1. I learned that sometimes you don’t go anywhere as a writer until you take a risk. I got hired as a correspondent because I took a risk and pitched an editorial the day after 9/11.
2. I learned that 100-year-old women do not handle long interviews well. They tend to fall asleep.
3. In my contract writing, I learned way more than I ever wanted to about tires, crop lifters, and insurance portfolios, but on the flip side, I can now carry on a somewhat intelligent conversation with the people behind these businesses.
4. I learned that collaborating with other writers and praying with them opens doors. I got the pastors of our community together to suggest an inspirational/biblical type column and pitched it to the editor. I thought she would flick me out of her office like a pesky mosquito. Instead, she welcomed the idea and the column “Pass the Salt” has been running for 15 years.
5. I learned that many people do not read the newspaper in my town and that most people still do not realize that I write for the paper, but the ones who do are very encouraging. And sometimes all you need to keep going is one person stopping you on the street and saying, “Thank you.”
6. I learned that the editor was very patient and gracious with me, allowing me to write flowery and wordy articles until I discovered that short and to-the-point are more appreciated.
7. I learned that it pays to try writing something totally out of your scope of interest or ability. That was when Carol Ferguson challenged me to write fantasy. I did and I won first place in a children’s contest.
8. I learned that writer’s courses are a good thing if you get feedback and peer input.
9. I learned that editors need writers.
10. I learned that spelling is important. When the Prince of Wales came for a visit, somehow he ended up being called the “Prince of Whales” in my article. Another time I suggested that the harmonies of the Canadian Tenors were “tenuous” rather than “tenacious.” A red face followed the reading of my published words.
11. And finally, I am learning that sometimes you hit a writing plateau. I seem frozen with anxiety as I try to work through some family struggles. But having written this piece, I realize that writing has helped me grow in more ways than merely word and plot skills. I have learned to take risks and to handle rejection. I have learned to be perceptive and discerning as I interview. I have learned to be honest rather than flowery and to laugh at myself rather than taking life too seriously. I have learned that God keeps His promise of wisdom as we seek Him. As I scratch simple words on paper, God presses phrases of trust on my heart. God has graciously used every writing experience as an opportunity for me to learn more about His captivating loveliness.
And so while my pen seems to have dried up, I know and am confident that He who began a good work in me will complete it. I just have to be willing to take a risk . . . and to check my spelling before I hit send.
If Pam could spend all day in her kitchen baking pies, brownies, and making turkey dinner for friends, she would. But Murray Pura once told her to write first and then bake—advice that she is trying to stick with these days, except, of course, when her grandchildren stop in for milk and cookies.