Writing excites me. Always has. But it wasn't until my first heartbreak at seventeen when I realized how much writing impacted my life. How crucial it was to my well being. I filled ten pages with wrenching emotions when I was seventeen, positive I'd never recover. Yet, even then, having already filled nine diaries, I knew my connection to writing ran deeper.
Honestly, what does a seventeen-year-old know about suffering anyway?
Hormones aside, drama aside, at seventeen when I hurt, I wrote. When I didn't understand life, I wrote. When people confused me, I wrote. When I had tons of stuff to do, I wrote.
There were no computers, and the only place you could find a typewriter was in an office or a typing class at school. All I had was paper, pen, and Van Morrison's Brown Eyed Girl playing on the radio.
Hey where did we go,
Days when the rains came
Down in the hollow,
Playin' a new game,
Laughing and a running hey, hey
Skipping and a jumping
In the misty morning fog with
Our hearts a thumpin' and you
My brown eyed girl,
You my brown eyed girl.
Other times it may have been the Zombies's She's Not There.
I can't tell you how many times I agonized on the written word while listening to Roy Orbison's Crying. The version with kd lang is even more beautiful and still gives me goosebumps.
When I'm writing a difficult and painful scene today, Crying can still be heard. Or maybe something from Jann Arden, Sade, Dire Straits, Etta James ....
At seventeen I switched from a diary to a journal because I needed more space to express myself. Then in 1983, I lost my dad, he was only 56. A stack of journals nestled under my bed, I started my first novel. I thought I could write my dad's story so he would live forever.
It's interesting that at thirty I assumed I knew enough of him to do that. I didn't. But being stubborn and bullheaded, I wasn't about to quit. I wrote a fictional account of our relationship on an IBM typewriter, titled it Always Father's Child, and in 1987 bought my first computer.
Seven years later, when I was finished what turned out to be a coming-of-age story, I queried publishing houses and agents across North America. In 1991, in a hand-written response from a renown Canadian publisher, he advised me to keep writing. Even though the book was badly written, he got that I was hooked on the process.
I started writing because the pain of losing my dad was so great I had no recourse but to write. When I realized the book sucked, I did the next logical thing and began work on Dead Witness. Three months later, our eldest son Jack was killed in a car accident. I stopped writing.
Months passed. Time blurred. So sure I'd never write again, I think I sat down at the computer one day in hopes that writing would drown out the noise in my head. I needed to preoccupy my brain. Dead Witness, the story I'd begun before Jack's death took on new meaning. I transposed my grief onto Valerie McCormick.
Nothing new in that; writers have been doing it for centuries. But one constant image kept running through my mind during the three years composing and the thirteen years waiting for Dead Witness to be publish. I saw Jack's name centered on the Dedication Page.
Blogging about this sweet soul is a huge step in my life. Until now, I couldn't blog about him because it hurt. And because the thought of his death mentioned or discussed online felt wrong. It still makes me uneasy. I'm not doing this for sympathy or discussion, but because I suspect I'm not alone. I know there are other writers who have suffered a great loss. And we struggle every day to come to grips with it.
As I continue in future posts to discuss my road to publication, I may mention Jack not because I need you to feel bad for us. I'm doing it because this is the story of my road to publication. It's not everybody's story. But perhaps it is for some.
What I hope is that this post brings back memories of the moment you knew you were destined to write. I hope it reminds you to accept who you are.
For me, I think of it as a new beginning. I am a published author who by sharing my past won't diminish the good or the bad, but accept it simply as part of the journey.