Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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October 4, 2013

A Challenge to Writers

Live to Ride – Write to Live

By Laura Drake

Most of you know me on some level - I am not an ‘old soul.’ Seriously. My method is to make every mistake possible until I finally bumble across the way that works for me. I was the one who hung back for decades, stuck in fear and my own opinions of myself.

What helped change that for me, was a motorcycle.

My first bike Crop

My first bike.

I rode 100,000 miles behind my husband on his motorcycle. Every vacation and three weekends out of four, we spent on two wheels. In the boring stretches, I’d prop a paperback on his back and read. Got some weird looks, but I loved it. I was content.

Then the Universe intervened. On our way home from a ten day vacation, at dusk outside Kingman Arizona, a dog ran in front of our bike. A big dog. I still remember the sound, the shock, the pain, when my knee hit the pavement and both the bike and my husband fell on top of me. He got aches and bruises; I got surgery and 6 months of rehab. The dog trotted away.

When I was able to bend my knee enough to throw it over the bike again, I discovered that had a bigger problem. I was terrified. The cars seemed much bigger, much faster, and much closer. I spent panicked hours, my sphincter holding me to the seat. This would not do. This is what Alpha Dog and I did together. This could have marital repercussions.

So a friend suggested that I take a class to learn to ride (read; the front seat.) I was horrified – who was I to think I could ride a motorcycle? But her logic made sense. If I knew how to ride, maybe I’d relax on the back.  So I took the class. I loved it.

Don't get me wrong; I was white-knuckle terrified every second. But I felt like I’d grabbed hold and taken charge of my own fate for the first time in my life.  More than that, I was proud. I had done something I’d hadn’t believed I could. I began challenging my opinions of myself for the first time in my life. If I could do this, what else could I do that I’d thought impossible?

Writing a novel.  I even had an idea floating around for over a year and wouldn’t go away. Emboldened by my motorcycling success, I wrote. I sucked. But I wrote. I joined RWA. I took classes. I read. I learned. I sucked less.

Fast forward, 15 years, and 413 rejections. I know that’s right, because I just added them up. I SOLD!!!!

Why did I keep writing through all those years, through all those rejections?

Because my first goal wasn’t to be published. It was to experience the thrill I found behind the handlebars of my motorcycle – the thrill of finding out I could do something I didn’t think I was capable of.

I have now logged 100,000 miles on my OWN motorcycle. My debut year, I’ll have three books released, and I’ve been contracted for a total of seven books.

So I challenge you:

What could you do, if you didn’t believe you couldn’t?

57 comments on “A Challenge to Writers”

  1. Way to go Laura! The Hubs and I used to ride his motorcycle (I considered him my knight taking me places on his steed) but not so much anymore because of his allergies.

    Taking that first step out of our comfort zone is the scariest most terrifying thing we can do. But it also emboldens us because if we don't take that next step forward and instead go back to where we were, we will never grow and never move toward our full potential. And the journey ain't for sissies. It's usually the hardest thing we've ever done to date. Keep moving forward!

  2. Laura, even though I'm familiar with your story I just loved hearing it again - and loved hearing about your getting past your fear of the motorcycle. Talk about 'feeling the fear and doing it anyway'! You keep inspiring me to keep on writing!

  3. Hard for me to imagine you as "not" strong Laura. You are my hero. 🙂 But then I know the gal behind the bike personally. Now I need to hop on my own metaphorical bike and rev up the motor. Ha! Last time I was on a real bike, I knocked my then boyfriend off the back when he told me to gently give it some gas. He was afraid to let me have a second go at it--can say I blame him.

    1. Sharla, you can't imagine how 'unstrong' I was as a young woman. Thank God that person is long gone. Someday, I'll write that story.

      You are one of the strongest women I know, Sharla. Don't discount yourself!

  4. I like this because it shows how one can grow and be challenged and believe in oneself, working through the fears and the doubts, making it to the other side - proud and happy. I know how you feel. I've done that with riding my horse, moving from fear and white-knuckles, to relaxed and excited about cantering up a steep hill, yelling, "Yee-hah!" As for writing, I never thought I could write more than a short essay but after the fifth book I knew I could do it, and do it better than the first, second, third, and fourth novels.

  5. I love your white-knuckle courage! Tough question... the list is pretty lengthy. Narrowing it down to one: I'm working on a series of short stories. I'm not sure I'm capable, but I'm going to see if I can.

  6. I suffered major head & spinal trauma when I hit the windshield when I was 18. Turns out I carry the gene for MS, and the stress of the injury activated that gene. The first symptoms showed up a year after the wreck. My neurologist advised me to apply for Social Security, and even had the hospital social worker start the paperwork for me, but I skipped the appointment and started singing for a living.

    It took me 3 years to relearn everything I lost in the accident. I was on the level of a 15-18 month old baby, so I learned to feed myself, drink from a cup, dress myself, tie my shoes, plus read & write all over again. I supported myself playing music during my good periods, and spent my bad periods writing. I didn't get rich, but I stayed off SS for 14 yrs, then worked part time for another 10 yrs before finally ending up in a wheelchair.

