Writers in the Storm

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August 15, 2011

The Long, Winding Road

By Laura Drake

After fourteen years of trying, I signed with an agent this month!  That’s a lot of years to keep at something. But during down times along the way I've thought back to the first spark of the story, to get the inspiration to keep going.

Before I learned to ride my own, I rode pillion on my husband’s motorcycle. A lot. A hundred thousand miles worth.  That’s a lot of hours, and it was before motorcycle intercoms were invented. It can get boring. I learned to prop a paperback on hubby’s back and read on the long straightaways.  But you can’t read all day and after awhile, my brain would empty of the day-to-day thoughts and cast about for something new to think about.

Due to the speed on a motorcycle, your memories come in snippets – you catch a snapshot and it’s gone: a small town celebrating the Fourth of July with a parade, the queen in silk on a hay wagon. A piebald pony, standing in knee deep grass in Utah, ominous thunderclouds in the background.  A herd of antelope in Wyoming, racing our motorcycle.

Then one day, riding into the small town of Kernville, California, a dog ran in front of our bike. After a butt clenching scare, he trotted back the way he came, and we rode on. But I started thinking. What if someone came along and hit the dog?  What if a girl riding a motorcycle came along . . .

The idea grew. It wouldn’t go away. I began writing ideas in a notebook in our tent at night.  When we got home, I sat at my computer, blank file open in front of me. I wrote a bit, but mostly I fidgeted.  I knew this wasn’t a short story – that might not have freaked me out. This was a novel.

But wait, who was I to write a novel?  I’ve been an avid reader all my life; I knew good writing.

I dithered for a few years, at an impasse. Half of my mind wouldn’t let go of the story, the other half wouldn’t let me write it. Then one day, an amazing thing happened. I realized I had a ‘delete’ key on my keyboard. I could write the novel, and no one would ever have to see it!

That was three novels ago. I won’t go into the rest of the story here. You’ve heard it from a hundred writers; the ups, the downs, the twists and turns in the road.

Since then, I’ve learned to ride my own motorcycle. I found that I love the windy roads best – you never know what you’ll find around the next bend. It could be a snippet of vision that makes your soul rise – it could be something that tightens your sphincter. I love every bit of it.

I’ve told my friends, if someday, I encounter the end around one of those bends, don’t be sad.  I went smiling -- doing what I love.

For the same reason, I’ll never quit writing. I can’t fail, because it isn’t about getting published; it’s about doing what I love.

Where are you on the winding road? Is publication your destination, or something else? Any mishaps or memories you’d like to share?

0 comments on “The Long, Winding Road”

  1. I read this post and thought, she is right. Finding the passions of our life's and following them is life. Sometimes the road may seem to wind more than one would like, but learning to enjoy our journey is priceless.
    Wonder post.
    Thank you,
    (aka Ende Brock-old pseudonym)

  2. Laura, I KNOW your journey and I still had a tiny cry over this post. It is absolutely about the journey and not the destination (you know, that thing we angst over ALL THE TIME).

    Thanks for reminding me!

    1. Duane,
      I know that you know about journeys - in your thirties, just finishing up a life in Japan (during the Tsunami disaster no less) and heading off to Africa to work...all this with a wife and young family! You give new meaning to the word "adventure!"

  3. Good grief, girl! This was a doozey for sure. I never rode on a motocycle with anyone and certainly not alone. My greatest love was riding a bike. You know? Bikes with no motors, fat tires and a foot break. To make it more ridiculous it had a basket in which I put my radio, a towel and off I would go for 15 or 20 miles a day. I was the luckiest person in Brooklyn, riding along shore parkway for 7.5 miles each way and connecting to the road that leads to Coney Island and along the boardwalk. At some point I'd find a deserted bay at the end of the beach where the subways didn't connect and only kelp and sea gulls populated the sand. Those memories are what I carried home with me and at night, exhausted and happy, that is when I would write. I saved all my journals and named my blog after one ... Ramblings and from that grew my first novel which I still have. The second best was the two years I rode back and forth on the subway, over the bridge and looking at The Lady in the Bay and wrote a soap opera where the poor MC went into comas, was deserted and lost, found love, lost love and both of us had a good time. The magical movements of trains, planes and automobiles (bikes too) inspire me. I get lost in the movement and my head swims with ideas I take back at night. (Sorry this is so long but you did it to me) ... Years passed and I found myself retired, kids grown, grandkids growing and I finally put myself to the task. In many ways I have always been a writer, a story teller and that is the greatest joy I have ever known. Give up? Never. I read the warnings about how we should not get our hopes up and then I read you and the dozens of other women who found agents and publishers, who found their dream ... the dream we can never let go. Thanks, you are still a Vintage Vamp Biker Gal extraordinaire 🙂

    1. Oh Florence, I can just picture you on a bike, your hair flying in the breeze along the river! So now that you're retired, are you going to get back on that bike? Don't tell me you can't do it - I ride my bike (the skinny-tire-Lance Armstrong kind) 50 - 100 miles a week!

      And I agree, that's where I get ALL my plotting done! Something about being outside and moving that kicks my brain in gear. Try it - and take a Digital Voice Recorder - you can dictate without stopping!

  4. Great post, Laura, and I LOVE THE PICTURES!!! Speaking of which, today's winding curve on my path to publication is mocking up potential book covers for the first book coming out. Woo-hooo!!! LOL!

    1. Oh Kitty, how exciting! Will you send me the mock ups? One of my books, I can imagine the cover - but the others? No idea!
      But it's probably less stressful than waiting for a publisher's art dept. to come up with something that may or may not have anything to do with the story!

  5. CONGRATULATIONS on landing an agent, Laura. I should be congratulating HIM/HER on landing YOU as a client. Long, winding road, indeed. I wrote 2 novels with 50 pp strong enough to invite fulls from agents. And, then PLUNK. Took a long, winding journey throughout rewrite hell without packing a clue about what was wrong. Enter Margie Lawson stage left, followed by an AWESOME critique buddy and friend-for-life who I met during DSDB.

    I started networking, taking craft classes, joining writing on-line communities and local writers groups. I no longer write alone. But I have buddies on this incredible journey. I did read once that if you write because you want to become rich and famous, spend your money on a lottery ticket.

    I write because I love the scenic view of words building on the page. Thanks for the timely reminder on why writers put themselves in front of the rejection bus, get up, dust off, and keep on going. Sometimes the imaginary friends (characters) in my head are the only ones who want to play with me! GREAT post.

  6. Congratulations Laura, not only on landing an agent, but for finding faith and joy in the journey.
    Love, Theresa

  7. I know it was months ago, but congratulations on landing an agent! Your post inspired me on a day when I needed some inspiration. Sometimes we all need a reminder on how it can be a long, tiring road, but one well worth traveling.
    Fellow bean-counter and WF group member, Sharon

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