THIS IS A SMALL SECTION FROM THE TALK I GAVE ON WRITING AT THE SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA WRITERS' CONFERENCE:
A little over a year ago my husband and I had a baby. Well, let’s be honest. I had the baby. While I was having the baby, my husband was having a nap, texting friends, and napping. Sure, we had been up all night. And yes, by the time my husband was quietly dozing, he had driven me cross town deftly avoiding Los Angeles traffic while I was yelling things like “CONTRACTION!! Pull over, pull over!!!" and "Why don’t you do this part?!” at the top of my lungs a la a Seth Rogan and Katherrine Heigel romantic comedy.
By the time my husband was catching a few Z’s, I was lost in a land of epidural, watching the "Avengers" on a loop, after having endured 8 hours of unmedicated back-labor. For those that don’t know, labor pains on a scale of 1-10 are a 10, back-labor pains on a scale of 1-10 are a 1017. Our modern dance birthing coach had instructed me to “dance through the labor pains,” but “if you’re in back labor,” she said, “get the epidural.”
I got the epidural.
What does this have to do with writing? Well, you writers might call the afore-told story “allegorical,” especially since I am now able to compare the labor of love that is birthing a baby to the labor of love that is birthing a book. But I’m not going to put you through that comparison. So never mind.
However, this story does have some bearing on my writing career. I don’t just like talking about my 26-hour labor, being naked, and what happens when your epidural stops working—twice. While my epidural was working, I was also working. Hooked up to IV’s and waiting for my little bundle of joy to appear in this world for the first time, I was emailing between my literary agent and my then future editor about contract negotiations for my book. It’s the sit-com ending to an almost six-year journey to seeing my book proudly displayed on a bookstore shelf—and not because I put it there.
While other kids were playing kick-ball outside, climbing trees, or practicing their "Dukes of Hazzard" slide across the car moves, I was always inside watching the "Dukes of Hazzard"—or writing. Instead of saving up to buy my three story Barbie Dream House complete with working elevator, I saved up to buy a typewriter. This is what you writer folks would call “foreshadowing.” I taught myself how to type and would pretend I was a savvy dame working for some fancy 1940’s magazine. (I may have also stayed inside to watch a little too many old movies on TV.) I loved hearing the sound of the keys clicking under my fingers.
I felt like a real writer.
The best advice one of my best friends (who also happens to be a writer) ever gave me was to just “write.” At first, I thought it was kind of silly. I mean, real writers are published, or are paid, or have long flowing grey hair and sweaters with patches on their elbows, or something that proves they are a writer. Because, when I wrote, I was just sitting in my office typing. I certainly didn’t feel like a “writer.” Writers looked smarter (I can’t add without using my fingers), and drank coffee (I hate coffee), and stayed up late at night discussing important topics like the war in the Middle East, or the stock market, or why the Dallas Cowboys need Jerry Jones to quit—all things I know nothing about. So, just WRITING didn’t make me feel like a writer.
I didn’t even begin to kind of start feeling like a writer until I realized I had to create a schedule that worked for me—I worked for two hours in the morning. I ate lunch. I took a walk. I wrote for another two hours. And that was my writing day. I began to realize that some of my best ideas came when I wasn’t writing—in the shower, in the car, watching the Duke boys. More importantly, I didn’t begin to feel like a writer until I started writing for myself.