Back when I was a kid (as my kids sometimes say…), I used to simply sit down and write. There’s a carefree joy in that. Writing was both a growth experience and a release of sorts, as I learned to have fun with words. I spent those early years figuring out my creative happy place. In short stories, essays and poetry, I played with piecing thoughts and words together. The more that I wrote, the more I embraced the challenge of building, stretching and weaving ideas, as I searched for my voice as a writer.
I didn’t worry about things such as story structure, writing craft, character development, world building, plotting…until I decided to take my writing seriously and dove in headfirst.
As I mentioned before, The Metzlingen Saga started with one scene. I saw him – Matthias – crouched down at the edge of a river. I saw the sun reflecting on the water and heard it rushing around the half soaked stones. I saw the overgrown valley, heard the wind whipping through the naked trees, and felt the coolness within the shadows of the mountains rising behind him.
I knew that I was ready to write. I just needed to start putting all of the pieces together. Simple, right?
In a way it was and in a way it wasn’t.
Being in Germany at the start of this journey was a gift. Our family started taking small trips and seeing things firsthand. Pictures are phenomenally helpful when writing – I have a vision board filled with hundreds of pictures for inspiration – but experiencing something firsthand takes things to another level. One of our first trips was to Schloss Lichtenstein, a castle situated on a limestone escarpment overlooking the Echaz river valley, and I was absolutely hooked. I’d traveled abroad before, but seeing things through a writer’s eye this time made me look at them differently.
Inspiration was literally everywhere. History was literally everywhere. The details become almost intoxicating and I started taking even more photos and even more notes. One thought led to another, which led to another question, or to some other discovery altogether (Hello happy research rabbit holes)
I started trying to imagine my characters in these kinds of places. Nestled into this nook, what did they see? What did they hear? How did they build these places? What materials did they use? What methods? What did it feel like to live here? How did they spend their time? What were their challenges? What were their joys?
I was eager to begin and as the words lined up on the page it only fed the desire to keep on going. The desire to fulfill a lifelong dream was never an issue. Neither was motivation. Organization on the other hand…well that all came later.
Writing, for me, also requires discipline. Like many other things, if I wanted to be productive, I had to be consistent. If I wanted to see continual progress, my writing had to become a habit.
When we arrived in Germany, it was really the first time that all five of my kids were in school. My twins began a few hours a day at a German Kindergarten and I dedicated that time to writing. Sometimes I made great strides forward; other times I stared at the screen. Writing is a process with many moving parts – writing, researching, reading, editing, rewriting, plotting, planning, more researching, more rewriting – but if I didn’t get into that chair, if I didn’t remain consistent and dedicated, the story simply wouldn’t be told.
Years later, I still do my best to keep that routine. Once I get the kids to school, I get to work on one part of the process or another. Today, I am eagerly (and nervously, honestly) waiting on an email from my editor. I’m using that fear though and transforming it into fuel, as I attend to other parts of the publication process that need to be completed.
Fear, and self doubt, are a constant battle with writing. “But I have so much to do…I should be…I can’t do this…This is too much of a hot mess…I’m scared to share this…What if I fail?”
I won’t. I’ve already won. I’ve worked really, really hard, and I’ve written that novel that I wanted to write. I may be stressed, I’ll fully admit it….BUT…that youthful joy I always found in writing lives on. Life is good. And I’ve got a lot of stories left in me to tell. 🙂