week or so, but today, the last day of 2011, I want to deal with a question posed on a recent author questionnaire: What do you fear most? I've been trying to think of an answer that isn't just a shallow brush-off of a deeply philosophical question.

I was once hiking with a group in the Grand Canyon, and when the time came to cross a narrow ledge with a huge drop-off, I froze, absolutely terrified. Couldn't move, forward or backward. Finally somebody had to come and pry me off the rock I was clinging to and talk me across. That was fear of the most basic kind.

On the other hand, I'm not afraid to speak in front of a crowd, and I understand that some people break into a sweat at the thought of it.

But--and this may be an occupational hazard for many writers--I am afraid of running out of good ideas. What if I don't have any creative juices left to figure out an interesting plot, to develop a compelling character, to find the right words for describing a scene or setting up a dialogue?

So here's what I really fear: I'm afraid of getting boring. The antidote, I believe, is just to keep on writing anyway, because if I let the fear win out, I'll stop writing. And then I might as well stop living, too.

And so--onward into the coming year!  Read More 
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On becoming a writer: Part III

Finding time to write was always an issue in my early days. I whipped through housework in the mornings and then flew down to my desk in the basement as soon as the kids began their afternoon naps. The teenage girl next door was hired to play with them for an hour or two after she got home from school. Somehow I managed to get in a couple of hours a day at my typewriter, and I began to get replies from query letters about ideas I had for magazine articles. I decided to start work on a novel.

Then we moved, Baby #3 was born (another boy), and I no longer had a teenaged girl next door. The novel, titled BIRTH DAYS, made the rounds and was rejected by every editor who looked at it, but an agent saw it and suggested I write a children's book--an option I had never considered. Nevertheless, I got the idea of a sewing book for little girls, since I had none of my own, and to my amazement, it was accepted. MISS PATCH'S LEARN-TO-SEW BOOK was published in 1969. Furthermore, my articles were selling fairly well. I felt like a real writer, but the novel was a disappointment.

(To be continued) Read More 
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On becoming a writer: Part II

My hopes of becoming a writer for TV were dashed early on. After a typing test and an IQ test, I was offered a job by CBS-TV as secretary to a salesman who sold "time" to advertisers for commercial breaks. I considered it a dead end; boys were hired to work in the mailroom and eventually moved into management positions, girls were secretaries who got married. I followed the usual pattern, except that even after Baby #1 was born, I kept on working. The jobs didn't get any more interesting, and child care canceled out my minuscule salary.

After Baby #2 was born, I decided to stay home and write. My goal was to publish brilliant short stories in The New Yorker magazine. Trouble was, The New Yorker didn't understand that my stories were brilliant and rejected everything I sent. Finally I sold a story to a secretarial magazine, was paid $25, and saw my work in print--not print, exactly, but in the shorthand that secretaries used in those long ago days. It was a start. And that began a long, slow slog.

(To be continued.) Read More 
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