Where I write. Here on a well worn leather sofa in a little log cabin. The only place sending smoke signals out there on a big wild mountain. A cat on one side, a dog on the other, with the sound of happy chicks scurrying about in the box by the front window, and a new batch of beer bubbling up in the loft. I’ve kicked the boys out into the snow, or it’s predawn hours and they’re still sleeping, but they’re definitely not around. I work best in relative silence. Nature’s noises don’t disturb me. Human ones do. I give the boys the boot. I think they love me anyway.
My first book was written early in the mornings, way before sun or son up, before the wood stove warmed the cabin and often in front of the campfire after the horses were put out to graze with a pen in my mittened hands and a pot of cowboy coffee percolating away in front of me.
I yearn for such silence and simplicity as my son is working at the kitchen table with machine parts spread about, and husband on the sofa across from me with his computer on his lap. The snow will melt soon. They’ll both be busy building then. Only thing is, I will be too.
Where can I go write? I ask them when the talk of snowmobiles and motors and mechanics can’t be drowned out by my over active imagination, and the wilds, though just outside the front door, seem so far away. Another guest cabin? Too cold. Outside? It’s snowing. So much for spring. Summer is short here, and still so far away.
Get over it, I remind myself. I write about my life. Live it. Then make the time to write. Even if that means setting the alarm for four in the morning and stumbling around in the dark.
And suddenly, the chatter of the boys fades into the background and doesn’t seem so distracting anymore and all I see are words before me, spilling across the page like a handful of sparkling sand in the wind.
Writing is a state within us, not a place around us.
A friend shared this article and it got me thinking. (Uh oh.)
On Networking: The Five People You Really Need
We all need a mentor. A champion. Someone who believes in us. Someone who will listen to our dreams and say, “Yes, you can…” and, “You can do it!” Maybe even show us how.
Most of us don’t have that. Usually in life, we find a lot of the opposite.
“Really, you shouldn’t.”
“You can’t do that!”
“I dunno if that’s the best thing to do.”
“Oh come on, get real…”
“Hmmmm… maybe you better not.”
How do we get it? That person to push us and help us make it happen. Because it can happen, you know. Whether they like it or not. Whether they help you or not. If you want to, you can.
And usually, if you start, even if you don’t find The One, you might just find a bunch of Little Ones instead. People will be far more likely to help you if you try. Not if you don’t. And not if you expect it, demand it, wait for it to come to you. Because that silver platter fantasy is about as unreal as Prince Charming.
Still, I tried, as many of us have, to find a mentor, a teacher, a guru. One that honestly cared and advised me accordingly. I reached out to people I admired. Rarely heard a word back. Read a bunch of books on “how to”. Even tried to hire a coach once, but she didn’t seem to think my dreams where practical. They aren’t. Practical is not on my list of priorities. Dreaming is. Besides, when you hire someone to “believe” and “care” you’re taking a helluva risk and need to accept that maybe it’s not going to happen.
You get bits and pieces here and there. Along the way, you know how it is, you meet someone who actually believes in you, encourages you, inspires you. An angel who pops in to your life, gets you where you need to go next, and POOF is gone.
Someone to remind me I can. On one hand, enough to keep me going. And on the other, little enough to make me say, fine, I am gonna do it on my own, even without a whole lotta help.
Of course there ends up being some help. None of us are really alone. Show me any person and if we look long enough, we’ll find a story about how someone else helped them, inspired them, motivated them. Something. No matter how small. Sometimes all we get is small. So it’s up to us to make it big.
So now what I am learning is this. Just because we didn’t really get it, doesn’t mean we can’t give it. We can. We can give what we didn’t get. We can be what we wish we knew. Yes, we can be that mentor. We all have a lot to give. So, give. Don’t hold back. Not too much. Enough to keep your sanity. Feed your family, get your work done first. But not so much you’re greedy with your time and kindness.
A word of caution. Don’t get milked dry. Find the balance of giving to someone who is going to take what you share and fly with it. Not the person who just wants it to hoard it away or add to their pile of plenty.
Here’s another way of looking at it. The more horses I work with, the better horseperson I become. In teaching them, I learn myself.
Give, try, reach out, share. Be the mentor you wish you had. You can’t go out and find one. You can’t even buy one. But you can be one. So start with that. And maybe then you’ll find what you were looking for.
Maybe. I’m still looking.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an author. I haven’t met many who could help. Refer back to that “loneliest profession” thing. And still there were a few who came and left my life and did help along the way. Like Digger Doc, a teacher back in high school who told me I should write and kept me after class to share books with me that I had to read and I did. Soaking in the words of Nabakov, Orwell, Roth and Joyce, listening to their voice and dreaming of creating my own.
