The essence of writing is a dream unfolding. By its very nature, writing is imagination unleashed; there is nothing practical about it. Try putting a price tag on moonlight. A sculptor of words, I live to write but I don't write to live. Putting pen to paper is my world, my obsession; it is a part of every cell in my body. Like some cunning lover, it keeps me satisfied. Words take hold of me as soon as I wake and don't let go until I release them on paper. If monetary rewards come from this infatuation, so be it. But if left penniless, bankrupt and forgotten, I'd still be scribbling on a ragged paper. And I'd still be perfectly happy.
My father was a word junkie. He turned me into an addict with a daily fix of Shakespeare. Swirling around my childhood home were the sounds of “We are such stuff as dreams are made on” and “All that glitters is not gold.” At a young age I experienced the euphoria of words masterfully weaved together to illicit a natural rush. Dad's ardour for great literature was infectious; I was hooked for life. Yes, I philandered with the “greats” in science and psychology at university but I eventually surrendered to my first love. After all this time, it is not the periodic table that I remember, but the thunder and power of William Butler Yeats in his cautionary tale, “The Second Coming.” Sentences crafted with blistering beauty always leave me breathless: “Twenty centuries of stony sleep were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle.”
Here is my advice to new recruits in the art of writing: Go wild. Plunge into the water head first. Write as though you only have two hours left in this mortal coil. Get in there and spill your heart onto paper. Forget about everybody else; do it for you. Savour that moment of ecstasy when you create magic. That is what writing is all about.
A few years ago, I decided to enter a writing contest, just for the heck of it. However, I was soon paralyzed with fear and a crushing writing block. What if the panel recoils at my submission?
After sweating through six T-shirts, I decided to let go of any expectations, to just relax, have fun, and let my love for the craft take over. My fingers flew over the keyboard with reckless abandon—anything was fair game. All of a sudden, a transformation: my funny bone exploded, spewing bizarre twists of humour and imagination all over the computer screen. A rather innocuous project became a journey of self-discovery. I broke all the rules of proper grammar. Never start an essay with a one word sentence? Who cares. My very first line was “Help!” Line number four: “An evil leprechaun (with red bangs) has tied me to a hornet's nest and I have to listen to Dan Hill's 'Sometimes When We Touch' for eternity.” The cause of my torment: Trying to find work as a writer at age 58! My Angels in Hell won second prize for creative non-fiction for South Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Which brings me to the point: When my goal was a reward, I failed miserably. But when I allowed the pure rapture of writing to be my Svengali, I received a cheque and an award, was published in a book, and clinked wine glasses with other authors at a book launch. That success gave me the confidence to pursue a career as a journalist. The money came later, but it was never my Everest.
Dear wannabe Capotes: Write because you love it! Let zeal be your guide. With every essay than I pen, I want readers to sense my tempestuous affair with the craft. Then I just sit back and let it all happen.
Doreen Marion Gee