Tanara McCauley

Culturally Imagined Stories

Just Write Already!

The hardest part about being a writer…writing.

Easy are the ideas, the excitement over the ideas, anticipation of the type of impact the book will have and the response it will receive, and even daydreams of how it all plays out on the big screen. But when I finally scoot up to the computer (after completing random tasks like categorizing photos for future scrapbook projects and tossing out expired coupons), I find myself perfecting the art of the blank stare…then progressing to a more active but just as unproductive ritual.

You might imagine a strenuous bout of thinking that includes drumming fingers, a narrowed gaze, and lots of exaggerated sighs. Well I do all of that plus a weird little eyebrow exercise and lots of lip nibbling, with an occassional drift of the mind into nowhere land.

I need words for that great idea! And many times – even if the last writing session ended with an emphatic fist pump – the words are hidden from me like a treasure I buried but can’t find the map to.

I’ve learned the clue to navigating my way through such sessions and reaching that much sought after prize: Just Write Already! I stay at the computer and type, retracing my steps through the plot and the types of characters I’m building or emotions I want to evoke, until little by little my lost treasure is uncovered. The words come sporadically in places and flow in others, but before I know it that lofty idea is being grounded by a story that’s coming to life.

It’d be easy to cross my fingers and hope for some genius to invent a contraption that transfers a writer’s thoughts directly from the mind to the page. And I can’t say for sure if such a device ever surfaced I wouldn’t be tempted to use it. But I can say that while writing is by no means easy, it is rewarding. To struggle night after night – some nights producing only a page – until I’ve finally written over ninety thousand words and am nearing the end, that’s a get-up-and-dance-to-no-music feeling!

Better still is the story: some of it planned, other parts of it materializing as I go, characters I have never thought of until their names appeared on the page, sub-plots that speak to a different need or add their own splash of drama or conflict. Whew! I’ve never thrown open the lid to a treasure chest to be blinded by its jeweled contents, but I can’t imagine it being more thrilling than finishing a novel that means something!

The job is hard. The hours long. And for the not-yet-published author, there is no pay. But stay-at-home moms like myself are used to such challenges. So I write. And I write. And I write some more. Hoping one day that I’ll have graduated from self-imposed deadlines to contracted ones, which insist that I continue to “Just Write Already!”

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