Twice a year I have “Clean Out & Organize It Day.” I pack up clothes for the needy, go through piles of paperwork that accumulate bi-annually, and dig into the medicine cabinet for expired Tylenol.
Last week was the summer celebration of this day. In the midst of it, I came across three big bags of writer stuff. Pens, post-its, note cards, papers, workshop hand outs, notes, WIPs, idea scribbles, and the like. These bags have never been cleaned out because they’re filled with my precious writer goods. I spent the next two hours going through each bag and what followed was a journey through the first years of my writing life.
I’ve always told stories, but I didn’t start writing and sharing those stories until the fall of 2005. I still wasn’t serious about it. It was fun. I did it to keep from going bonkers. After my father suffered a catastrophic brain injury because of a car accident, I needed some kind of daily therapy to keep my world from crumbling down around me. I found writing was therapeutic and it brought me joy. At first I wrote short stories and drabbles, bits of fanfic (yes, there I said it) and single scenes of flash fiction. I was hooked. I could escape into fiction, then come out refreshed and able to deal with the severity of real life.
Bag number one has the paper copies of various stories posted on Live Journal and shared with an online writers group. These stories are so precious to me because, while full of errors and head hopping, the excitement and beating heart of each story is tangible. This love of writing prompted me to consider writing a full length novel. I found a writing class, joined a critique group, and giddiness ensued.
I stuck a toe into the world of serious writing in 2008. I joined RWA and the local chapter and met a room full of women so much like me. They all loved to tell stories and they wanted to share them. Some had aspirations of traditional publishing, some were excited about the digital age, others were on the cusp of this fledgling notion of self publishing – but they all wrote stories to put out into the world. I’d found my people!
My second bag contains the first two years of workshop handouts, online workshops, and notes on several series ideas I wanted to develop and write. I’d joined RWA, but I hadn’t even begun my first novel. This bag held the DNA that would one day make up my first Work in Progress. I cherish this bag that taught me exactly what POV meant and how not to screw it up, how to build GMC, and how to format a novel so it’s not a big blob of words.
I finally buckled down and got serious about writing in the spring of 2010. I had the tools I’d learned and the passion I nourished, so I got busy and eventually finished my first book. It took me a year, partially because of a newborn, partially because I’m still learning and growing every day.
The third bag is full of this novel. Plot cards, research, pictures, entire printed chapters, critiques, and contest feedback make up this third irreplaceable bag. I love this bag. This bag holds my first “book baby.”
I spent the rest of the evening organizing these bags, but I threw nothing away. I can’t clean out these bags! They’re too important to who I am as a writer and who I hope to become. In fact, I plan to add more bags to that group and watch them multiply like rabbits! Okay … maybe one day I’ll get a file cabinet, but for now I’ll happily call myself a Bag Lady.
What about your writing journey? Where did you start? Where are you now? Where do you want to go from here?