Friday, March 16, 2007

Reading and Writing - Meet The Muse and The Mentor

I believe a writer’s life starts long before their desire to put words on paper. I think it starts when we fall in love with reading. My grandmother loved books and taught me to read when my teacher said I’d have to wait another year. In those days, left handed people were thought to be slow learners or dim witted. Grandma said that was bunch of hog wash and began teaching me herself. She instilled in me her honest belief that if I learned to read I could learn anything.

Each night before bed, she’d pull out one of her hardcover books and we’d start our slow progress thorough each and every word. Some books were medical journals, others were books written by philosophers dead long ago. Genre wasn’t important to her, she’d read anything she could get her hands on. Her books taught me more than words, they showed me about life, and took me to places I’d never heard of. I don’t remember the titles, characters or the even the places we visited. What I remember is that my Grandma believed in me.

I’ve been struggling for the last few weeks to write a historical fiction in which my main character is fashioned after Grandma. I had been moving right along at a steady pace when all of a sudden my muse took a nap and wouldn't help me write the ending. Right when I was frustrated and ready to hit the delete button, Grandma’s tenacity came back to me. I pictured her standing in front of me with her and on her hips. “Hog wash-- if you can learn to read, you can learn anything.” Of course I finished the first draft of that story yesterday.

We all need mentors. They don’t have to be someone you personally know. They need not be a national hero or a celebrity. Preferably your mentor is someone who shows fortitude and inspires you to strive forward even when you are about to hit the delete button. Grandma did that for me, actually she still does. She wasn’t a quitter and neither am I.

If she hadn’t taken the time to teach me, I don’t think I would have learned to love reading and later become a writer. She listened as I stuttered through each new word. In her last days Glaucoma took her eyesight and forced her to listen to books on tape but they weren’t the same. I think she was missed her first love, reading.

Find your mentor and every time you think of quitting think of how they might react. Would they simply quit or would they say something like-- “Hog wash.” Remember writing is hard work and sometimes we have to dig deep to find the determination to continue.



Jean said...

This brings back a great memory for me. A neighbor lady who was a friend of the family taught me to read. We would actually sit on the porch and spell words back and forth:-) This was before I started school too. When they did the big tests in the 6th grade, I was reading at early college level. And it was all because of Annie.

I have a writing mentor too:-)


Cheryl said...

What a great post Lori! I find it helpful to know there is always someone pushing me along, someone who believes in me and in what I am doing.

I didn't know the MC in your historical fiction was based upon your grandmother. That is so neat. And how wonderful that she believed in you.

Reading and writing will always be connected. I can't think of one famous author who wasn't an avid reader. And I'm sure all of them had mentors along the way, just as you suggest.

Thanks for the great post!