A cartoon depicted a character saying: “I’m going to write a book and someday I will be famous.”
Is fame the ultimate goal? Have you been reading the tabloids lately?
A client of mine, still learning English, decided to write a story about her life in the country she came from. Fair enough. When I encouraged her to work on shorter pieces first, she said, “I have to write a book.” An opportunity came up to write a story for an anthology, and I asked her, “Could you write a story about this topic?” She wrote, and I helped to smooth out the words. Her story was accepted. It was a beginning. A significant piece that affirmed her dream, her first publishing credit. As far as I know she’s still working on her book, telling her story from the heart.
As a new writer, I was encouraged to work on short pieces such as letters to the editor, book reviews and articles for church newsletters and denominational publications. No pay in many of those, but I have learned the value of a word count, the seriousness of a deadline and the skills that it took to be published.
Writers I know have worked at their craft for a long time. It’s work, and writers do it because they are impelled to write, not by someone else, but by something within. They begin by dabbling, as many of my writer friends have done, playing at putting words together, just as an artist plays with colour and paints many pieces before becoming known to the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist, lecturer and poet said, “Every artist was first an amateur.”
Susan, a fellow writer in our critique group, recently shared a story she had written of an event that changed the world, during which many people died. It made her rethink her priorities, and she asked herself, “Where those who perished doing something they loved each day?” She determined that she would make changes in her life so that the writing she desired would have a rightful place. Since then she’s published short stories and continues to work on various projects.
When writers come to me for help, I encourage them to work on short stories or articles, never losing sight of their long-term goal, while they develop the necessary skills. I remind them that journalists write shorter stories all the time; sometimes they gather the best columns in a book. The late Peter Gzowski, of Galt, Ontario, broadcaster, writer and editor, and 1990s host of CBC’s popular Morningside radio program, is credited with writing several books that are collections of his interviews and radio programs.
Therefore, my advice is: Whether you write short pieces or novels, always write because it comes from within. Work hard on your craft, and with enough perseverance, you may even get published. If your readers tell you they enjoy your words, count that as an added bonus, and if you do become famous in the process, drop me a line.
Carolyn R. Wilker is an editor, writing instructor, and mentor from Kitchener, Ontario. She’s a member of the Editors’ Association of Canada, The Word Guild, Inscribe, and the Energetics Toastmasters and she has led workshops in speaking, creative writing and memoir at conferences and division Toastmaster training events. Her writing spans articles, op-eds, inspirational and poetry to her book, Once Upon a Sandbox, published in 2011 by Hidden Brook Press. www.carolynwilker.ca