A Writer’s Journey: Part 5


I endeavour to write these entries on writing and I’ll apologize in advance if this one seems to wander into the realm of marriage counselling. One thing you have to remember is when I sit down to put down these words I do so from my own experiences, which means some points apply, some don’t and others will have pieces that fit you, the reader, while the rest is horse-pucky. Beneath every fiction is the fact of a writer and facts are subjective to viewpoint.

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. Not much more than an occasional hobby filled with hopes and aspirations but little confidence. I wrote at most a couple of stories a year, explored hundreds of ideas a lot of them derivative from the media and I was having fun in a tough sort of way. In grade five I decided I wanted to be a writer. That clung for a long time. It was an idea; a semi-intelligent, passionate, young man’s idea without enough motivation. I believe I sensed that all of the ingredients were there to make a real go of it – most especially in my late teens to early twenties – and I just needed a catalyst.

Fifteen stories, an equal amount of poems saved from my first writings, gathered into a binder sat beneath the stainless steel table in my booth at the tattoo parlour; waiting. At home I had a floppy disk with half a novel saved on it. I had spent two years struggling with it and had only managed thirty-five thousand words. At the time I had no real concept of how long the average novel was in terms of word counts and didn’t find out until six months later that it was roughly eighty to a hundred thousand. You see at the time that binder was hidden under the table while I was drawing Canada flags and Old English lettering on people the concept of being a published writer was still sludging its way through pipes and sewers in my mind. The farthest I had gone in pursuit of this dream was to e-mail off an utter waste of electronic paper I called a query letter, sent to a publisher I found in the back of a Writer’s Digest magazine. I wanted to know if they were interested in a novel like the one I was sweating over. It was embarrassing (now that I look back on it, it’s actually humiliating, since I didn’t have a completed novel or any clue how to write a query letter) and the very kind, patient, painful rejection letter came after a month to explain that they were not interested in genre works but they wished me luck in finding a home for it. I was drowning in the reality of how little I knew about the business of writing. I was ready to give up. At home there was little to no encouragement to keep trying. Nobody even wanted to read my stuff since high school and the praise of one of my fellow students who said a story of mine was like a combination of Stephen King and Ernie Hemingway was quickly fading.

I was single at the time, a few months away from a horrible first marriage that had left me traumatized and in the process of fighting for custody of my son. It was a time for learning a lot of hard lessons; about relationships, mistakes and what it meant to be a father. There was too much on my plate to keep the hope alive that I might one day see my words in print beyond a grade eight school paper and a couple of high school Writer’s Club anthologies. So the binder was forgotten (along with the reason I had brought it into the shop in the first place) and the floppy disk gathered dust on the shelf next to the computer that hadn’t been turned on in months. They waited and I got on as best I could with life.

Writing this I remember now that the binder showed up after she came in.

She wanted to get a tattoo of an angel on the back of her neck. A spark lit up somewhere in the seldom tread back roads of my mind, thinking of my book, titled “Angel’s Crossing”. Her boyfriend was busy telling me his idea to get a Celtic cross on his arm and I was busy trying not to let it be too obvious that I thought the tall beauty standing next to him was more incredible than the divine being she wanted inked on her body. I was captivated by her. I had a great deal of difficulty keeping my eyes off of her. She made me want to do something I hadn’t done since grade school… write a love poem. The appointment was scribbled in the book meant for that purpose and when the day came I did their tattoos. While I was working on hers, she had a bit of a rough time with it and I wanted to stop and just hold her. I could smell the spring scent of her hair, the salty tear on her cheek and feel the warmth of her trembling body so close to mine I could barely concentrate on the task at hand. There was a vague sensation of increasing affection for her I couldn’t deny. It sounds sappy, right? I know but I wanted her. Life doesn’t work that way

Six months later after a few more appointments for new tattoos, touch-ups and brief glimpses at the mall she came into my world, never letting me forget her. I managed to do brief stints of writing after each time I saw her. A few months went by and I didn’t see her, when she finally came in again my happiness must have been as transparent as bottled water because apparently her sister said she thought I liked this wonderful girl named Stephanie that I had secretly begun thinking of as my angel. When the time came for her next session I wanted desperately to ask for her number. I’m a decent guy and I resisted the urge out of respect for the fact she was in a relationship. We waited for the needles to sterilize and she let slip she was single, had been the last time she was in the shop with her ex, and the feeling of joy I felt was indescribable. With the tattoo machine buzzing in my ear the conversation began with nervous starts and stops on both our parts until she asked a series of questions.

What else do you do besides tattoos?

“I take my son to the zoo,” I said. She offered to come sometime and keep me company.

“I’m going to a tattoo convention during the summer,” I added. She suggested she come with me so she could show off my work.

“I write,” I finished and she asked if she could read some. This was the moment the binder had been waiting for. She was more than happy to take it home with her to read and I found out later during a ten hour phone (yes, I got up the nerve to ask for her number) conversation that she had begun reading right away.

