By Mary Jo Martin
This is an article of encouragement to all of you out there who are having writer’s block, or are afraid, or too shy to expose yourself to the world through your writing. I’ve been a “real” writer for about three years. And for only one of those have I been pursuing it seriously. You should also know that I am very competitive.
I started by joining a local writer’s organization, and became a critique circle member. Both of these were excellent decisions, especially the critique circle. When I started I was scared and felt like an outsider and not a “real” writer. But over time, and the willingness to accept constructive criticism, I’ve learned a tremendous amount and made some good friends. The amount of critiquing I get now is far less than it was when I began, so apparently I have improved. When I go back and read earlier drafts of my work, I cringe.
I’ve recently begun taking online creative writing courses through Coursera. If you’re a newbie like me, I’d encourage you to try that. It’s relatively inexpensive and you decide when you go to the “lectures.” There are assignments that help you stretch your creative muscles. And you get feedback from other learners – some of whom are excellent writers.
Perhaps the bravest steps I’ve taken are to enter writing contests. I’ve done three so far. One resulted in an honorable mention, in another I took first place in the memoir category, and best of all, a short story mystery I submitted was chosen to be published in an anthology! I have decided that makes me a published author.
Recently, I accepted a challenge on The Write Practice (http://thewritepractice.com/embrace-imperfection-write-dont-feel-like/?hvid=2Njtw1) to “just write” for 15 minutes. No revising, no editing. I’m an inveterate editor and do that as I write. I’ve read that’s a bad practice, but it works for me. So, with a small drum roll, here’s what I wrote:
The Muggermites were a mighty empire. Poised on the brink of being subsumed by the larger empire of Toyland, they maintained their position of first nation to little Mikey, who loved them with no restraints.
Mikey spent endless hours with them, marveling at their complex society of kings, queens and other royalty who always treated their loyal subjects with respect and dignity. Mikey learned important life lessons from them. Things like valuing all people regardless of their place in society, and treating everyone as you would like to be treated yourself.
Their King, Maurice the First, and their Queen, the lovely Maureen, had three tiny Muggermite children: Martin, the eldest at 10, Morris, the middle child at 7, and the joy of their lives, Merle, the baby, who was only 3 years old. The children were lucky to be born into royalty, but they played with all of the children in the kingdom as their equals. Because the royals were so beneficent, there were very few fights or arguments, and all of the children played happily together
One day, Martin, Morris, and Merle were playing one of their usual games – the Muggermite equivalent of hide and seek, called muggering. Morris and Merle hid, and Martin was selected to find them. Morris hid beneath a colorful turquoise mushroom, and Merle secreted herself behind the stem of a large geranium. Martin counted to ten and began searching. He found Morris easily, but could not find Merle, since the geranium plant she chose was on the far edge of the playground. He began to worry, since Merle was so tiny, and he was tasked with making sure she was safe.
Martin and Morris looked high and low, and only stopped when they heard a muffled cry from Merle, “Help! Help me, I think I’ve fallen into a trap of some sort.”
They immediately found where her voice was coming from, since Muggermites have exceptional hearing. The two boys rushed over to discover that her leg had gotten caught in a hole beside the geranium stem. Fortunately, they were able to get her out, but found that her leg was broken. The pair devised a makeshift stretcher from a large geranium leaf and carried her home to the castle so she could see Dr. Miles Manchester, who fixed her up perfectly.
Their games were postponed for a while, but Merle recovered quickly and they were able to pursue the things they held most dear shortly.
This will be the start of a children’s book which I’ll develop with my son, Mike. Some children have an imaginary playmate. Our son, Mike, had an entire civilization.
If I can do this, so can you. Just do it!
Mary Jo Martin’s Bio:
Mary Jo Martin is a retired market researcher who lives in Houston, Texas. She is a member of the Houston Writer’s Guild. Her short story, Flowers for Lewis, was published in December 2015 in the Houston Writer’s Guild Press short story mystery anthology, Waves of Suspense. A memoir in progress is the account of her quest to unearth her medical history on her father’s side. This work won first place in the memoir category in a recent Houston Writer’s Guild contest. Mary Jo started her professional life as a chemist. Along the way, she sold out to the dark side and earned her Master’s degree in Business Administration. After years of successfully producing concise business text as a marketer and market researcher, she is now free to do “real” writing.
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