Friday, 2 August 2013

Friends, Both Fictional and Real

When I started my first book four years ago, to say I knew nothing about writing, would be a gross understatement.

I remember sitting in the writing group, hearing the term ‘protagonist’ tossed about, and I had no idea what they were talking about. But I wanted to learn.

I made notes at every meeting. If anyone reading this knows me, they’d be shaking their head and saying ‘of course she made notes’. I wrote down any words I didn’t understand and looked them all up once I was home.

Given this lack of knowledge, what made me think I could write a book? I don’t know, but write a book I did.

I had my brother’s notes from his creative writing course, some ‘how to’ books and a copy of Writer’s Digest magazine. More importantly, I had an idea, and I had the drive, even if I was lacking in experience and confidence.

There was something else I had in my favour, or rather someone, my friend and neighbour. She suffered through the writing of that first book, word for word and page by page, right along side of me.

I wrote the first few chapters, printed them off and gave them to her to read. After, we sat down with a cup of tea and talked about what I had written. This became a routine, the sharing, the discussion, the tea, or sometimes, maybe a glass of wine. She was my sounding board, as she listened to my struggles with plot, characterization et cetera, with unwavering encouragement.

We talked about the process of writing, almost as much as we talked about my story. I was an eager student, wanting to share everything I learned. And she loved education, her career having been spent in the public school system.

Midway through the book, I remember sitting at her place, as we rehashed the new chapters, talking about what Katie, my female 'protagonist', was up to.

I started to laugh. “Look at us,” I said. “We’re sitting here gossiping about this fictional character like she’s someone real, someone we know.”

We were invested in this young woman’s struggle, for she had become very real to us. For me as I wrote, and for her as she read, we were emotionally involved in her life, her heartbreak and her desire to start over, to find her place.

At that point in my life I was also trying to find my place, and needed something, some outlet to keep me busy and challenge my need to be creative.

For more than thirty years, I had been a dedicated nurse. A career I lost, suddenly, due to the worsening of my chronic illness.

Writing became my solace, it filled that void in my life the way nothing else could. As pain and fatigue are with me constantly, writing is something I can do even when I feel at my worst.

I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you, to my friend, Joyce. I don’t know if I would have finished that first book without your support.

That experience was unique, and was not to be repeated. I've gained confidence, and though we still discuss what I’m writing, I only give her a manuscript to read once the first draft is complete. She’s one of my regular readers now, and I prefer to have her feedback after she’s read the book at her own pace, instead of having it doled out in pieces.

She once told me she doesn’t read with the same sense of enjoyment as she did before. She reads with a more critical eye now, looking at the details and how the book has been written.

I think she’s reading more like a writer.



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