I’ve been mulling over the notion of writing a book (or books) for some time now. Recently, I checked out four books from the library for Miss D., called the “Janie Johnson” series, by Caroline B. Cooney. I’ve got a pretty good divining rod on reading material when it comes to D. and although it sometimes takes sadistic parental urging, she usually likes what I pick. This time, however, she was already slogging through two books: “The End”– the last book of the Series of Unfortunate Events, and “Fever: 1793,” something I had recommended to her before, but she didn’t pick up until it became an assignment option in Literature class. So, I read the “Janie” books, myself—and the bug bit me again, big time.
Ever since the 6th grade I wanted to be a writer. For Christmas that year I wrote a cartoon book for my Dad called “Come Back, Little Hitler,” because he was such a WWII buff and fan of the German war machine. It was a spoofish piece with little touches that pre-dated political correctness (a commercial break where prisoners are sent to the showers with Lifebuoy, for instance). The following spring we had to write short stories in Mrs. Fielding’s English class and I submitted a rather obesee tale entitled,“The Purple Pickle,” loosely based on the George Peppard movie, The Blue Max (in reference to a medal given to WWI German flying aces). Mrs. Fielding took me aside, told me I had a gift for writing and encouraged me to pursue it. I took it to heart.
Later in junior high, I joined the school paper because I figured it was the best way to get my stuff seen. Small blurbs about basketball victories and lunch lady exposes weren’t sexy enough, though, so I’d pen off-the-wall stuff and pass it around class. Most of the other kids were from good LDS homes where Mad magazine wasn’t allowed, so I had plenty of material to draw from. Not coincidentally, I stumbled upon the “class clown” within and started collecting my frequent flyer miles to the principal’s office. It was that same year I wrote my first screenplay, a sort of Carol Burnett-ish skit assimilating current popular TV commercials. My English teacher loved it and gave me access to the mimeograph machine to make copies and start casting the characters. She told me to let her know when I was ready and she’d get permission to have an assembly for it. I got as far as printing the copies and maybe casting a couple of friends for parts when I lost the steam for it, and I let it die. This was the first of many times I would start an ambitious piece and not see it through. With high school came another newspaper gig. I still passed personal works around the class, only this time it bit me in the butt– in my junior year when I mailed an anonymous love letter to a girl I liked, she knew exactly who it was, from the handwriting.
At college I continued taking creative and script writing courses. It wouldn’t be fair to say I had an eye single to this career, though. My main course of study was Advertising. Nevertheless, upon graduation I came to L.A. to be a film writer. Over 11 years I must have completed ten film scripts (and not completed three times as many), but only three were made into movies—another one into a TV pilot– and not very spectacular ones at that.
I finally decided to hang up my guns and concentrate on a corporate career. While the pay’s more steady, I still have the itch to write. For a year I’ve been building on an idea for a Mormon movie I’m aching to “put to paper,” but the time demand for such a venture is prohibitive with everything else going on. Now my inner voice is campaigning for me to write young adult fiction, something I’d never before attempted. Perhaps a spin-off of your garden variety New Era story: Alice wanted Jimmy to notice her. “It wouldn’t hurt to open the top button of my Polo shirt,” she reasoned. “Then he’s sure to ask me to the tri-stake dance.” But something deep inside told Alice there was a reason the Polo shirt had a top button. She played with it between her fingers, thinking dangerous thoughts…
I believe writing is one of the talents I came with that I’m expected to magnify. To borrow a line from Eric Liddel in Chariots of Fire (read with Scottish brogue), “I believe God made me for a purpose, Jennie, but he also made me verbose. And when I write, I feel His pleasure.” I had hoped the blog would satisfy my needs, but instead it just fuels them. And it’s not starting such a project that concerns me—it’s not finishing it. See Lord? I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the blog: lo, there thou hast that is thine. Another half-hearted sacrifice for the altar.
If you knew me well enough (which I don’t expect), you’d know this is just my way of working up to start the project– the old Tevya “On the other hand” bit. I don’t have time to write a book (I barely have time to update my calendar) , but I’ll find it. I have to. Even if I knew it would never sell or draw pleasure from a single person, I’d do it. Even though I suspect it will contribute to countless nights of blocks and plot impasses, wrong turns and rewrites, I’m doing it.
Because writers write, baby.