Darien Gee (COURTESY OF ANNIE TAO PHOTOGRAPHY)
Quote of the Week: “You know, it’s hard work to write a book. I can’t tell you how many times I really get going on an idea, then my quill breaks. Or I spill ink all over my writing tunic.” Ellen DeGeneres
Writing Exercise of the Week: Write for 10 minutes about a near miss, something that almost happened (an accident, winning class president, being smacked in the face) but didn’t.
For several years our family home-schooled. Those years were lean, not just financially, but in terms of our available time, our available brain power. We had three young kids, two businesses, a mountain of debt, and a 1,200 square foot rental in which our work, our homeschooling, our meals, and everything took place. My husband and I would pass each other in the narrow hallway, each on different shifts, different sleeping schedules. I thought for a long time that it would never end or that I might go crazy. I wrote my first four books under those conditions, often in the middle of night on a cheap desk or rickety camp table, sometimes with a fussy child on my lap.
“Don’t confuse desperation with inspiration,” I would tell people who asked me how I did it. It was kind of a joke, but not really. They would be startled at my response, because desperation seems like a terrible way to write, much less to live. And they’re right.
But what desperation did, at least for me, was help me get out of my own way. I’d wanted to be a writer since the fourth grade. In my heart, I knew this would be part of my life experience. But I talked myself out of it, convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough. I did this in the mid-1990’s with my first completed manuscript and an agent-author agreement in hand. Was the manuscript ready? Did I really want this to be my first book? I panicked.
I didn’t sign the agreement. I put the manuscript on the shelf to collect dust. I went back to the life I knew, the one I knew how to navigate.
But 10 years later I found my old manuscript and told my husband, “I think I could write another.”
We desperately needed the money and I needed a creative outlet—I could feel my brain and spirit going to mush. I was desperate to try anything.
I wrote the novel, found an agent and started on my next book. I didn’t wait for inspiration to arrive, but sought it out. I had reservations and fears about that first book (and every one thereafter—we writers are a neurotic bunch), but I forced myself to step out of the way and let it go into the world.
There are no excuses with desperation, no discussions, no pros nor cons. Desperation doesn’t have the time. Desperation doesn’t wait for things to get lined up or the right opportunity to appear. Desperation is a deep, burning desire for things to be different, that final cry in the dark. It means that things are ready to change and you are now willing to do something you weren’t willing to do before. Desperation is so full of hopelessness that I was actually able to find hope, because what did I have to lose?
If you’re feeling desperate, take heart. Maybe it’s time to let go of some old thinking or beliefs you’ve been holding on to. And maybe it’ll give you that final push to do the thing you’ve always wanted to do.
This fall Darien will be teaching memoir, writing and publishing classes through Waimea Community Education. Visit waimeaeducation.com for more information.
Darien Gee is a national bestselling author based in Waimea. Her most recent novel is The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. She also writes under the name Mia King. Visit her at dariengee.com or miaking.com.