A look back…

Sometimes it’s good to look back to see how far we’ve come. Or, to see how on earth we ended up here. In this new year, I am looking back as well as ahead, hoping it’s all been worth it, hoping the best really is yet to come…

From childhood I knew I wanted to be a nurse. But a secret desire to be a writer lurked below the surface. After graduating from Nursing School, I went to work in a small Northern BC community for a year. My first job, my first time far from home; adventures abounded. (I incorporated many of those in my book, “Out of the Shadows” many years later.)

In the seventies, I almost threw away my nursing career for ever by becoming involved with a cult-like group of enthusiastic young people who wanted to give their all to and for God. Ending up on a primitive wilderness community had never been on my wish list, yet there I was, trying to spin wool on a spinning wheel right out of Sleeping Beauty. Oh yes, and delivering babies in log cabins by gaslight.

Leaving this group was easier than re-entering the normal world I’d left behind seven years earlier.  I went into the group single; I came out married with two babies. I moved to my husband’s home town in California. We tried to be a normal married couple, but we were behind the eightball all the way; we didn’t know how to be normal, married, or a couple.  After one more baby, we separated, eventually divorced, and he remarried. This story is in my memoir, “To the Wilderness and Back.”

The rest of the story goes on from there:

I returned home to Canada, to my family. I took stock. I was now in my late 30’s, had three young children to support, and my parents had no idea, really, what had gone before; how badly I was coping with a broken life.  Despite that, however, I still knew how to be a nurse, and found a job in a doctor’s office with regular weekday hours, a must for a single parent.  Thanks to that I was able to support us; keep a roof over our heads and food in our tummies. Nevertheless, we all felt the lack of a husband and father’s presence. At times I felt stretched so thin, it’s a wonder  I didn’t break apart.

It was at this point that the idea of writing a romance novel (for profit) began to take root. I needed money. My office job was not only boring, it paid poorly. Conflicts with the staff arose which isolated me from them for a time. (Fallout from my wilderness experience, perhaps?) I started a story in my head, and used my lunch hours to write furiously as it began to unfold. It kept my mind occupied. My father had recently purchased an electronic typewriter which he used to send letters to editors. He was very interested in politics, and wanted to have his say. He used to campaign for a Western Canada party, even going door to door, bless his heart. And he wielded the written word like a sword.

Whenever I could, I’d borrow his typewriter and transcribe my hand written pages, sometimes having to do a whole page over again just to change a paragraph around from here to there. These were the days before computers, or even word processors!  Yes, there was a time in the not terribly distant past, that computers were merely a twinkle in someone’s eye!

The upshot of my hard work was that my typing skills improved tremendously, so much so, that after their secretary quit, my employers decided I should fill my spare time transcribing their letters. This cut down on my writing time, but I continued working on my story at home…

THEN:

The children became teenagers. All at once. Together. My time and energies were used up,  keeping them from riding too far off the rails. We all have scars from that epoch, but are in recovery. Those stories have yet to be told…

The manuscript lay dormant for years.

Computers became small enough to sit on a desk, and cheap enough to buy.

I invested in a correspondence writing course, learning the nuts and bolts of preparing and submitting manuscripts, as well as receiving some valuable critiques by a professional on the story exercises he gave me. One of those stories became the basis for The Real McCoy.”

As my  nursing career winds down, I can focus on my newer career. Writing, like living, is an ongoing process; some days flow, other days are like labor of the worst kind. Some critics are kind, others are cruel, but the readers who tell me they’ve liked my stories keep me enthused, inspired, and hopeful.

One day I just may get them both right–writing and living.

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