Guest post: The writer and the tortoise

by Michelle Jayne

I turn 50 years old this year and for the first time in my life, I consider myself a writer.

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I was first published when I was 10 years old. Oh, those were heady days. My sixth grade teacher sent my poem to the local paper and I got my first byline. And then there were the interviews, the bestseller lists, the endless supply of candy and gum. Hey, I was 10 – my fantasy writer life hadn’t quite matured.

The intervening decades are notable for a lack of publication and several long stretches of not writing at all. It’s now the time of life when I’m supposed to be regretful and write some sort of bucket list. I should wish that I had started this whole writing thing earlier. I should wring my hands at the wasted hours and moments when I could have been composing that bestseller.

Instead, I joined the army, traveled, got out of the army, went to college, worked mediocre jobs, got married, had a child, and then, five years ago, I decided that it was time to write. It wasn’t a cold start – I’d been writing newsletters, web content, and business correspondence for nearly all of my working life, but it felt new.

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I always joke that in any fable I’m the tortoise. I’m a slow mover, but I keep moving.

Too often, especially in a society that values wunderkinds and regurgitates all those “success under 30” lists, it’s easy to be discouraged. The thing is, when I sit down to write now, I know that this is the way it had to go down. I had too many interests, too many paths to try out, too many options to test. I wasn’t ready to devote myself to a single vocation.

There are people who know right from the get-go who they want to be. I envied them for a long time. I looked askance at my dilettante habits of barely mastering one thing before I moved onto another. It took me many years to value my interest in practically everything. I didn’t know at the time that I was building my personal writing encyclopedia. I have never uttered the words “I don’t know what to write about” and I’ve never been able to use writer’s block as a catchall excuse.

I’ve learned a lot over the last five years of writing regularly. What I learned most is that every writer has to find their own pace, work habits, environment, and process. Here are mine:

When I write

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I write at all times of the day, but it has become abundantly clear that I do my best writing early in the morning. I have a friend who writes well into the night, at a time when my brain is no good for anything but a pillow. I get up at 4 am, while my husband and daughter are still sleeping. After a cup of tea and feeding the cats (they love to snack), I can get the core of my post or chapter done and edit it throughout the day.

Where I write

In the days before I lived in a house, writing at any table did the trick. Now, I am fortunate to have a study where I write and do just about everything else, which can be distracting. I generally have to clear my desk, all piles of paperwork out of sight, in order to focus. Many writers love coffee shops, but I prefer silence. There’s a quiet room at my local library that I sometimes use. I spent a lot of time waiting for my daughter at orchestra practice and finally bought a laptop. I find quiet corners, outside benches, any place where I can focus.

How I write

As my penmanship is atrocious, I only use longhand for notes, which I hope I’ll be able to read later. I start off with a premise and then write until it is something quite different. Writing is a process of discovery and I never know where I’m going until I get there. I will read a piece over and over until the rhythm feels right.

Why I write

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I’m a writer because I’m a reader. There is nothing more amazing to me than reaching the end of the book and realizing the writer was a magician who drew me in and held me captive with a story.

As is the case for many writers, writing is my way of processing a complex world – inner and outer. I’m pragmatic about it, though. I will likely never make much money from it. I pitched my novel to several agents at a conference a few months ago and was thrilled to get interest, but I still have a lot of work to get done before submission.

I turn 50 this year and I am a writer. It’s about time.

michelle-jayne

Guest writer Michelle Jayne is a blogger, veteran, spouse, pet flunky and trained flautist living with her family in Minnesota, USA. She has a degree in Soviet and East European Studies and is currently finishing Children of the Fragile Air, a literary novel. Michelle blogs at The Green Study and can be found on Twitter and Facebook

Via #daily-prompt Snack

Unstuck is always on the lookout for fresh perspectives and kickass writing. If you’d like to do a guest post for this blog, send an email to TheUnstuckBlog@gmail.com

Writing is a lonely vocation and people who take it up need so much more encouragement. Unstuck is showing some love to bloggers who are all about the craft with a list of the top 10 posts on writing. For your reading pleasure.

  1. Author interview – Maesa Delta (Too full to write)
  2. What makes a good writer? AM Bradley
  3. The writer-reader bond (Meet yua higher self)
  4. The joys of being a writer – Rayne Abigail Morales
  5. The writer, the novel, the ending – Paul
  6. Writer’s block and how to overcome it – Lois May
  7. 10 things a young writer should know – Vincent Mars
  8. Writer ups and downs – Deborah O Carroll
  9. Can male writers satisfy women’s hottest romance fantasies? Katya Evangeline
  10. Are writers allowed to express political opinions? Allison Maruska

As a self-confessed foodie and former food writer, I am drawn to epicurean posts. Here are some of my favourites on the theme “snack” from the vast platter on offer at Daily prompts:

 

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Guest post: The writer and the tortoise

  1. Nice article! I’ve been feeling a bit discouraged recently (having just finished year 1 of university with still no idea about my future) and have been a bit envious of the famous people younger than me who have “made it”: become olympic athletes, actors, authors, singers etc. Thanks for showing how when it comes to writing, age is just a number and you are never “too old” to get started.

    I’m not a writer now per say, more of a novice blogger struggling to get ideas down on paper (or online as the case may be), but I’ll keep trodding away like the tortoise and see where that gets me!

    Also, thanks for linking to my post (it’s the “Snacking on dry squid – The pondering papaya” one)! Really appreciate it and glad you liked it enough to include it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rebecca, your post got me thinking of my personal favourite things to munch on! Quite the temptation since I am on the keto diet right now and not snacking at all 🙂
      Keep trodding away like the tortoise you must. As Haruki Murakami says in his brilliant book ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’, it does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.

      Like

    1. Everything in good time. I am a 34 year old myself who wanted to be a novelist since childhood but ended up writing ersatz. Writing books is still a dream… this blog, and people like Michelle make me believe it will happen once I take the necessary steps. All the best with your writing Lex

      Like

  2. Hey kids,
    Thanx for this Michelle and Kasmin! I working on my first crime fiction novel…finished my MFA in December, but, tipping the iceberg at the high end of the age spectrum, was not given the same type of “luv” and encouragement in my program as my twenty and thirty something cohorts….so, yes, I am behind the eight ball, so to speak.
    But hey, I have a voice too! Wud write a guest blog for you here all about it!

    Like

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