Today I’d like to welcome Laurie Boris. Aside from Laurie’s many talents, she is one of those individuals who makes you comfortable right at the get go. Laurie is a true pleasure.
A lot of writers talk about the moment they “knew” of their calling to the page. Not just the time they decided to refer to themselves as writers, perhaps a little shyly testing the waters at a gathering of friends and hoping nobody would laugh or start in with the maddening questions we are all asked: Are you published? Do you make any money at that? Do you know Oprah? No, I’m talking about that crystalline instant when it comes together in our little hearts that yes, this is what we are and this is what we do, and that we might as well give in or go crazy fighting it. Maybe for some it was winning a contest, getting a piece published, or catching the first glimpse of a debut novel in the carton that hopefully hadn’t been slashed with a boxcutter in a heated attempt to get it open.
Clues smacked me around for years before I finally admitted it to myself. Normally focused and detail-oriented, I’d missed a familiar turn on the road because I’d been daydreaming about characters and stories. Twice, I nearly burned the house down because I’d been so deep into writing that I hadn’t heard the smoke alarm. On several occasions, I’d lost sleep because the protagonist HAD to tell me something in the middle of the night. Some mornings, I’d wake up with the perfect chapter opening in my head and rush to an input device before I lost the words. And I turned into a sullen crank when I couldn’t get to the computer to play with my fictional people.
Really, I should have seen it coming.
My moment of truth came during an argument with my husband. I was sitting on the bed and he stood over me. A vein bulged in his forehead. I don’t even remember what the fight was about anymore. Just that words we would later regret spun out like Chinese throwing stars. At one point I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. Some piece of me had floated to the ceiling and was watching us argue, noting our gestures, the body language, counting the beats of that still-throbbing vein. Our speech crafted itself into word balloons complete with the proper punctuation. I wasn’t even in the argument anymore; I was an outsider, watching and listening to two characters having it out.
A bit stunned by this, I think, I zoomed back into my body, but my responses still had end quotes and dialogue tags. Even as they came out of my mouth, a piece of my imagination was thinking, How would she look when she said that? And how would he respond to…this? Another part of my mind was editing. No. Strike the dialogue tag. Furrow the brow, clench the jaw…show, don’t tell.
Eventually we wound down and he stalked off to recoup. “That’s it,” I muttered to myself. “I’m doomed. I might as well admit my problem and research twelve-step programs.”
At that point in my journey toward writerhood, I’d won a couple of contests and had published nothing but a personal essay in a newsletter, a short story on a website, and a passel of random blog entries. The big Kahuna, however, sat in my closet: manuscripts for five novels and the hundreds of rejection slips I’d received from literary agents and publishers. Part of me didn’t want to admit that they existed: it felt like a mountain of failure.
But following that argument, I felt a sea change in how I regarded myself. Writing wasn’t a hobby. It wasn’t a creative pursuit to fill my spare time. I knew the income potential for the average writer, so I wouldn’t let myself call it a career. No. This was a calling. Okay, it wasn’t like the priesthood or anything. Charlton Heston hadn’t descended from the mountain with tablets for me, bushes weren’t burning, and Oprah wasn’t returning my calls. It felt like a quieter calling. A purpose, let’s call it.
The rejections didn’t weigh as heavily then. Some were even amusing. I stopped looking at those sneering pieces of paper as barometers of my worth and called them out for what they were: a subjective evaluation of my ability to make money for whomever I’d sent the query to. If I could learn something from an individual note, I took note. Otherwise, I decided to move on and succumb to my fate, to admit that I was powerless to control this compulsion.
Hi. I’m Laurie, and I’m a writer.
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