“WRITE! EVERY! DAY!” she said.
“Yes m’am” we said., not really thinking she meant it. Not literally.
I had finally decided I really, really wanted to take writing seriously and so, naturally, I enrolled in a writing class taught by Peggy Fielding, the best-known (and loved) writing teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I then lived. And here I was, in night school, first class, promising to “write every day.” (Well, except for….)
Next class: Roll call.
“Please stand as I call your names. John, did you write every day?”
“Well, actually, uh, no, you see…”
“Are you serious about becoming a selling author?”
“Then, how will you answer my question next week?”
And so it went. One poor woman had been ill and Peggy explained in kind and deadly tones that writing while feverish often produced some of the best work.
By gosh, she really MEANT write every day, and woe befall the student who didn’t honestly answer “Yes, I did,” in every class–or else lied.
Thing is, she lived what she taught. A couple of years ago our beloved Peggy suffered a stroke. A friend took her to the emergency room and, as she was being wheeled away, heard her telling orderlies and nurses all about her latest book and asking for someone to take dictation so she could continue work on her current writing project. (And, you know, a loyal friend was there in the hospital taking dictation from Peggy almost every day until she could write on her own again.)
The whole point is, are you taking the writing profession seriously? Do you really want to be a writer, or are you one of those who wants to have written, avoiding the sometimes tedious production process?
Another writer I admire, a newspaper editor, headed an essay on writing this way: “If you don’t wake up writing….” Richard Cattani didn’t finish this sentence anywhere in the essay, and he didn’t need to. I think he meant (thanks Peggy!) that, if at some time in a 24 hour period, words don’t so fill your head that you are compelled to write them down–well then, why do you say you are a writer?
Right this moment, January 26. 2009 in the Arkansas Ozarks, dire weather forecasts tell us we are facing a major ice storm. There may be (they say) accumulations of an inch or more on tree branches and power lines. We know what happens then. The power goes out for days (sometimes weeks).
No computer, after the battery on the lap top runs out. So, Radine (who has thought it was the very fact of sitting down and turning on the computer that got her writing started every day) can’t write. Right?
No. You betcha no. I have my legal pads and pens ready and, Peggy dear, I AM, BY GOSH, GOING TO WRITE EVERY DAY!
With love and thanks, Radine