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How Writing Has Helped Me

Three Lessons I’ve Learned From Writing My Books and Why You Should Try It Too

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I’ve written intermittently throughout my life, from an urge now and then to capture an image, a thought. Slowly that urge expanded. I was in my early twenties, co-owner of a Harvard Square restaurant, when I felt the need to write a whimsical dictionary of music for children. One of the waitresses was a gifted artist and together we completed a wonderful little book, The Yellow Cello. The pages still rest in my filing cabinet but that youthful feeling of pride stayed with me. About a decade later, divorced, with my son away at camp, I had no responsibilities to anyone, so one day I sat in front of my enormous red IBM Selectric typewriter and wrote a romance, Kiss of Fire. Writing it was fun and extremely freeing. Finishing it astounded me. It’s in a shoebox now but that isn’t what matters. I had written over two hundred fifty pages. I loved myself for finishing.  

In 2005 a friend insisted I take a Method Writing course. It was a sad time, having lost my father and then my dear former mother-in-law. The course opened up my world in ways I couldn’t imagine. I began taking my writing seriously, because class members took my writing seriously. It was exactly what I needed. A collection of short stories followed, When Any Kind of Love Will Do. Writing it helped me through those days. I developed discipline I previously lacked. I felt driven to write and it was thrilling to me.

Unexpectedly dark stories followed, one after another. Up at seven, writing until eleven, then real estate agent for the rest of day until one day I knew the book was finished. To realize that was an enormous emotion. Aside from the pride, the relief and joy of it was the sense of myself growing, both as a writer and as a more complete human being.  

I am fortunate to be a lightning fast typist. I type as fast as I think and then I rewrite. And rewrite. Sometimes in the re-reading, my eye scans a sentence that startles me. I realize I wrote it. A perfect sentence, and it was mine. That’s when I understood how a powerful sentence is stunning.   

Writing is cathartic. It allows us to share experiences and the most intimate of thoughts and emotion. It invites readers to live vicariously and escape into the writer’s world, and who doesn’t need to escape now and then? Especially now. 

Over a year ago I started a monthly reading series in a dive bar. Hearing others’ stories helps me as a writer. I want my work to be worthy of their time, too. Now, during Covid, it is a Zoom reading and in an odd way it seems more intimate to share our tales during a pandemic. We are alive, we are still writing and how nice it is to still be able to share. It is a gift and I am so grateful for it and every writer out there, writing and surviving and wanting to share.

There are three things that writing has taught me:

  • A good story helps you grab experiences and enjoy the ride. If you have something to say, say it.  Write it. It’s an incredible experience to see those feelings and thoughts come alive. It opens us to the world within. 
  • Carry a notepad and pen. Keep one by your bed.  Write down thoughts, images that touch you, your feelings.  You will be amazed at how rich life is. Suddenly, even mundane details seem significant. Writing can be the most freeing experience in the world. Whether your goal is to publish or not, the reflection is worth it.
  • Follow your heart. Your gut. Don’t fight the process.  My most recent book, A Vanishing in Greenwich Village, started out as a mystery but finished as a romance.  I’m a romantic at heart, so I guess it was inevitable. 
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