Many years passed. My writing left unlistened to. Starting the blog helped. Someone listened. Not a mentor, but at least a little audience. Someone who heard me. For them, I tried. I would wake in the mornings and sit in the dark while the house was still cold and take an hour of uninterrupted time and try. It was enough. From those dark mornings rose the first book, The Color of the Wild. And a growing audience. And a stronger voice.
Now I afford myself the luxury of writing after the sun is up (still on that well worn sofa) and there are things to do outside, but I can convince myself this is work now. This is real. At least sort of. But sort of is a start. And if I don’t make it into more, it won’t be. So I give it my all. The first book mattered to me in a way other writing – from the blog to published articles – did not. This is where I wanted to be.
Of course there is little satisfaction in arriving here because such is human nature, when we get where we were trying to go suddenly we realize what’s next, what else we want, where we want to go next.
The bear went over the mountain… Indeed.
Such is life for the curious mind, she says. So, get used to it, enjoy it, make the most of it.
We all could use help. Someone to believe in us, if not guide us. And here’s what I’m finding. Even if you can’t find someone directly to help you, start by helping yourself. Then maybe, just maybe, reach out and help someone else.
Anyone who’s spent enough time with me knows that tough as I may act on the outside, I’m about as insecure as they get inside. It’s really a problem at times. For me. For those around me. For those stuck with me and who still manage to love me (read: husband and son).
Maybe it was fear. Thinking the next book wouldn’t be good. A disappointment after a strong start. Maybe I’d be a one-shot wonder. One of those writers who only has one book in them, when what I want is a whole bookshelf in me. At least, a whole row. Right, I know, that’s asking a lot. But those who know me know that too. I tend to ask a lot of myself.
Anyway, I’m on it now. Editing the next one, getting it ready for submitting. And you know what – I like it. Boy is that a relief. When you put it aside, your intention is to put it out of mind. Well, try as you may it remains somewhere in that mind of yours, in the deep dark corners where the shadows lurk. And in that place, weird things happen. It can transform into something terrible. Our imaginations are both blessings and curses, aren’t they?
Well, I brought this one back into the light and I’m working it over again now. It’s not perfect. It’s not the Great American Novel (it wasn’t meant to be). But it’s a good read. I’m enjoying it. Fixing it up. Making it better. More of what it is, was meant to be. It’s a lot of work, but that doesn’t scare me. Bad work does.
Take the time it takes. Our choice is this: We can turn a handful of grapes into a little pile of raisins or a glass of fine wine.
I don’t know how fine this one will be, but at the moment, I’m enjoying the aroma, the taste, the color… It’s going to be okay. That helps me sleep better at night.
Finally, friends, this. I didn’t write it, but I read it. This one got me thinking too. (Uh oh, all over again.) If you enjoy reading, books, bookstores, here’s something to think about:
A Magical Place for Readers and Writers
19 thoughts on “Ramblin’ on writing.”
I love the idea of multiple Mini Mentors… I’ve always struggled with the whole issue because no one person ever seems able to be _everything_ I need/want them to be… maybe my expectations are unrealistic! LOL
You need to coin that term, Maggie – Mini Mentors. It’s a concept worth exploring and discussing more. If you write about it further, please let me know – I am interested in the idea.
I start my thirteenth volunteer prison motivational program next Wednesday, being a mentor to anyone who will listen. Funny, but I find some of my mentors in prison. There is a lot of wisdom “inside” the razor wire. Each inmate participant gets to use the first edition of my first memoir “Hiking Out” for the duration of the eight week workshop. They are supposed to return them at the end of the program for the next guy, but many keep them for themselves or share it with friends. I have plenty more first editions, so that is one way of getting my books into circulation.
I’m starting a campaign to end the use of the negative “ex-word” like “ex-offender”, “ex-prisoner’ and “ex-inmate’ to the more positive “reentry survivor”. The guys who make it deserve a level playing field when they reenter society and not the stigma of the “ex-word” They are graduates of our criminal justice systems. That is quite an accomplishment considering how dehumanizing it is. They are “survivors” indeed. Like you, I keep trying to make a difference. My secular prison ministry was the motivation for creating my second memoir “Inside and Outside”. Were all driven by something in our lives.
Dick, your work is a prime example of the balance of giving and receiving. You are helping the “survivors” (yes, we need to get rid of the “ex” part) and in turn are inspired yourself. Your creativity comes from helping, reaching out to others, and in turn, help to heal yourself. It is this balance I believe most artists and writers seek. I don’t just mean the sort out there painting a pretty picture, but the ones painting their soul.
Gin, the words you wrote in your opening paragraph flowed as naturally and clearly as the water down the Rio. Keep that aura in your writing and you will do well.
Thank you, Shelly!
