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Lessons learned from my Master Class with Neil Gaiman.
My mother bought me Master Classes. I had found them through a Facebook ad (don’t judge me). If you don’t know about Master Classes- it is a website full of famous people who have already done the impossible. They have become published writers; they are famous cooks, fabulous composers, and the envy of the sports world. I think there is even a professional poker player in there. This is it! I am going to learn from the best.
This was a wonderful excuse to ignore the book that I have been attempting to write since October. I started watching the previews, and Margaret Atwood says that ‘the trash can is God’s gift to writers.’ That spoke to me.
Of course, I use the computer to write primarily, but I have a Cambridge notebook that I take with me to bed and write all my ideas and short snippets of story plots. It is full of outlines of the seven different directions that my book has taken. It has various American historical events that may or may not have worked within the book. Events like the Orphans train during the great depression, Cannibal Island in Russia, Queen Victoria’s romance with a Scottish Lord, Queen Mary’s of Scotland’s beheading, etc. Some of the events end up in my blogs; some are just waiting for me to write more about them. But it is my trashcan of ideas that I can’t bring myself to throw away.
It took me three days to pick the first five classes that I want to go through. But, two days ago, I had settled on Neil Gaiman. Something about his messy hair, circles under his eyes, wrinkles in his hands made him seem likable to me. Mainly because that is what I look like- messy hair, dark circles under the eyes (hidden by my glasses), and a recent discovery of wrinkled hands. I am not even sure that I have brushed my hair in the last three days. What has he taught me so far? Two things that stand out, okay, maybe three.
1. To be a writer, you have to write. Everyday. I write every day; I am all over the board with my writing. If I get bored of my book (which is often), I write my blog. If I get bored of my blog, I research the next one (I never get tired of this). I write about conversations that my co-workers have had, events in the world. I attempt to write love scenes (primarily that end up in the trash). I write about life with puppy Polar and coffee. I write about everything and nothing at the same time. That is an achievement if you ask me. Thank the Saints that my hours sitting behind the computer, writing in bed, taking my small notebook with me everywhere I go, meant something!
2. Stories are essential. I needed to hear this morning because I was about to close down my blog two days ago because I wasn’t getting feedback. I was throwing a hissy fit in my head- a large one; tears, chocolate, a marathon of Gilmore Girls hissy fit. That is the thing about blogging and writing- you never know if anyone is listening. For example, this has happened to me five times since I became serious about my writing: ‘Hey family, did you see my recent blog? I am excited about it. You know that every click of someone reading it helps get my name out there to the writer’s universe.’ Answer back- ‘sure; I will click on it.’ That’s it- a click. No reading and no engaging conversation. Just a quick way to shut me up so that they can move on with their lives and feel that the support is there.
Now, this sounds like complaining. It is not. Its reality. It’s the feeling that I do not have something important to say until the rest of the world tells me that I am important enough to say it. This was an ah-ha moment for me. Because I had my first taste of being a writer, not everyone will like what I have to say. Hell, they are not even going to read it. But I wrote the story because it was necessary. And it is sitting in my little blog world, published in the abyss of the internet. I did it, I wrote.
3. Lies are essential. This may be hard to grasp for many, but it is an important lesson for writers. I am writing a lie. My story did not happen. Lies are important because while my book’s events may have occurred, the characters are not real. There is no love story between Cain and Ruth. They may or may not close the distance of miles and time. There is no house in England where Cain keeps his library of books and historical artifacts, with oversized yellow plush chairs to sit in and read. Hell, when have you ever seen a man sit in an oversized yellow plush chair and read? I never have. There is no Charles and Galen who have lived thousands of years helping Cain collect souls. I am lying. But I am using truth to make my lies convincing. That is the freedom of a writer—the privilege of creating people, lives, deaths, morals.
I wanted to write my blog on historical moments of history and my journey to become a writer. But I didn’t want to share my struggle with the process. I wanted it to seem like everything was working out for me- that I was becoming someone that the world believes was important enough to say something. I am struggling. I struggle with clicks; I am struggling with describing how the coffee tasted in Russia in 1923; I am stumbling down this new path as a middle-aged woman. I am struggling to learn how to balance it all. And most of all, I am working with trying to be someone who already made it. I am not Neil Gaiman or Margaret Atwood. I want to be, but I am not. I am just plain old, Rosie. And today, and maybe just for today- I find that it is enough.
So, my dear reader(s?), find your inspiration. Take a Master Class, listen to those PodCasts, read that book. To become a writer, I had to humble myself to know that I have not made it yet. It will not be perfection in 3 months (damn it). I am holding onto my center, the one sentence that describes me…’ I believe stories are essential.’ What is your sentence?