I blame it on a lunch date. Or maybe I should say I owe it to a lunch date. Yes, my entire writing career is predicated on the fact that I met someone for lunch whom I’d never met before. I don’t remember his name, or what he looked like. I never saw him again.
Good thing you don’t pay royalties on inspiration.
During our pleasant midday conversation in an Irish pub, the first conversation since exchanging a few emails, my lunch companion mentioned that my email voice was “very well-suited to blogging.”
I thanked him.
Then, I went home and Yahoo-searched “blogging.” This was 2005, after all, and I unceremoniously entered the blogosphere.
After a few months of fervent blog reading and following and commenting, I started my own blog in early 2006. It had a polka-dot background and nary a reader. In my first-ever blog post I thanked Lunch Date Guy for setting me on a journey whose destination was unknown, and noted how that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I’d begun. I couldn’t have imagined where it would lead. Had someone told me, they’d have gotten a head slap.
I am big believer in momentum, that going downhill means you’re picking up speed and getting stronger, readying you for the climb.
My early blog where I wrote anonymously about being a single mom, dating, and life (like the main character in THE GOOD NEIGHBOR–coincidence?), led me to writing essays for photocopied ezines, and then for newspapers and online publications. My essays led me to attempt a memoir (because whose life isn’t worthy of 300 pages?), which led me to try fiction, which led to a book deal. Which led me to start a new blog about the kind of fiction I loved and was writing.
My full circle has a point.
It doesn’t matter where or how you start. It doesn’t even matter WHERE you go. It just matters THAT you go, that you keep moving, that the momentum in your writing life mimic the momentum you admire or strive for.
Even as a brand new blogger in 2006, I always wrote, rewrote, and edited my blog posts. They became writing exercises, stretching muscles I’d not used in years. I read many blogs daily in those days before quick life updates on Facebook and Twitter, and dreamed about having comments on my posts. And I got them eventually, and a solid following of bloggers and blog-readers. Some of whom now read my novels.
I learned from my lunch date that we don’t find our inspiration, we choose it.
We choose to look up blogging and take a chance on something new. We choose to use our observations about the blue sky to write an essay or a poem. We choose to tell a story that makes us laugh because we want others to laugh. We choose to spend a year, or two, or six, writing a book. Maybe writers are compelled to write, but we choose to do it.
How many people have you met who say they want to write a book? My answer is always the same. “You should.” And I mean it. If you want to write a book, you should write it. Without a degree, without classes, without feedback. You have to start going if you want to go somewhere, anywhere. (I’m not suggesting that this is a good idea forever, that craft isn’t important, that knowledge isn’t king (or queen)).
I don’t mean you can always decide what you want to write about but you can choose to embrace the inspiration that is presented to you, to cultivate the ideas that rattle around in your head, to embrace curiosity without hesitation, and to move forward despite uncertainty and fear.
And if you get lunch out of it, all the better.
Can you point to the moment when you chose to be a writer? What inspires you to keep going?
* * * * * *
Amy’s latest book, The Good Neighbor, just released yesterday.
Izzy Lane never thought of herself as a liar. In fact, she’s always played by the rules. She’s an excellent mother, has loyal friends, and a rich career as a school counselor. Fresh from a new divorce, however, Izzy feels like she needs a little fun. So when, on a whim, she starts a blog it seems like a rather benign indulgence. But as her online quips begin to gain traction, Izzy makes a slip. Somehow a new boyfriend winds his way into the picture. The problem? Izzy makes him up.
What, at first, feels like a harmless fib quickly spins out of control and Izzy must figure out how to balance fantasy and reality. Keeping up appearances while managing an absent ex-husband, two very nosy friends, a toddler son, and full-time job soon prove impossible, and Izzy feels utterly lost. It’s only when her long-time neighbor and surrogate mother, Mrs. Feldman, re-enters her life that Izzy begins to see the mess she’s made. And it’s with Mrs. Feldman’s guidance that Izzy learns to face reality, find comfort in new norms, and open herself up to the possibility of real love.
Amy Sue Nathan is the author of The Good Neighbor and The Glass Wives, both published by St. Martin’s Griffin. She is a freelance writer and editor, and the founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers blog, named one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers 2015. Follow Amy on Twitter @AmySueNathan.