How I Found the Magic of Writing


I’m still dreaming on my blogging year for 2016. I sure hope the muse gives me a clue soon because here is my last post from the reader columnist gig with The News Tribune:

In the summer of 2006, I vacationed at Seaside, Oregon, with my husband and young son. I had finished my degree that year and felt driven to do something with my writing since I finally had “enough” education.

I had dreamed of being a writer for years. Before I could read, I marveled at what it would be like to make squiggles on a paper that others could understand. It looked like fairy magic.

But, aside from my middle school creative writing teacher Mr. Keaton, no one asked me to write stories. When choosing a profession, I never heard of writer shortages or a demand for story care workers.

The push to create still grew greater than my doubts, and I found myself at a bookstore in Seaside, confessing my dreams to an independent bookseller. I am still grateful to her for taking the time to smile and point me to a shelf of books on writing.

Like getting married, having kids, or adopting new kittens, the path to becoming a published writer is both nowhere as good as I dreamed and fantastically better in ways I never imagined.

It’s not exactly fairy magic. Writing means waking up early every morning and sitting down to work whether I feel like it or not. Many days I don’t feel like it until I get myself moving.

More often than not, the words won’t flow, and I have to write garbage in order to write anything. I’ve also been at this early morning routine since 2006. If I had known how long it takes to get any good at all, I’m sure I never would have started.

At the same time, I’ve made discoveries that mean more than instant success or extra sleep.

I have met published authors who won the Newbery Award and writing teachers who delighted me with their blogs and classes. I’ve also worked with unpublished authors who write stories I fall in love with. I get to watch their tales evolve into works more like the polished ones I find on bookshelves.

I constantly search for new stories and pieces of the stories I am already working on. I started this column a week before it was due, putting words down each morning. Then, as I went through my day, ideas came flying at me, calling out to me when I was jogging in my neighborhood or standing in front of a class.

Because of this, I know joy will come to me when I least expect it. It’s a wonderful way to live.

Best of all, writing has given me courage. Developing the strength to sit down, string words together and then share them made me grow in ways nothing else could have.

Yes, I get rejected. Sometimes it hurts a little and sometimes a lot. But, in truth, people rejected me before I committed to writing and submitting. Boyfriends dumped me, good friends moved far away and even my children refused to give me hugs because they would look uncool in front of their friends.

I will keep writing and loving even though success is uncertain and even though my best relationships carry risks. After all, sometimes I do succeed and make a connection with another person.

That’s the magic.

Read more here:

The Little Things: How Small Rewards Lead to Big Projects That Get Done


Writing a novel takes a ridiculously long time. So do many other things that are incredibly worthwhile like raising children, practicing for a concert, or knitting an afghan. (I hope to finish this for my son before he gets too cool for it!)

Q's blanket

To keep myself going, I create small rewards for myself as I go along.

My rational grown up serious brain shakes her finger at me and says fussy things like:

“You shouldn’t need a reward! The work is its own reward! What are you? Some kind of kid who needs a treat for every little thing?”

To which my creative kiddo self says (in a tiny little voice as she kicks the gravel): “Yes?”

More and more of the time I block out the fussy voice and give myself treats.

A few weeks back, I finished a rough draft after about 11 months of work. The book’s not done of course. There will be revising and revising and then more revising. But I resisted the urge to push on and made a treat for myself.

I went to the Seymour Botanical Conservatory on my lunch break that very day. Here’s my Facebook post from that day:

I was typing along this morning when I realized I had finished the first draft of my middle grade novel. To celebrate, I went to Seymour Conservatory today and shelled out the 3 bucks to go inside. The lady there gave me a Ponderosa lemon tree leaf and an Allspice tree leaf. They smell delicious! Plus, I saw another work in progress. I’m trying guess what the chainsaw artist will create. Something with a dolphin…

I also bought glass earrings from the Hilltop Artists inside the conservatory that day. Every time I put them on, I think about finishing my novel and about supporting some other artist out there as a celebration.

For my next bigger reward I’ll buy a print from Summer Kozisek when I finish my focused reading program.

Something about giving money to other artists feels like a call to my own muse.

Other ideas I’ve seen for tiny rewards include keeping calendars or making a small celebration at dinner. I especially like Steven Pressfield’s idea of writing on a paper wall calendar and using check marks and the end of each day. It’s so visual and kinesthetic that it really appeals to me.

I’m scanning the shelves for new wall calendars since it’s almost 2015 and my current cupcake calendar is almost done.

Rewards, after all, need to come daily, not only at the end of big projects.

My treats are marvelous. Sometimes they are even the whole point. Not only does it keep that little gravel kicking kid happy, but the finger shaking lady gets happier, too, when she realizes more gets done in the end.

Besides. What fun is it to be creative without joy? The careless driver at the intersection in front of my work might hit me tomorrow before the novel gets done, the kids are raised or the afghan is knit. I’d like to tell St. Hildegard that I loved the gift of life while I was here.