Note: This blog post was originally posted Thursday, May 12. See Day 5 to read about my travails with Blogger and their accidentally deleting my blog...
There were two key motivators for me to become serious about my writing. The first is my father. About two years ago he started to become serious about his writing. Last year he became even more dedicated as he was officially retired. He had always spoken about writing and his love for it, a passion he passed on to me. He had even completed a manuscript in the mid 1990's for the LDS Fiction Market called "The Traitor's Son". He had worked on that manuscript for almost 2 decades, first on paper and typewriter then in a DOS program, then finally in various versions of word. The first time I saw it printed off, it was on those old dot matrix printers that took ages, assaulted the ears, and each page was connected and fed via tear off strips on the sides with holes in them. It took hours to print a single copy.
He has three WIPs now. One of them earned a first place last year in a local Young Adult First Chapter contest. He had submitted several chapters to a contest associated with the LDS StoryMakers Conference he had signed and up for, which was May 5-7. On Friday, April 8th, he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). The next day, he was in the hospital to begin treatment. He's still there being treated, and no one knows how it will turn out. When he finally found time to write and was starting to focus on what he loved and felt the inner drive for, he faces a large delay, even the possibility of not seeing any of it be published. I know he is happy that he was just able to spend the time writing. In the past two years he's made some great friends. It has not been time wasted. And honestly, his growing enthusiasm helped get me excited.
I am not one who particularly fears death, though there are certainly ways I prefer not to end my life, such as tortured in an Iranian prison. I have taken steps to ensure my wife and son are cared for financially should I perish, and we have had candid conversations about the matter so mental preparation is as good as it can reasonably be. This may sound rather macabre, but when I was a financial advisor in Houston I saw the consequences of those who didn't plan ahead. But, and this sounds cliche, the illness of my father made me realize that I don't want to wait until I am retired to find joy in writing. Some things I have no problem avoiding so that I can be there for my family: skydiving, swimming with sharks, etc. I'm the main breadwinner and life-insurance doesn't cover death in a lot of those situations, plus there is no replacing a father for a young family. But writing... what reason can I give to not do so? I do not want to look back and say "I could have done it, but I spent all my down time playing games or watching movies." In fact, it is my concern about my legacy should I die young that is helping motivate me more. I hope that my wife and son, if I were to pass away, would be able to have something solid, tangible, like a book, that has an element of their father in it. After four years of barely touching writing for fun, I know it's time to get going.
The second motivator was the LDS Storymakers Conference this last weekend. It was, to put it simply, spectacular. My dad asked if I would like to go in his place and take notes and audio recordings for him. I did it mostly for him, but what I got out of it was mostly for me. It helped take the inner yearnings and impressions I had and gave them direction and purpose. I learned more than I thought possible about the world of writing, agents, and publishing. It gave me several new book ideas, made me aware of ways I could improve what I have already written, and helped motivate me to achieve excellence going forward. In fact, a blog was one of the aspects I had never supposed was important before the conference, but now I know better and here I am.
I attended the Thursday Boot Camp. It was the first time I had let anyone read my writing. Truth be told, I had no idea I was supposed to be bringing anything until about 8:00 PM Wednesday night. Before then I had been acting under the assumption I was bringing 10-15 pages of my dad's work to be critiqued for him, only to find out I was mistaken. I had only two pages of my thriller written, and feverishly wrote another eight pages that night and morning. As it turned out, everyone had fantastic writing and mine was well received for its emotional impact and great first page. Most of the corrections made were typographical (I didn't proof read, no time), which really encouraged me. In fairness, I had been researching the book for nearly two years. I'm a researching fiend, and my main problem is to know when to say when and begin to write. Boot Camp helped me to do just that. A shout out to Gregg Luke, who was the leader of the table and to everyone else who shared their writings that day. All of you were awesome and helped me greatly.
While there is much I could mention about the rest of the conference, I will leave it the following: The MC, Sarah Eden, was fantastic. I cannot offer enough praise for how great she did, supposedly even on her first time. The organizers and volunteers of the conference also did great, though early on I was a little confused on some aspects. I imagine less than others, as I am known for being forthright and outgoing, so when I had questions I took matters into my own hands to find the people I needed with the answers. The classes helped tremendously, and two instructors in particular: David Wolverton/Farland and Traci Abramson. David opened my mind to what real world-building is, the concept of reader resonance, and was the key instigator in giving me solid direction on how to press forward with writing (Habits of Successful Writers class). Traci, who writes thrillers, was an excellent instructor and had great elements on pacing that are directly applicable to me. That said, I learned from every class with every instructor, and the panels I attended were equally engaging.
This post is now rather long, so I'll leave it with this question... for those who work a lot as I do and care for your family, how do you find time to write? It will be the focus of my post tomorrow, as it is my biggest roadblock right now.