Earlier this month I told you I was kicking around the idea of doing a book on My Story. Actually, I’ve been kicking around some ideas on the subject for a coupla years now. So much so that my toes are a little sore.
But I was cooking along. Outlining. Chapter-ing. Digging up details and sources and quotes. All that good stuff. Over 200 pages later, I had an epiphany:
I’m doing this wrong.
Dontcha hate it when that happens?
The epiphany arrived like a bolt out of the blue when I was working on an Instagram writing prompt for #authorschallenge2019. The writing prompt was My Audience.
I suddenly realized that I didn’t really know who my audience was at the moment. Because I was heading in the wrong direction. Leaving stuff out that I didn’t want to remember.
So I scrapped the whole thing. Kaput! Over 50,000 words. And started over. From scratch.
My story is tentatively titled The Small Things: What ‘The Waltons’ Taught Me About Writing & More. Here’s a portion of my re-direct, from a Season 1 episode called The Literary Man:
“I want to be a writer,” John-Boy announces to Covington. “More than anything else in the world, I want to be a writer.” They swap stories and insights.
Covington continues, saying he wrote about his family and his farm and life going on around him. He told himself he had to cut all his ties in order to write The Big Story, and that the former things were all trivial and inconsequential.
“This fella used the wandering and the searching as an excuse to keep from writing” recalls Covington, speaking of himself in the third person. So after forty-five years of living, he had nothing but “a few tall tales and second-hand stories” about writers he once knew.
“Don’t waste your life searching for The Big Story,” A.J. concludes. He tells the young Walton to write about what it’s like growing up poor, in the backwoods of Virginia, in a large family with a loving mother and father and brothers and sisters who pester yet love you. Rather than frittering away an entire lifetime searching for The Big Story, “write the small things” urges A.J.
That includes honesty. Telling your story true. This isn’t easy. People sometimes misunderstand. Pass judgment. Or the real story – the story you were “born to write” – is one so painful, you’d rather not set it down. In the end, however, you’re the only one who can do it. Maybe that’s what being a writer is all about.
Have you ever found yourself heading the wrong way and had to back up and start over?