After so long, I had finally found my ideal reader. The person I needed to imagine reading my work; laughing at the parts I meant to be funny, crying when a character died and every other emotion I hoped to illicit with the words I had strung together. As Stephen King basically says in On Writing, the ideal reader is usually identified on the dedication page of any book and their common name is husband or wife.

My wife has affected my writing in ways beyond repayment. She was the first person to encourage me and not let me give up on the dream. Telling me after each story that it was worth something and I needed to submit it. I wouldn’t have the publications I have without her. It is my belief that every writer has a person like this in their lives eventually, you know them as soon as you set eyes on them, they give you a reason to create stories from the worlds living in our heads and by the same token, a reason to come back from those worlds. The very act of meeting them tends to be a story in itself.

Fair warning, here’s where the marriage counselling bit comes in:

For every hour that you slave at your computer knocking out novels and shorter pieces, they are sacrificing for you. Whether it be by getting the kids in bed or doing the dishes from supper or by giving up time they wanted to spend with you talking about their day; they are sacrificing. They are doing it out of love and your written word is that much better because of it. My advice is to not forget this and to show you appreciate it by stopping when the writing is at a good point to do so and leave your office (or where ever you right, even if it is the bathroom) and take the time to give a big hug, a kiss and say thank you for believing in your dream. Take a weekend off to go camping or take a night off to see a movie. Not a whole Hell of a lot of writing gets done between court dates and divorce lawyers.

So why are you still sitting at your computer? Go spend time with your ideal reader. If they are at work drop them a call to quickly say I love you and if you haven’t done so yet, get down that aisle like I did and say, “I will”. You can say “I do” if that’s your kind of thing.

Have a goodnight readers,



6 Responses to “A Writer’s Journey: Part 5”

  1. Jannette Johnson Says:

    I write about a thousand words per day. Sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. Usually takes me roughly two hours. But after that, I stop. You have to set a time limit for writing. Not all of us have understanding spouses or partners, and being ignored for long periods of time can ruin a relationship just as fast as cheating.

    Ever since Steven King came out with his ‘how to’ novel, people have been quoting it like the bible. ‘Steven King says you should do this’, or ‘Steven King says you should do that’, this formula words for him, it may not work for other people and I hate to see someone lose an important person in their life because they were trying to follow in the footsteps of a famous author.

    Everyone is different, and a writer needs to find his/her own formula for writing. Will I change mine if I find an agent or an editor? I don’t know, but my family is the most important thing in the world to me. I write for and because of them. I guess is all boils down to a matter of balance in one’s life.

    Sorry for the ramble. 🙂

    • Jannette,

      Hey, it’s okay I ramble as well. I’m glad that this post has done its job by stirring conversation and thought.

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and I agree with your comment on SK’s memoir and the habit to constantly quote or paraphrase from it but the thing is; he’s right about a lot of it. I found that book very inspirational and for the most part that’s all it was. A part of me would love to spend eight hours a day (even on holidays as he does) writing. I can’t do that. I have a wife I love spending time with, a beautiful baby girl who is very active and a son with Asperger’s Autism that demands a great deal of everyone’s time and energy. It just isn’t possible to put in the time I want to at this point. Working eight hours on writing is no different than working at the plant or the office. I use to phone my wife on each break I had during my shift.

      SK also gets a little more weight added onto his words since he has managed to attain the dream we all have and did it before anyone thought making $40 million a year from writing was possible. So I believe that is why many people try to follow in his footsteps. I’m more of the type of person who takes the advice I need or identify with and then walks his own road. If I followed in King’s wake, I’d never be anything more than another Stephen King. Frankly, I don’t want to settle with that and no one reading this should settle with that either.

      The important thing for each of you to realize is that none of you is alone. Too often we can get lonely or wrapped up with thoughts of making $40 million a year while we toil at our PC (or Macs) and lose sight of the hard work others put in so we can have that time.

      Besides, if I have managed to get one person reading this to turn around and hug their ideal reader or –chance to think — propose marriage, then I’ve done my job.

  2. Nancy K. Says:

    That’s sweet. I’m talking to my significant reader right now, my husband, Joel. We send texts to each other throughout the day. It’s interesting to find out how people meet. Usually it’s just a crazy coincidence, but that makes it somehow more interesting, like it’s meant to be.

    I really do appreciate the sacrifices he makes for me, one of which is that he actually lets me stay at home and write while he goes to work for both of us. I hope one day that I’ll be able to contribute a little bit, just a little would help out a lot. I just hope someone takes interest in my novels soon. Either way, I won’t give up. Someone will like the novels I’ve written, I just need to find the right agent to give me a chance with the right publisher. And either way, I’ve still got my ideal reader.

    Well, I”m off to write on my blog too. Take care.

    • Nancy, never give up and keep plugging away. Someone will take notice and I’ll find your books on the shelves. And most importantly never be afraid to take a risk.

  3. Ah, to have an understanding spouse. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: