does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Storyteller's Worth

Writing a novel is a marathon. It starts out as an energetic and optimistic activity. Predictably for me, though, at about the three-quarter mark, a shift occurs. After writing again and again about the same characters, I am tempted to throw the lot out the window. At this point in a work-in-progress novel, it is superbly easy for me to generate a long list of what is wrong my writing. Completing the novel becomes a more daunting task than what has already been accomplished. The ignominy of not finishing is experienced daily.

Luckily for me, in this latest novel project, when I have been ready to quit, I received metaphorical refreshing drinks and pep talks. It started with the news that another of my short stories had been accepted by a literary review, which goes a long way toward renewing my faith in my writing abilities. When an editor says, I like your story enough to publish it, I am reminded that, at least in moments, I can write well. Parenthetically, when this story is published later this year, I will provide the link in a blog post.

The other refreshing drink and pep talk came from a surprising source, my late father. No, I’m not talking about séance-like contact. Instead, recently, I had the privilege of compiling an anthology of his essays, poems, and sermons which allowed me to hear his “voice” again. It was another soft landing to calm my jitters. It reminded me that writing, even if vastly different in content, is the family business, and I am doing exactly what I was born to do.

Then, I received the first installment of surveys being carried out about my dad's legacy. All the living members of the church my gentle, wise, and humble father pastored for thirty-three years have been queried. The project leader said, “The stories are pouring in. Many hand in their questionnaires with tears in their eyes.” While reading the questionnaire results, I was struck by how my father’s written and spoken words sustain a living quality. Words matter, I concluded. The role of the storyteller is essential to the human psyche.

So I pick up my banner as storyteller and know it is not a frivolous undertaking. I embark on the final quarter of my novel, renewed in my commitment to make my words matter. Because, if I write the story well, they will matter.


Judy Croome said...

Judith, what a wonderful legacy your Father has left, not only to you personally, but to his flock.

Writing is hard, and every writer faces unique challenges. But a common challenge is, I think, that there are so many times we feel ready to throw the towel in. The born writer, teh one who writes from his/her soul, is the one who goes and takes those crumpled pages from the dustbin, straightens out the crinkles and starts writing again.

Keep writing!

Judy (South Africa)

rosaria said...

Gee, you too?

Kathryn Magendie said...

*smiling* you are a gifted writer, the rest is, yes, the work work work work and more work!

Judith Mercado said...

Judy, Rosaria, and Kathryn,

Writers all, we know about those crumpled pages that get thrown in the garbage can and then retrieved, don't we? It's a relief to know there are others who understand perfectly why, despite all that, one goes on. And then there are editors like you, Kathryn, who really keep one motivated by kind words like "gifted writer." Oh my, you made my day. To all of you, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

A Cuban In London said...

I read your post and could not help smiling. Not at you, I hasten to add, but at the situation you so well depict.

Writing shouldn't be a chore or burden, but as you rightly aver, once you get going and reach the one-hundred pages, or whatever mark you have, you get so used to you characters and storylines, that, inevitably you become bored. Or something like that. It's on occasions like this, when you have to sit back, go for a walk, or do something different. The problem is that many writers don't live off their writing, so that kind of situation, ideal as it looks, is far from realistic. Good, then, for your dear father for giving you that extra help, just you needed it. And congrats on your short story getting published. I look forward to reading it. :-)

Greetings from London.

Judith Mercado said...

Thank you, Cuban, for sharing your thoughts. It seems you understand perfectly what I was describing.

cleemckenzie said...

How wonderful to be the caretaker of your father's work.

Loved your "marathon" post. And I understand it, totally.

Sun Singer said...

We write alone, but from time to time these jolts of good news and wonderment and acceptance are powerful enough to send us back to that desk again.