Lost Dogs and Writing

Some of you have heard part of this before. Several years ago my son asked if he could go hiking with a friend. He also wanted to take along his dog, Arwen, who was not yet full-grown. My response was yes, with the qualifier that they could not go up the Lookout Point trail because it was too steep for Arwen at her age.

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At obedience class

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Still my favorite photo of Arwen

So of course, being young and immortal, that’s exactly where they went. And they also went bushwhacking off trail. Along the way Arwen ended up stuck on a boulder outcropping. Both us mothers filled out backpacks with equipment but it quickly became obvious that a rescue attempt would be dangerous.

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View from Lookout Point trail

To make a long story short, we spent a horrible, sleepless night, imagining Arwen out there alone. With the sunrise though, rock climbers and friends gathered and she was rescued.

The boys of course were grounded.

The fellow-mother came up with a great idea afterward when we were calmer. She asked each of us to write our version of what happened. It was wonderful to see the same drama from different points of view and to see what each of us found important enough to record.

My son wrote his in story form. I was thrilled. A writer was born!

Then nothing.

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Until a couple of years ago when he asked me a question about a specific piece of writing craft. I tried not to scare him off with my excitement. I simply sent him home with this GIANT three-ring binder full of resources on craft.

Last night he asked me to edit something he’d written on world-building for a science fiction piece he’s working on.

I calmly assured him I’d be more than happy to give him an honest opinion.

I managed to wait until he pulled out of the driveway before celebrating. I think I had the piece edited and sent off before he got home.

There’s a fine line between supporting him and pushing something on him that he may not want. Or overwhelming him.

But I keep going back to that story he wrote when Arwen was lost in the woods. Little does he know I still have it. Maybe some day I’ll point to it and say ‘this was the beginning’.

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A Beginning Writer

When I facilitated a writer’s group I collected resources into a giant three-ring binder. One of those hefty things that, when full, needed a commercial style refrigerator dolly with canvas straps to move. Or so it seemed when carrying it.

I used it to find topics to discuss in the group and then when the group ended, I used it to collect dust. Lots of dust. And cobwebs. And desiccated bug casings.

Then a few months ago my son made the mistake of asking me about plot development. I tried to hide my inner writer who was screaming ‘My son writes!!!’. I tried to not overwhelm him because it was obvious he was very hesitant about coming out of the writing closet. A feeling I fully understood. So I remained calm and answered his question.

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Now twenty and writing

Then sent him home with the cobwebs and dead bugs. He was actually thrilled with the notebook.

It got me wondering why I didn’t keep it dusted because it really did have a lot of good information. Here’s what I realized.

My source for information in writing is now found within fellow writers and the internet. But especially those writers. I can go to them with any question. I can dump drafts on them and beg for polishing help.

And I don’t have to blow cobwebs off of them.

Then I started wondering what I did for help when I was very young and writing in secret. There was no internet back then. I knew no writers because I barely understood that I was one. I didn’t know the library had resources. I was nine years old.

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Dressed up for Easter. There was paper in that purse.

I just wrote. Stories for myself. Eventually I shared them with my closest friends at slumber parties where we would laugh ourselves silly over stories we’d written. Later I attended a writer’s conference (huge mistake; didn’t write for months afterwards). And I finally discovered a fellow writer in someone I worked with and the writer’s group grew from that.

But the important thing is that I simply wrote. Alone, with no true understanding of what was going on. Not even a true understanding of why.

I know now that resources and support are invaluable. Not only to learn the craft but to share enthusiasm and inspiration. Whether the support comes from a few friends laughing in all the right places, a spouse who will clean the house, or a writer’s group that pushes you out of your comfort level. Or even if the only support is the quiet of moments alone with paper and pen.

In some ways I wish I’d been braver sooner and that someone had blown cobwebs off a notebook for me. Yet at the same time, I cherish those young years of sitting at a desk with ruled paper and pencil, words pouring forth in a horrible tangle with no concept of story structure or character development.

Just me and the words.