I was speaking to a new writer the other day, and I was impressed by her clarity. She knew enough to understand the life of a writer is tough, but she was willing to work hard. What really impressed me, though, was when she asked if she could share what I told her with her husband because he was her biggest fan.
I told her that put her ten steps ahead of most people since family support is critical for an artist. No message board, chat room or critique group can truly duplicate a family’s faith, their unflagging support, and, if a writer is very lucky, loving honesty. I know because I was showered with that kind of support from day one.
While I may have started writing because of a crazy dare, my first stab at writing was pretty traditional. By that I mean it was awful. I threw away the pages (there were no computers then). One day when I was cleaning I found that sad little manuscript under the sofa. The story I considered idiotic, my husband believed was incredible merely because I had created it. That gesture – pulling the pages out of the trash and hiding them to preserve my ‘brilliance’ – was enough to make me sit down and try again.
When that book sold, I dared to dream that I had actually
started on a career path. It wasn’t an easy one. There were challenges and
frustrations, joys and excruciating anticipation. For every two steps forward
there was one step back, and all of it was shared with family. In return,
family gave back encouragement, sympathetic ears and selfless celebration when
it was called for. Often my husband did the household chores after his own long
day at work so I could write in the evening. When I wrote during the day I kept
my two toddlers quiet for a while by putting an old typewriter on the floor,
threading it with paper, and telling them to write their book while I wrote
Books were sold, books were rejected, books were started and never finished. My family endured my tears and meltdowns when things looked bleak. But when something good happened the celebration was a family affair even if it was just a trip to McDonalds for McNuggets in those early days. It was my husband who found the Kindle opportunity before I even heard of it. One of my children is a writer now and we spend long hours in the kitchen talking craft. My other son works in Hollywood and brings a whole knew point of view to my storytelling.
Over the years, over the course of penning 39 books, nothing has changed in our household. My family are my biggest fans (even if my husband can’t remember the titles of my books). I am so grateful for every word they’ve ever spoken, every hug I’ve received, and every chore they’ve undertaken in service to my work.
Throughout my thirty-year career I also learned a very important lesson: to return the favor. Whether a person writes books, don judge’s robes, manages an office, waits tables, pilots an airplane, or is a cop on the beat; no matter what we are in the ‘real world ‘the best gift we can give and receive is the utter, undying, unshakeable faith in those we love.
No matter who you are, what you do, or what you dream give the gift of goodwill to someone you love because it will come back to you ten fold.
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I was going through my travel pictures – some as close as another town in Southern California, others as exotic as China and Albania – and was reminded that my writing was richer for each experience. But it wasn’t just the places that fired up my imagination. By far, it was the people I met that made the journey unforgettable. Here are the five groups I seek out on every trip because meeting them always inspires my work.
I love this time of year. Christmas. All the scurrying about, sending out cards, decorating our houses, shopping, cooking, baking —you know what I’m talking about.
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