Gin, I’m reading your book now and I find myself really getting absorbed by it. My husband and I have stayed up there three times, and I’m glad I have the picture in my mind of the places you refer to in your writings. Here’s something I’ve been thinking about – as we enjoyed the solitude of one of your cabins and the breathtaking beauty of the land, I wasn’t aware of your story. Do you ever wonder though about the stories of your visitors and the blessings they received from your place when you opened the gate to them? How many broken hearts and frazzled minds have found some measure of peace there? How many family bonds have been renewed, how many lives refocused? I love the book and the style of your writing. I’m no literary expert but I’m an avid reader, and there’s something really special about what you’ve created. I just ordered a copy to send to some friends who stayed with us once up there.
Donna, thank you. I love and appreciate your note. I think often of how many lives this mountain has touched. It is what gives us point and purpose here. Not just the selfish measure. It allows us balance, and reason. I learned this lesson more so this summer when the fires kept us isolated up here and our guests away. The silence, not hearing the laughter and song and seeing smiles was eerie. Incomplete. Over the years many of our guests have become close friends. I have learned to open my mind, heart as well as my home because of them. It is also in the shared stories – the ones people like you, guests who have been here and tell me who they are, what they have been going through, and how just being here has helped them – this has helped me too. Thank you for writing and for reading and for sharing the book.
I have finished your book and left some positive feedback on Amazon. I always look forward to reading what you have written. It’s always beautifully written. Keep on writing.
Thank you, my friend. It is these kinds of kind words that have fed me and keep me going. Thank you indeed.
I have had your words from this post in my head all day. You have offered such lovely encouragement to me, I am so grateful. It is so true, when you know what you want yet wish someone, either paid or kindhearted would step in and help make your work better and in turn, life a little easier. It is one of these crazy things where some folks have an endless supply of helpers in their life and others are just on a harder road, doing a lot of life alone. Of course, I find this aspect of you so inspiring. You see something you want and you find a way to make it happen so that it suits your needs. You do the work, the really hard work. You give yourself a moment to take a break and then, that is enough, move forward, move on, get it done.
I sit and wallow in the “why do I have to do this alone, again.” part much longer than you, I can tell. When I was younger it was easier to just disregard the wallowing, not as easy now I am finding. So, thank you for the nudges, encouragement and especially for sharing your words. I am always here reading and hearing you.
Take heart in this, Carrie – I betcha I wallow just as much as you. And then that New Jersey tough girl takes over, gives me a good shake, and makes me move on. With or without the mentor. Of course, usually without. And I realize I can. And you can. And we can help each other, by reading, listening, encouraging… And although we would both love more, I promise, if this is what you really want – and seeing how hard you’re trying now and writing daily – I would say yes indeed – you’ll make it happen. Yourself!
Though unlikely to define you, it occurs to me that a one-shot wonder is a wonder still! ;0) The reward isn’t easily separated from the risk….whether in writing or relationships! Whatever we offer up is subject to praise or criticism, and without one, the other loses a bit of worth. The value of a mentor of any sort lies in their ability to complement criticism with praise and to temper honesty with a measure of humility. The product is then inspiration…!
Wendy, how brilliantly said! (wish I said this myself!) “The reward isn’t easily separated from the risk…” All of this note I so appreciate… wonderful wisdom. Thank you for sharing. I’ve read it over three times, and let it soak in deeper each time.
Wonderful post Gin. I too love your writing, the sharing of your life, your thoughts. Interesting that I woke a little after 3 this morning. I should have been able to get back to sleep, but finally I checked the clock again…4am! I knew I could not get back to sleep for some reason so I got up, turned on the laptop, decided to check emails and decided to read the recent blogs of my blogger friends. So here I am and seeing you get up at 4am to write.
I am NOT a morning person so this getting up at 4am is strange to me. Anyway, your thoughts and feelings about needing/wanting mentors in your life is something I share. Yet, like you said, so many times when we ask for that kind of help we don’t get it. I find that some of those we are closest to are the ones who just can’t or won’t help us as writers/creators, or even as we seek to find out who we really are! Sometimes it is just those who come into our lives for a short time who gift us with just what we need at that moment; and then poof they are gone. I try to remember, that in the shared time with that person, hopefully I have left something good in their lives.
Blessings to you Gin. Keep writing, because your shared life is a blessing to those of us who read your words/thoughts/feelings. Thank you.
Confession: I slept in this morning. Just past seven and the horses did not appreciate it one bit. Thanks for writing, Ann. Always good to connect with you and hear your thoughts and share the perspective of the writer and woman’s point of view. What I am reminded of is this: The more we ask for, the less we get. The more we try, the more we might just receive. Not always what we expect. Maybe, just maybe (I shall remain the optimist!) even better.
:-) after checking emails and reading blogs, then listening to Charles Stanley of InTouch (during which I had my oatmeal and coffee), it was 7am and I drifted off to sleep til about 8:45am :-) I have found that when I do my best, lifting it all up to God then He provides even better than I can imagine. And lifting it up to Him fills me with peace (taking away anxiety and fear).
Well said, Ann. That is how Nature is for me. All it takes is a walk in the woods and I find my healing and my place and purpose.