Friday, December 5, 2014

Hello to the Written Word (#ThinkKit Day5)

Today's #ThinkKit prompt:

What did you say goodbye to this year? Was it a bad habit? A '94 hatchback? Or something less tangible? How did you feel the day after? The week after?
Or! What did you say hello to this year? Did it enrich your life...or detract? A new favorite possession? A tattoo? Did you decide that your life was missing something, or did you just fall into new-ness?
Share your aloha!
There have been a lot of hellos and goodbyes in my life this year, some of which are too personal to get all bloggy about. (And yes, I actually am working on a new tattoo, but it's not quite done yet.) But one thing I said a huge "hello" to this year was the written word. 
I've always loved books, ever since I was a little kid. The first award I ever won was the "Bookworm Award" in kindergarten, which was a nice way of saying I spent all my time hiding out with whatever book I could get my hands on instead of building blocks or playing Barbies with the other kids (I'll blame my social awkwardness on that). I got in trouble in junior high school for reading books during class instead of listening to the teacher. On particularly mean math teacher nicknamed me Jane "I don't know what's going on" Ire (ok, he used my real name, but still) because I got caught one too many times turning the pages to find out who the real murderer was instead of learning my multiplication tables or whatever math is 7th grade-appropriate. What can I say? The Fear Street Saga novels were way more intriguing than... whatever it was I was supposed to be learning about. 
I have a ridiculous collection of books, and that's after having made the effort to pare it down. Half Price Books is my kryptonite, so I try not to go in there without a chaperone. But even with my love of books, it's always easier to buy the book than to make time to read it. 
That's why this year I signed up for #Read26Indy, with the goal of reading 26 books this year. I thought it was be so easy to hit that goal and go way beyond it, but I've still got several more books to go if I'm going to get there. Life as an ostensible grown-up has so much going on that it's difficult to make time to read. It's even more difficult to make time to write. But the challenge has still been a great reminder to take time to read. 
One of the many barriers to reading

When I went to college, way back in 1999, I started as an English major. It was my dream to write novels for a living. I'd never really wanted to do anything else. But what I soon learned was that I didn't have enough life experience to write anything that I was really proud of, and I transitioned over to a different major. It also helped that I was obsessed with sci-fi and in my first creative writing class, on the first day, the instructor declared all genre fiction to not be "real" literature. I dropped the class immediately. Years later, I was working in state government administration, and then nonprofit management, but the desire to write didn't go away. So I decided that this year, I would actually do it. 
I've found writing to be incredibly scary. I've wanted to do it for so long, but haven't, because I was so afraid that when I actually went to write that it would be terrible. I would rather have had the dream of writing than the reality of it, because if I tried, and failed, I wouldn't even have the dream anymore. But that's no way to live. I don't want to get to my later years and regret never have given it a shot. 
So I took some writing classes through the Indiana Writers Center. A couple were one-day seminars by local authors (Ben H. Winters and Maurice Broaddus), each of which was inspiring in its own way. Then I took a class on writing YA fiction, because the novel in my head was meant for a teenage audience. It was once a week class for a little over a month, and it was taught by local YA author Mike Mullins. I found it incredible that these authors were living in Indianapolis, making their living full-time by writing. I didn't think that could be done. And these were talented authors! Ben Winters's novel Countdown City even won the Phillip K. Dick Award for Distinguished Science Fiction. And he was local! I was in. I loved my class with Mike, and one of the best things to come out of it was the writing group I joined with three other students in the class. 
When they emailed me and asked me to join, I was jazzed. I hadn't been particularly outspoken in my class - I was nervous to read anything I'd written or to share it with anyone. So the fact that they thought to invite me totally made my year. And we've been meeting on and off ever since, sharing pieces of things we've written, meeting up to set our laptops up in a restaurant or coffee shop and drinking beer, chatting, and getting a little writing done. They've helped me work out some of the initial bugs in my story, and it means a lot knowing that they're there for me to bounce more ideas off of in the future. And I love reading their stories and watching them evolve. It's been scary putting the words on paper, and then giving them to people for them to critique, but it's also exhilarating. I have a large chunk of my novel in it's first draft, and it needs a lot of work still, but I know it's going to get done, and I'm so glad I finally said "aloha" to the challenge of putting words on paper. It's been so worth it. 
**Thank you to my writing group. You are all amazing women and amazing writers!**