The driveway was twin cement strips, with a thin line of grass between them. The little girl wondered how difficult it would be to keep the tires of the car centered on the cement strips all the way up to the low garage at the end. Just a slip of the tire might tear at the grass in the center. She spent many hours on that driveway. She created perfect characters. The perfect friends, the perfect crush, the perfect heroine. They were all absolutely brave, kind, brash, funny, and completely unreal. There was absolutely nothing real about them. For one thing, none of them ever said or did anything that made her feel badly. She could put them away and bring them out at will. And then there was always something else to do when she grew tired of pretending. A bike to ride. A sister to argue with. A television show to sneak and watch. This was the first and most important lesson that she missed in her quest to become a writer. Truly great creativity requires sacrifice. Creativity itself is enjoyable and entertaining. Creative production requires something different. A combination of joy and diligent sacrifice that burn like sweet incense. The worst part was, in the middle of her aimless dreaming, the little girl knew that something was missing. She lay in bed at night, stories frothing round her dusky brain, and longed to have something that would force her to actually do the work. In fact, the stories she created began to take on very specific characteristics. They were all stories about little girls stolen away from their homes, families, and friends, and, for some noble reason, forced to develop their work ethic. Yes friends, this little girl was grasping at a concept she couldn’t fully understand yet. The key to writing is … work ethic.
Once upon a time, a little girl snuggled deep into worn, fraying couch cushions, curled her legs to her chest, and devoured every last bitter winter chill, family gathering, and hard time that Laura Ingalls Wilder had to offer up. She wanted to be in the Big Woods of Wisconsin: watching adults dance and gossip, tapping trees for maple syrup, surrounded by DIY cheeses, meats, and delicious candies. She longed for blizzards that were easy to get lost in, muslin dresses, and wide open prairie.
In school, the little girl stared out the window and daydreamed. She was on wind-swept hills, running in the sun. She was powerful and all-knowing, the heroine who saved the day. “Christy!” her teacher would call, dragging her back to the world she really existed in. “I need your attention!” The little girl felt ashamed of her wish. Her wish that she could stay forever in the world she created for herself, and not have to be part of the one that forced her to focus on reading boring stories meant for little children.
She was constantly torn between the shame of not being perfect at everything someone her age was meant to be perfect at, and the puffed up delight that came from being told that her reading level far surpassed those her age, and her imagination was amazing. She felt, with absolute certainty, that she could and would be a great writer, like Laura Ingalls Wilder or C.S. Lewis. There was one thing missing. And that thing would be missing for almost thirty years before she found the key to truly great writing.
…. to be continued