    Along the way, I played music all over the country, cut countless commercials and worked as a radio personality by day during the 90s until satellite radio took my job. I was offered recording contracts by 3 major labels, which I had to decline because I wasn't strong enough to handle the kind of stringent touring that a musician under contract must do. I also earned two degrees, in music and psychology. And during the bad times, I wrote & published short non-fiction.

    About 13 yrs ago, I finally ended up in a wheelchair & could no longer play music. I had such a severe 'period of exacerbation' that I ended up in a nursing home and spent several years in PT, trying to regain what I could. I'm home bound now so I finally have time to work on that novel I always wanted to write. It's taken me four years, mainly because I was either sick or injured half the time and couldn't write. Even now, my time for writing is limited because I can only sit up for short periods. I'm hoping to get voice recognition software in the near future, so I can write while laying in bed.

    My point in talking about all this is not to whine or seek admiration, but to say: If I can do it, you can! Yes, we all have limitations; I know that better than anyone. But I also know that you can accomplish your dreams if your will is strong enough and you don't give up. My book will be published, even if I have to self-publish it myself. And my next book will be better, because the only thing that will stop me is Death itself...and at this point, I think even Death is a little leery of this stubborn woman!

    1. Oh Kaye, your story is so inspiring - proof that the emotional handicaps we burden ourselves with is much more powerful than the physical ones. What an amazing life you've led!

      You're MY hero!

      Write on!

  7. I've never ridden a motorcycle although I did ride on the back of a scooter, darting through the streets of Florence. I remember us taking a tight turn and instinctively wanting to right myself up, although my friend kept telling me to lean into the turn. While it was difficult to go against my natural impulses, he was, of course, right. The feeling was both terrifying and exhilarating. It is like writing - or at least like sharing one's writing. I want someone else to feel something from it, hope that what I wanted to get across resonates, but am scared out of my mind that they will hate it, misunderstand it or never bother to read it. Even scarier is when I later go back and read the work to find all of the mistakes that suddenly seemed so obvious. But it's relates to your question - I have to keep trudging onward, believing that this piece will work! Thanks for the great post!

  8. I am so there, Laura. I spent many a miserable day thinking of all the reasons I shouldn't do something. I'd ask so many people that friends starting running in another direction when they saw me approach. Should I quit this and do that? (It's my Libra side) Should I take over the agency? I don't know how to run an agency that takes care of kids. I'm rotten enough as a mom, how could I ever take care of 1,500 stranger kids? But I did it. Then 15 years later I wanted to break away and start over again. I packed up my wares and took them 1,200 from everyone I knew.

    Aside from being a pest, I was also the center of attraction at every gathering and loved to dazzle folks with my wit and my stories. Damn, I loved telling stories and like my dad, I told stories people really wanted to hear.Fast forward to the last five years.But could that truly find it's way to the page and make sense? I didn't think so. Some days I still don't.

    I have you and our chapter to thank for keeping me trying. I thank the generous writers I've met here and on other sites, those few and wonderful friends who comment on my blog and read my drafts and I most especially thank the ones who tell me the truth. I never had two tons of steel slam my body, but I've hit some truly hard virtual brick walls with my literal hard head. And my Virgo side still balances me and tells me never to give up. If I didn't get on that plane and travel the miles, I'd still be standing in place wondering what happened to my dream.

    Keep forging ahead and leave the light on for the rest of us. Thanks for this and all you other posts 🙂

  9. Your success story in writing is one of the few that really make me think, I can do this, too, so I always really appreciate you sharing it so honestly.

    I feel like I've accomplished a lot of really good things in my life, so I feel like I can relate to the idea that the goal of publishing is not THE thing. I'm not saying it isn't a REALLY BIG THING that I really want, because I definitely do, but having stories like your motorcycle experience and overcoming other obstacles before this make a really big difference in knowing that we can persevere and with that perseverance will come a reward, whatever shape it takes.

    1. Thank you Janet - you captured perfectly what I meant to convey - it's not about me, or my story - it's about challenging yourself to push the limits of what you think you can do.

      It's almost always a LOT more than you think!!!! And that, in itself is a huge lesson, even if you fall short of your original goal.

  10. Oh, Laura... I LOVE this post! Since I was a little girl, I've been the rider on the backs of motorcycles and often thought I should try it myself - being the one in charge. But we've traded our two wheels for four-wheeling vehicles out here in the true desert. And I love it.

    What would I do if I didn't believe I couldn't? Hmm -either take voice lessons or do stand-up comedy. 🙂 Such a great lesson about pushing through fear and pain and SELF-DOUBT, which can be a writer's shadowy companion at all times. Thank you for this.

    1. Melissa, I challenge you - pick whichever of those you want MOST - and go chase it.

      If you fail, are you really worse off than now? Really?

