I saw something this week that broke my heart. Chances are you didn’t see it on social media, or if you are part of the writing community you may have, but an author I didn’t know, or follow, passed away. This announcement from a total stranger affected me profoundly.
The writing community is vast but at the same time close-knit. There are writers from all over the world that I connect with on a regular basis through social media and I have even been fortunate enough to meet some of them in person. Because I am still trying to figure out where my audience is, I am on all of the main channels, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Pinterest. Twitter is my go-to when I have an atta-girl I want to share for something writing related and I try to engage when I see posts from other authors doing the same.
Posts announcing box openings and debuts are my favorite and I am compelled to interact on them even without knowing or following the author. I was a debut author once and I understand just what it takes to bring a story to life. I can relate the amount of time away from friends and family that is involved, the sacrifices that are made, and the deals you have to make with yourself to get words on the page. And when I see those posts on Twitter, the ones where an author is opening their first box of books and holding years of their life in their hands for the first time, or when they are announcing that their book is live and for sale, I just can’t help but jump in and be part of the excitement.
This morning was different. I was doing what I do most mornings, thumbing through my Twitter feed and catching up with my handful of followers. It is impossible, as I am sure you know, to follow everyone. And it is a fact that many of the folks you follow, are following others you don’t even know. But the posts show up in your feed, as if you are overhearing a conversation at a party. And sometimes, you see a post from someone who has connected with a large number of your followers that you are seeing for the first time. It is all about timing, you see, not only timing to see them in your feed, but timing for you to be on your phone in the first place. The timing has to be perfect and this particular morning it was. The post I saw was shared by someone who went out of their way to pass a message along that ultimately touched the heart of a stranger.
I’ve said it before, writing is a solitary endeavor. There are times you are alone and, more often, times that you are with others but still silent in your thoughts. Writing can be therapeutic, but can also be very lonely, and its attraction isn’t always understood by non-writers. Family and friends can support you, but are they really going to be excited about every aspect of the journey you are on as an author? I can tell you from experience, they aren’t. And that is okay, we all have different interests. So when I say that the timing of what happened this particular morning was a message I was meant to receive, please don’t think I am losing it. Well, I am losing it, I am bawling like a baby right now, but it’s all good.
So, the stars aligned on Twitter, and I received a message from the husband of a writer I didn’t know. He announced, on her Twitter account, that she had passed away five days earlier. A couple clicks and I was on her page, looking at her pinned post and doing the math in my head. Five days prior to her death, she had launched her debut novel. There had been Weeks, Months, Years to get the book to the point where it was ready to share with the world, but only five days to enjoy the final accomplishment. I won’t be naming names, only that she was a writer that I didn’t know, but now I wish I did. Seeing the comments from writers I do know on her thread made it so. Seeing her pinned post for a book I know she put her heart and soul into made it so. Realizing that the printing press was barely cooled when she took her last breath made it so. Knowing that her family took the time to post their own words on a feed they didn’t fully understand made it so. All of these reasons welled up inside me and came pouring from my fingertips. The result is the post you are reading right now.
This post from a stranger’s husband touched me in a way I can hardly describe, although I am trying my best here today. I am a firm believer that there is a story inside each of us, but that only a small percentage will dive in and bring one or more of them to life. Stories were meant to be shared. From the dawn of time, they were brought to life by vivid description, dance, pictures and song. There are stories that have been around for thousands of years, myths and legends that were performed by entertainers, or passed audibly from one generation to the next, eventually written down by someone who desired to transcribe it. We still read those stories today and many of the tales we weave include the very threads of their initial creation. So for my part, I suppose this post from a stranger helped my creation process, prompted a post that I would have not otherwise have written, but it also brought some of my deep-seeded fears to the surface.
Bringing a book to life is an involved process. Once I started writing with intent, it was strange to me how many people around me were writing as well. I am sure it is a bit of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon going on, but understanding that doesn’t make it any less strange. So many members of my family and friends have mentioned in casual conversation that they have always wanted to write a book. Some were never started, others were written but never made it off their laptop. I am here to share with you today, some of those stories won’t ever see the light of day. Not because they weren’t good, but because the writer is no longer with us. I know of at least two that passed in the last year at the time of this post. That breaks my heart, more than you can ever know. Everyone has a story to tell, and they didn’t get to tell theirs. They, of course, live on in the stories we tell about them, but I don’t feel it is the same.
There is something really special about reading words that someone carefully crafted and something magical about the way a writer can draw you into a world that they designed. It is the most intimate experience you will ever have with a writer, since things are written down that perhaps would never be said or done in real life. That’s not to say that the fantasy in the stories are real, or that the desires of the writer are twisted, like in the case of a thriller but I believe that there are jewels within the text that give us insight into the person the writer is. It’s upsetting when I hear a writer passes without bringing their story to life, without anyone ever having the chance to truly know how they look at the world. The author in the post at least got her story out there and the tears I shed are mixed emotions coming to the surface. There is happiness that she took the plunge and got her book out there and a bone-crushing sorrow that it will be the last story she will ever tell.
So bottom line, this post is about fear. While I know I will never be able to tell all of my stories before my time is up, it is important to me that I try. I want to share them, even as I understand they aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I want to share them because there are bits of me within the pages that I long to show you, glimmers of the experiences I’ve had that have colored my world. These are things that we may never talk about when we see each other at a party, or on Zoom, but you will know them when you read them, especially if we shared the experiences. And at the end of the day, I hope that I provide someone who is reading my work as much of an escape as I had when writing it. I believe that, more than anything, is the gift authors give to the world.
Writing for the love of writing is what gets me through, and there are those who may not understand it, but that is okay. But the burning question for any writer out there that hasn’t taken the plunge is – What are you waiting for? Because if you are compelled to write, to craft your tale until your fingers cramp, but you haven’t put your book out there, there is no time like the present. We only get better by trying (and sometimes failing), but you won’t know what you are capable of unless you invest that time in yourself.
You have a story inside you that only you can tell, one that won’t be shared by anyone with the same enthusiasm as you have for it, so don’t let another day go by without telling it. Because we all know, tomorrow isn’t promised, and it is what you do today that can make all the difference.
Carpe diem. XO