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.)
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: