From the Blank Page to Life for Dummies

Warning: Cheesy analogies just for fun.

In grade one I wrote a wild and semi-tragic story about walking, becoming lost and getting rescued. The teacher said she liked my story and I decided then and there that I would write stories.

I tried to write a second story the next week, but it didn’t happen. My attention kept wandering and as I looked at book covers around the room, I decided I was done with stories: I would write a book. But as is its wont, LIFE took off like a wild champagne cork landing on white water rapids and over the years I thought of writing a book only when corporate life became overwhelming, when I needed the fantasy and the seclusion of sitting alone in a room wrestling words to the ground so that they’d appear breathtakingly beautiful in a sequence like good little words should to create a story that would result in a highly readable Book.

Not once did I think what the book would be about.

Why would anyone want to write a book? To tell a story that can only be told in that writer’s voice? Some angst to express? To create art through words? Ego? Something to Sell? Spread knowledge, theories and opinions? Show how curious and odd we human beings are?

Probably all of that. Goodness only knows.

***

I heard a teacher of storytelling and writing say some people think that all stories of the human condition are contained in two literary works: the Bible and Shakespeare. I think that both are latecomers to the party of stories: are the stories of the Bible and Shakespeare not derivative of stories and myths found in all aboriginal and ancient cultures? And if not derivative, then perhaps all cultures encounter similar questions and challenges, similar life milestones, certain ethical decisions. Stories may be universal but how individuals live the story is the thing. Stories tell of the process, outcome and impact. Perhaps all enduring stories reflect the universality of the human condition and we can all relate to them even if the names, places, clothes and foods are different.

Each teller tells the story in a unique way, painting pictures in the canvas of the reader’s mind with words, creates characters that come to live with us forever. And so we continue to read stories and adapt to new ways of weaving words together in new book titles even as the format of the book is evolving right in front of us.

But back to me.

Part of what I do is write, either trade publications, local papers or business-related writing. I write non-fiction. It’s easier to write using facts and real people. There is ALWAYS a story to tell and it is ALWAYS a human one. There is ALWAYS a person behind a number and a machine.

For fun I have taken additional writing courses, creative and non-fiction ones. Just in case a story idea pops so I’d know how to craft it.

More recently, however, I began writing not only for work, but to pass time as I recovered from an injury. I started a blog or two. And wrote about various and sundry things that struck my fancy and even though I write non-fiction, I started a story that is clearly fictional.

Still, I shudder at the thought of ever tying to write a book: it’s SO much work and the sheer number of words required? I can’t wrestle them all! Even at 140 characters an hour to make it tweetable. Can’t do it. Not only that, there has to be something to write about. What story would I tell, create, fashion, uncover?

Much to the chagrin of my grade one self, I do not have a story to tell that will make a book.

***

My favourite book is one that is full of blank pages, full of possibility and endless horizons. I have about 20 of such books, of exquisite acid-free paper smooth paper, waiting to meet one of my Mont Blanc pens at the corner where thought and action meet perchance to have a word or a phrase or a sentence written in, and so be declared a useful book.

I have several others that are bursting with words and phrases and sentences and thoughts and snippets of overheard conversations that I found interesting, odd, intriguing, funny, true, weird or inspiring.

Like most writers I know, I read a lot. Everything. Family legend has it that I did not ask for a bottle when I popped out of the womb earlier than my parents planned, I asked for a few books with big words and cool pictures in them.

Yet I don’t think much about writing, the act of. It’s a doing thing.

And so I wasn’t thinking about writing when I got 23 books out from the library.  I was thinking about all the new things I’d learn, read, and add to my mental notes list (which I keep losing) as I hauled them home. But I couldn’t get to them. The champagne-cork-on-the-white-water-rapids-life thing started up again with a spell of near-constant time spent out in our wonderful, wacky world to do lots of stuff with lots of people.

The best part was overhearing conversations between people. What I heard was a refrain of LIFE. Didn’t seem to matter the age, ethnicity, gender, or class. The conversations had similar questions, similar wonderings. I read my scribbles. I looked at the notes in my book.  Something coalesced in my brain, other than renewing my library books.

The net impact of everything I overheard helped me find the book that is waiting for me to write it:

LIFE for DUMMIES.

You know LIFE, that Möbius Strip thing? That thing we call LIFE that’s in a constant state of unfolding?

To write this book, I will break a cardinal rule of writing: write what you know. Well, I do not know life, but after two weeks of eavesdropping, I can recognize patterns, pinpoint symptoms, see gaps, identify root cause and formulate a workable solution.

A book.

I’ll be my journalist self and ask questions of subject matter experts and good role models to develop content. From there, I’ll use common literary devices to make it (ideally) an interesting read.  You might be asking what I overheard.

You’ll get to read ALL about it when you buy my book.

Picture it. My book:  LIFE for DUMMIES

This is a book I can write. In fact I am going to write up an outline RIGHT now and send it to the dummies company!


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About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween. On hiatus from writing anywhere else but here ... at least for now.
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2 Responses to From the Blank Page to Life for Dummies

  1. terrisitagg says:

    I know we have had snippets of this conversation. What to write, what do I know? And honestly, who is interested in what I have to say? When you mentioned taking 23 books out of the library, you struck a nerve. I DID read them. I can’t say I learned anything from them though…but they did engage me for a time, and distract me from looking deeper inside myself for whatever it is that I have to get out. Hmmm. (Very good post!) xT.

    • Frances says:

      T…I am ALWAYS interested in what you have to say. Do you remember the titles of the books…? I dunno about you, but sometimes the best way to look in, is to look out.. and as always, thank you. 🙂

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