The holidays are nostalgic for me. Family gatherings bring back memories, some good and others questionable. In 2016, I thought I would start the year off with my family memories and share how they shaped my writing. I’m calling this series – Everything I Needed to Know About Writing, I Learned from my Fam-Damily. Maybe I should consider having some of my family photos mounted to celebrate some of the better memories in my current home. My friend told me it helped him when he was writing similar reflective work he said to have your photos mounted here for high-quality prints which apparently helped with his creative process. But I digress.
Do you remember the classic Christmas movie – A Christmas Story – with Darren McGavin? It’s become iconic and a movie my family watches every year. Well, thanks to my older brother Ed, we had our own version of the Red Ryker BB Gun Rifle with the compass in the stock.
My brother Ed pleaded with my parents all year that he’d be responsible enough to own a BB gun pistol. After all, everyone who was anyone had one and he wouldn’t be denied. He swore he would be careful. He wouldn’t hurt anyone or kill a defenseless animal. With my brother’s deep voice and sincere demeanor, he could charm anyone. My mom finally caved and took him to the hobby store to pick out the best BB pistol anyone could ever own. I went along for the ride and was a firsthand witness to the questionable moment in my family’s history that would follow.
Ed rode back home with my mom, holding his prized possession in his hands, getting the feel and weight of it. He stroked the barrel and loaded it with its first BBs. He was ready to go.
Mom pulled up to our house and Ed got out. He turned to see my younger brother Ignacio coming up from the mailbox. I don’t know what went through Ed’s mind at that moment, but he took aim and fired a shot—at my little brother. He said he didn’t think it would shoot that far. Yeah, right. My mother grabbed the pistol and Ed never fired another round. The BB hit my other brother center mass. Great shot, Ed.
For the rest of the year, Ed worked on my mom again. He swore he had learned his lesson and would never take aim at his brother—or anyone—again. (I hoped his assurances would cover me and my sisters, but was never quite sure.) Forget about defenseless animals, Ed had leaped over that line and went straight for spilling human blood. Way to go, big brother. Ed knew he had a lot to make up for and he saved his best material for mom. She eventually caved…AGAIN.
She took Ed to the sacred place she had hid his BB gun pistol—a secret location no one had known about or would ever find—in her closet. (I did not inherit my imagination from Mom.) She pulled out the box that held Ed’s prized possession and they opened it together. Inside the box was his BB gun pistol—shattered in a million pieces and painstakingly put back together. If anyone tried to lift it, to would shred apart like confetti. (I wished I had inherited my little brother’s imagination…and patience.)
Little bro had found a way to never be a target again.
What did this teach me about writing?
1.) AIM HIGH – If the dream is yours, you’re the only one who should dictate the goals you set or how high you aim. People told me to shoot for a certain publisher or line because they perceived it would be easier. I didn’t want easy. I wanted to earn my place and wanted to sell single-title. I had my day job. I could afford to aim higher. I never regretted my decision and far exceeded my goals. You never know until you try.
2.) EXPECT BLOOD – Writing is hard. There will be blood. If it were easy, everyone would do it. Constantly strive for the best you can be, even if that means it hurts. You will be happy you did. It will mean more. This goes for project to project too. Dare to risk something you haven’t tried to push yourself. I like to write where I’m slightly off balance and not entirely sure I can do it. When I surprise myself, it means more and I can shoot higher next time.
3.) MOTHERS DON’T ALWAYS KNOW WHAT’S BEST – They say, “Write like your parents are dead.” That means to write with abandon. Don’t let anyone else’s opinion resound in your head as you write, fearing what they will think of you after they read your work. You’ll be defeated before you even start.
4.) IF YOUR GOALS GET SHATTERED, PUT THE PIECES BACK TOGETHER AND TRY AGAIN – You writing goals can change as the market changes. Be prepared to rethink your idea of success. Be flexible when things get tougher and hang in there. If your dream to write is important to you, you will find a way to make it work, even if you’re doing it only for your own personal satisfaction. Find the joy in your writing and hang on to it. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
5.) BE NIMBLE WHEN PEOPLE TAKE POTSHOTS AT YOU – There will always be naysayers and critics who will not understand what you’re doing. It comes with the territory of being an artist and creating something from nothing. But I like to challenge those who tear apart a book to write one themselves and put it up for public opinion. Perhaps they would understand the guts it takes to write. Be fearless.
1.) Which of the 5 goals resonated with you the most?
2.) What keeps you going?