Years ago, my then-husband and I were driving through the countryside in a pouring rain. I was working on my second novel back then, and was utterly entranced with the process. As we drove through the downpour, I noticed a group of cows huddled together under a tree, and my heart broke for them.
“I feel so sorry for those cows,” I said.
“Because they’re stuck out in the rain?” my then-husband asked.
“No,” I said, in all seriousness, “because they can’t write.”
That about sums it up. Well, it sums up the fact that I’m a little insane, I guess, but it also illustrates how much I love and value the ability to write. In school, I was terrible at math and science (and I’m not even going to mention my painful memories of being picked last for every sports team, every time), but I always had a knack for writing.
Yet, writing is hard, no matter how much talent you or I may have for it. Having just completed the final final draft of my nineteenth novel, The Lies We Told, I’m newly reminded of that fact. The other night, I sat for about two hours moving the words and sentences around in one measly paragraph until it said exactly what I wanted it to say. Then I moved all the paragraphs in the chapter around until I was happy with their order. Then I scrapped half of the chapter and started again, because not only did it need to sound right, it also needed to express the characters’ emotions perfectly for that moment in the book, and I wasn’t satisfied I’d succeeded in that task. Sometime around two in the morning, though, after much teeth gnashing and pulling out of hair, I did.
I can look at cows without feeling sorry for them these days. I do, however, feel sorry for people who have a story inside them and long to put it on paper, but don’t have the skill. This is a plea from me to those people: take some writing classes and learn how to string words together clearly, wisely, and beautifully. It may take enormous effort on your part, but the payoff can be amazing. There is no better gift you can give yourself, your kids, and the rest of the world than being able to express yourself well through your writing. You can do it!
As long as you’re not a cow, that is.