Note: This post originally appeared on Beth Hoffman's amazing website -- I read it and loved it so much, I asked Christi to share. Thank you ladies!
The Streak, Mr. Duck, and a Vision
By Christi Craig (you can find her here)
A few months ago, my husband completed a year-long running streak. For 365 days straight - no matter the weather or a late night of work or a killer cold – he put on his running shoes and hit the pavement.
He was dedicated, committed, and some days a little obsessive. Once he hit the year mark, he turned to me and said that running every day was no longer a streak.
“It’s a way of life.”
I nodded in complete understanding. Running, I thought, is a lot like writing.
I write every day.
A few hundred words.
One whole page.
I am dedicated, committed, and some days a little obsessive. Though that wasn’t always the case.
I was in the fifth grade when I first caught the writing bug.
“A How-To book,” our teacher, Mrs. Young, told our class. “That’s your assignment. You are the author, the illustrator, and the expert.”
I focused on the word “expert,” and tried to think of something I could do well. I could play the piano, sort of. I knew the rules of Softball, but I had barely worn in my glove. Never mind my batting average.
I was pretty good at irritating my older sisters, but that wasn’t a skill I could break down into five simple steps.
I had nothing.
Then, at school one day, the catch phrase of the year echoed down the hallway outside of the classroom.
“Gag me with a spoon!” I heard.
The words reverberated in my mind and an image formed. Once I got home, I scoured the house for pencils, crayons, and Manila paper. Manic and determined, I worked all afternoon, writing and drawing.
I re-worded the catch phrase to make the story unique and wrote my very first book:
How to Gag Yourself with a Spatula, Starring Mr. Duck.
(I would not realize the art of naming characters until much later.)
When I turned in the assignment, Mr. Duck wore a red bowtie, and I wore a broad smile.
Mrs. Young hosted the How-To book release party in the intimate setting of our homeroom. When I stood up to read, I planted myself in front of the chalkboard. I ignored the heat rising up my neck and read Mr. Duck’s five steps to a successful gag with an everyday kitchen utensil. Afterward, I received rave reviews, and I was hooked.
Hooked on writing.
Hooked on taking the spark of an idea and turning it into a story that would capture and captivate an audience.
It took years and another writing assignment – this time from a published author teaching an online course - for the seed of writing that was planted in the fifth grade to take root.
“Write your own beautiful vision,” our instructor directed, “of where you want to be in five years.”
I struggled to dream big. But really, I knew what I wanted.
I have just finished reading the final proof of my novel. Tomorrow, I call my agent, who calls the publisher, who calls the printer. I fan the pages of my manuscript and see my words come alive as the story unfolds - the story of a character I've been getting to know for several years now.
Let the story go, I tell myself, and let it land where it may.
My son and daughter are in school for only a few more weeks, so my afternoons are still mine, and quiet. I step outside and walk to the garden. With bare hands and tools, I turn the soil, wake up the earthworms. I prepare the ground for herbs, tomatoes, and wildflowers. The wind raises goose bumps on my arms, but the sun warms my back.
Today, the dream of holding my novel in my hands seems much more possible. Not because I have an agent or a publisher. Not even because I get paid to write. But, because the moment I wrote that vision, I called myself a Writer.
I write every day – no matter my mood, or the status of my muse, or the absence of time.
One whole story.
Writing is no longer a dream; it’s no longer a hobby. It’s a way of life.
"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." ~Anais Nin