      GO DO IT!

      1. I've been sitting here quietly thinking what I would raise my hand to in that challenge. Oh boy ... 🙂

        But you're right about pushing through the self-doubt. And when we do push and SUCCEED, what a feeling! Okay, okay ... don't poke, Laura.

  11. Laura,

    If it came easy then every one of your friends would be best-selling authors. I wrote for 20 years as a screenwriter before being produced. There's an expression in writing, "if you can quit, then go ahead and quit." But a real writer won't quit.

  12. Inspiring post, Laura!

    Recently, on MORE COWBELL, Jenny posted about Zig Ziglar and one of the gems she posted hit a nerve from the "old me." The person who never felt good enough, always felt less than, and made her way through life fixing other people's problems.

    I will always remain one of God's WIP's. That said, I found the courage to dig deep and find the inner me that was there before I chose to split myself into two people -- the inner, insecure Gloria, and the happy, wine-glass support system outer Gloria.

    You are one of my heroes. I had no idea you had to challenge yourself to gain your love of riding. I had no idea how much gumption and determination and hours you put in to get to the place you are now. ROCK STAR!

    Now, if I can conquer my obsession about making my WIP perfect on the first go 'round, I'll be golden. It's getting easier. The GOLDEN HEART changes submission dates for no one.

    1. No lie, Gloria! You go for it. You're a driver, and a never-quitter. I know you'll made it!
      Don't make me put on that cheer leading skirt - no one wants to see that...

  13. Great story. When I was growing up, I was always being told I couldn't do something. I did it anyway. The only thing I never got over was a bad accident on a horse. I blame that on my grandmother not allowing me to get right back on again. I still want to be able to ride. Tweeted.

  14. You know Laura your story is very inspirational. And it propels my own writing journey forward. I've been at this for three and a half years full-time and I haven't finaled in contest, got a short story published even in a free online publication, had my manuscript (s) accepted by an editor or publisher but I'm on my forth book and I ain't giving up yet. The obstacles you've overcome to face your fear of the ride spurred you on to writing your novels. And God Bless you made it! My impetus for doing this isn't as compelling but primarily I'm determined to not retreat back to the corporate world. Twenty-seven years is enough! And plus my stories keep coming and they want to be told!

  15. Great story. It's always interesting to read how people get into the mindset of believing in themselves. Experiences like yours create people that change the world.

    1. thdem, I only wish I'd have discovered this before the age of 40 - world domination would have still been in my sights! Actually, I'll settle for NYT domination...

      1. Good idea! After that, you can move on to NY domination, one step at a time. You're never too old, unless you think you are.

  16. Great story, Laura. My experience is the opposite. I grew up believing I could achieve anything I wanted (because my mother told me I could). I graduated first in my class in high school without trying. I majored in English with a concentration in the novel, making dean's list every semester except the one right before my mother passed away from cancer. It never occurred to me that I *couldn't* write a novel - yet my life didn't prepare me for how long and hard a journey it would be. My education didn't prepare me for the fact that creative writing isn't like any other kind of writing, so I had to learn a completely different skill set.

    While all my self-confidence was great for churning out a first draft and going through the first few rounds of edits, it's utterly deserted me now that my manuscript is almost polished, but not quite. I keep staring at the pages and thinking, "Why am I not smart enough to do this?" And then I realize, it's not a matter of being smart, it's a matter of working hard. And that may be the hardest lesson to learn. The people who succeed as authors aren't necessarily the smartest or most talented, but the most persistent. The road to success is paved with one failure after another, until you finally overcome all the obstacles and reach your goal (kind of like the plot of a novel).

    1. Andrea, your experience is so opposite mine that it fascinates me. It reminds me of the old Jewish (I think) parable of the three blind men and an elephant - each touch different parts, and describe a totally different animal.

      But the important part I believe, is the same. EVERYONE, no matter where you start on the elephant, hits that hard part. What is hard may be different for me than you, but there's no way around that hard part - for anyone. The test of your mettle, is what you do when you hit that part.

      Write on, my friend.

  17. I left a comment earlier but don't see it. Really liked this Laura! I ride with DH, meaning on the back seat of his motorcycle. Since I can't even drive a car with a manual transmission, not sure this is the right challenge for me. But I understand what you're saying. I'm doing things in middle age that I never knew I was capable of -- including writing.

    1. And I'm reading Deb's debut book right now - keep an eye out for Siren's Secret, coming out in November, people - It's GOOD!

      Now, if she just weren't an Alabama fan, we could be friends.

  18. I wrote my first novel about a motorcycle in my novel, The Pastor's Wife Wears Biker Boots. I love riding my own ride! Can't wait to read your book.

      1. There was a slip between the intention and the deed. Trying again to reblog. (This was on my end, not yours.)

  19. Thanks so much for this post. I'm reblogging it on Writer in the Garret. Keep riding & writing.

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