cowsYears 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.

18 Comments

  1. Ashley on October 1, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    It may speak volumes about my probable insanity (:P) but more often than not, I feel like the cows. What I mean is, I have those ideas and the (I think) lack of talent in writing.. but, unfortunately, don’t have the time or money to take a class. But reading this post, maybe I should make it one of my life goals– nothing says I have to take that class right now.. except for maybe you, Diane 😛
    Can’t wait for your next book!

  2. Diane Chamberlain on October 1, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    LOL, take your time, Ashley. One of the most wonderful things about writing is that you can start when you’re nine or you can start when you’re ninety. (ps you are NOT a cow!)

  3. Julie Kibler on October 2, 2009 at 12:13 am

    Some days I feel like the cow, other days the cud. 😉

    This was a fun post, Diane. I had to come out of my cave to comment. So exciting that you finished your final draft. Congrats!!

  4. Margo on October 2, 2009 at 8:29 am

    Diane, I’ve always had the urge to write because I have a vivid imagination and can visualize I’ll kinds of scenarios…but throughout my life I’ve made choices in what to pursue because frankly, there’s only so many hours in a day…my choices have been piano and painting and I love what I do…but…there’s still that story inside me that I wish I could express…with other activities like reading and swimming, absolutely no time to learn how to write the story that’s in my head…so, I’m happy to leave that talent to others like you!! (-O:

  5. Denise on October 2, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Like you, math and science were not my forte’ in school. My favorite classes were History and English, and English Comp was my favorite college course. Also like you, when I was young I used to sit for hours and write stories. For some reason, though, as an adult I stopped writing. I had/have ideas but never really knew how to put them on paper in a coherent manner. I never took a writing class because I guess I always felt that I didn’t have the talent to writing anything unique. I never wanted to be one of those people who talked about the book they were writing and have everyone sort of roll their eyes behind my back. Lol!

  6. Margo on October 2, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    Denise, I would never have been one to roll my eyes if you told me you were writing a book…I would admire you for your passion and dedication to putting down on paper what could become a great novel.

  7. Diane Chamberlain on October 2, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    Denise, I think people do roll their eyes sometimes. I remember long ago, before I was a writer myself, I knew someone who was writing a novel. It dragged on for years. I couldn’t understand. Why wasn’t it done? Couldn’t you whip out a book in a few months? Didn’t you just sit down and start writing the beginning, then the middle, then the end? What’s so hard about that? Now, of course, I get it. Big time.

    Margo, you’ve expressed your creativity in other ways, with fabulous results.

    When I talk about writing well, I don’t necessarily mean a magnum opus, but simply the ability to express oneself on the written page, whether it’s a novel, nonfiction, or a note to your child’s teacher. It’s a valuable skill to have.

  8. Margo on October 2, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you Diane…I’m happy with the choices I’ve made in my life…no regrets whatsoever…maybe someday I’ll have the time to write and illustrate that children’s book that’s been in my head for years.

  9. brenda on October 3, 2009 at 10:01 am

    Writing is HARD!!! I am in the midst of teaching research papers to high school kids and essays to college students…WOW!!! It is a long process. I have decided-next semester-to only do high school…just getting so difficult to do both. Kids don’t like to write-they don’t like to read that much either. On the news the other nice, they were showing the 21st Tech classrooms in our little state–the kids do everything on the computer (almost) and on the write board–a new object that some classes have…Well–they don’t read a lot or write-how can that be an improvement? Don’t get me wrong-I request that ALL students use computers and ALL papers are finished there…however…how about reading??? Any comments???

  10. Margo on October 3, 2009 at 12:16 pm

    Brenda, reading was always important in my life, both in school and at home. It’s sad to hear that students aren’t interested in it unless they can use the computer…they are missing out on so much. My mother read to us when we were really young and tought us to love books…so by the time we were in school we embraced the school library and the book fairs where we could order novels. I think the love of reading and books starts at home, don’t you?…if the parents aren’t encouraging this how can they like it in school?

  11. Diane Chamberlain on October 3, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Brenda, that’s discouraging. I was hoping with Harry Potter, the Twilight series, and the popularity of young adult fiction, reading would be making a comeback in teenagers.

  12. brenda on October 3, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    One lady made a comment to me: We don’t even use hymn books at church-we read from a screen.
    I must say that with the above books you mentioned, there was more reading…thankfully my granddaughters are avid readers…but in my classes, we are lucky to get them to read at all. Because Carlene Thompson is an author from near where we live, we gave the llth Honors the choice to choose one of her mysteries for summer reading. The other was THE GLASS CASTLE-an author who grew up near here…they liked those books, and they loved the mysteries because they chose them…now they are reading C in the Rye and not excited…I have teacher friends all over the country, the same…

  13. Margo on October 4, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    My friend has a 13 year old son who LOVES to read (which must be the exception??)…he read the TWILIGHT series and HARRY POTTER…is now finishing a young adult series by James Patterson (THE MAX, or something like that)…he has his younger brother interested in books too. During the summer when I was at Border’s on Wed’s, I usually saw kids in the young adult section picking up new books with their parents…I quess I just assumed kids still loved to read.

  14. brenda on October 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Margo-I think they are in the minority…it is also that they get to choose what they read.
    By high school-esp. l0th grade-that seems to be the change…and worse by llth and 12th…sometimes I wonder if it is because there are not enough good books out there…
    On that note, I have had a difficult time finding something new to read-at bookstore and/or library. I was lucky this weekend–found a novel by Jack Riggs-written in 2008…purchased in my library last winter-how did I miss it? It is THE FIREMAN’S WIFE. Liked it…l. Took place in S. Carolina where I lived for 5 years in the l990’s…2. Took place in 1970 (and went back some) which was “my day” although before I had ever gone to S.C. Interesting story…twists and turns…I liked it…

  15. Margo on October 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    Have not heard of this book Brenda but will look for it at Border’s next week. I noticed last week that the author of THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE has a new novel out…it was on the front table and looked very, very intriguing.

  16. Ronnie on October 4, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    Diane did you use the word “utterly” on purpose in describing the cows? I thought that was very witty on top of your other talents.

  17. Diane Chamberlain on October 4, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Uh, yeah, Ronnie. Sure. I used that word on purpose. Sure. . .

  18. Margo on October 5, 2009 at 8:01 am

    LOL…LOL…LOL…

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