Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Blessing or a Curse? Guest Blog by Lynn Gardner

I've always written....something. When I was little, I made up stories to entertain my younger siblings as I tended them. Some I wrote down, some I didn't. In high school, I even wrote essays in English for half the football team. I won prizes writing essays. Then I began journaling. With the exception of the years when my four kids were little and I didn't have time to even think, much less write, that habit stuck with me from high school until now. (What do you do with all those journals? The prophet said to write them. Did he also say we have to keep them for others to read?)

I wrote plays, road shows, special sacrament meetings programs for Christmas and Easter, leadership skits, then for 20 years, I wrote and edited a family newsletter. It wasn't until my kids began leaving the nest that I seriously began writing an actual book. No, wait! I was writing down a story. I wasn't actually writing a book because I didn't know how. I could tell a story, but there is a big difference in the two. I went to writer's conferences, took classes, bought a gazillion books on how to write, and I actually got published when I was 55!

Twelve books later, for reasons I won't go into here, I stopped telling stories. I stopped writing. Twelve grandchildren. Twelve books. That came out nice and even, and now I'm going to enjoy my grandkids while they still are at the age that gramma's are cool. That was the plan. No more angst. No more rewrites. No more last minute editing - (I can totally empathize with you on that, Stephanie.)

But somewhere between Emeralds and Espionage and Pearls and Peril, fifteen years ago, a ghost story began to haunt me. Year after year I put it aside, pushed it back into wherever it was coming from, and thought I was done with it. A couple of years ago, the ghost burst upon the scene again, demanding to be heard. I didn't have a work in progress, so in order to have something to read at my critique group, I dabbled with the story. But I didn't really want to get back into the writing world so I didn't take it too seriously, and was relieved when our group, which had been together for ten years or more, sort of dissolved because of busy schedules. Great! I really could retire from the writing scene, with the exception of maybe some little gift type books that didn't overtake my life with deadlines and guilt trips when I went to play with my husband or the grandkids.

My husband and I went to Thailand, Cambodia and China two years ago and not a single story line surfaced the entire 27 days we were gone. My husband and two of my daughters were actually quite relieved. They figured I'd been cured and they wouldn't have to suffer the angst with me when people said things like greed wasn't a motive for murder.

But the ghost wasn't about to shoved aside or edited out, or ignored. And so you'll find me harnessing myself to the computer once again and telling the story this ghost is insisting be told. We even took a 5000 mile trip in May visiting sites where the book will take place (on our way to the high school graduation of a granddaughter in Louisiana.)

So my question is this: Once a storyteller, always a storyteller? Is there no rest, no retiring from the creative process? Are we born with the storyteller DNA or genes or whatever it is and it is a fate we cannot escape? And do we really want to?

I'll get back to you when the ghost is finally laid to rest. In the meantime, how do you feel about that? Can you quit? Walk away and not create the stories that flow through your heads and spill out onto pages for others to enjoy? Is it a blessing or a curse?

Lynn Gardner is the bestselling author of the "jewel" mystery series, beginning with Emeralds and Espionage, and the Maggie McKenzie mystery series, beginning with Vanished. Her most recent book is Pursued. Lynn blogs at the V-Formation.


At 6/30/2010 11:02 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

As an avid Lynn Gardner fan I am glad you are writing again.

At 6/30/2010 11:57 AM, Blogger Laura said...

I know I appreciate your talent, Lynn. After stumbling upon one of your books, I hunted down the entire series. Of course, I've read all of them and there are things you did in your stories that I'm STILL thinking about. Which is a big help in my own writing. Recognizing what I like helps me understand what it is about a story that captures me. Thanks for giving me so much to like.

At 6/30/2010 1:18 PM, Blogger Nancy Campbell Allen said...

So glad you are still writing, Lynn, and to answer your question, I feel wretched when I'm not writing something. The guilt is unreal. And I forever have a pen or pencil in hand, just to doodle or scribble or...anything. I think we all have different talents, and when we neglect them, our souls rebel. :-)

At 6/30/2010 6:32 PM, Blogger Valerie Ipson said...

I don't know the answer to your question. I'm still on the opposite side writing down the first story that won't go away. Then I've got a dozen other story ideas...I need to write faster.

At 6/30/2010 7:23 PM, Blogger Stephanie Humphreys said...

I don't know the answer either. It just depend on the day. At any rate, I'm glad to here there will be a new Lynn Gardner book.

At 7/01/2010 1:10 AM, Blogger Jolene said...

I think once you realize you can write all the crazy that happens inside your head on paper or computer or whatever and make sense of it, it's addictive. I've spent years ignoring stories and now that I'm writing, I can't believe I didn't start it sooner. I can't imagine NOT giving a voice to those thoughts anymore.

At 7/01/2010 11:47 AM, Blogger Jennie said...

I've tried to quit several times and have even taken a few extended breaks, but sometimes I revert back to that old cartoon I used to keep above my desk when I was a reporter that showed a newspaper man gettting a transfusion and being assured it was ink, not blood, he was receiving. I often joke that I have ink in my veins and will probably put the mortician on hold when the time comes so I can write one last thing.


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