I remember times where I would just sit and stare at my blank computer screen, trying to come up with some kind of inspiration. I wanted to be author of Great American Novel. Those were days before I was published, before I had learned how to finish a manuscript, before I knew what it “took.”
“Write about what you know!” screeched that old tired voice inside my head. “Yeah, right,” I retorted. “I don’t know nuthin’. Who wants to read about that?” It was over. I had to face it. The book would never be finished. I would never be published, and Oprah, well, she wasn’t gonna call me either. Damn.
I was going to have to get a real job, and, worse than that, all my friends were going to say, “I told you so.” I was a loser, and that thought made me sick to my stomach. Looking outside through bedroom window, I was struck with a brilliant idea. “Of course! That’s it!” I was going to jump, except that fall was only about twelve inches. “Okay,” I told myself, “I’m going to have to jump a lot!”
Nine jumps later, more depression set in; now I was a failed jumper as well. This wasn’t way it was suppose to happen. But that ninth splat in dirt must have shaken something loose in my pea brain, because that was when I figured it out: Writing isn’t about what you know, it’s about what you feel and way in which you share those feelings with your reader.
For instance, a man came over to house a while back. He was friend of a young mother in our town who had lost her ten-year-old son just days before. The boy and his best friend had fallen through ice just before dark and had drowned. No one knew for sure what had happened; they had gone out to play and never came home. In darkness, volunteers searched through wet snow and dense brush, looking for any clue to their whereabouts. By morning hundreds had joined cause. We wanted to believe that boys had run away, or were hiding, or anything other than what we feared. But our calls for angels went unanswered, as reality of an underwater camera testified. It was a terrible experience for all of us.
The mother had asked my friend, “If God said to you that he was going to give you a beautiful gift—a perfect little boy who carried sun in his smile, stars in his eyes and…” she stuttered as her face pulled together and tears slid down soft pink cheeks, “and more love in his heart than you could ever know, would you still want him, even if you knew that He would take him back in ten years?” My friend had no words to comfort woman, so while shaking, she cried answer for him. “Yes, yes…I would,” she said, nodding her head up and down. “I miss him so much.”