Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One Step at a Time—Carolyn R. Wilker

Writers soon learn that getting to publication takes many steps, and that it’s one step at a time. In early days of writing, there’s so much to absorb—show, don’t tell; use active voice, good grammar and correct spelling; transitions from one scene or thought to another. To a new writer it may seem overwhelming. And yet, in time and with much practice, even the newer writer gradually gets those separate elements together. With the help of an editor, the prose or poetry comes out looking polished.
A serious writer is always learning, striving for a stronger voice and a story that meets people where they are, and so learning is never done. Some writers seem to develop a natural way with words or a poetic or literary voice. And others, like my aunt who wrote poetry for her own enjoyment, and shared it with family, are also writers.
Perhaps from a young age, a one-day writer becomes adept at telling stories or standing up in front of friends acting out imaginary scenes, then recreating them for a larger audience. Like a nine-year-old I know who started her first newsletter recently that her homeschooling Mom supervises. Her Mom put up a link on Facebook and then the publisher of the local papers saw it and decided to include one of Rachel's stories in each edition of its publication. Go, Rachel, go! I suggested that one day she might be on the Youth Editorial Board for our regional paper. She continues to learn and that's good.
Life is a lot like that too, learning one step at a time. I awoke one morning recently and the line of Kris Kristofferson’s song, came to me: “One day at a time.” Just like composers of song and story, we never do it all at once. A baby is born, and there’s much for the child to learn. She sits up, stands, walks, says those first words, and later communicates with others. She tries things out, and her family learns in time what she does best.
After a long progression of words, actions, songs, performances, you, too, arrive at the present moment, and it’s as though all those steps were leading you there. You’re encouraged by your family to keep going, or by others around you. Sometimes a road block stymies your progress and stops you for awhile, and other times, you’re just not so sure of yourself and your abilities.
Faith journeys are like that too. At first parents and Sunday School teachers offer simple lessons, such as God loves you, through song and Bible stories, and you go from drinking milk (simple concepts) and eventually to eating solid food and digging into the  meanings of  a messy life and God’s grace and how God loves you, messy life and all.
Maybe you find release in resuming that gift that was dammed up, and other times it’s simply daunting. One day at a time.
As I tell my students in writing workshops, “If you keep working at it, you get better.” And they do, because I see improvement as they continue to write. In the same way, we understand better, in time, the lessons God has for us and the gifts he gave, and we continue to develop as his children, even when we’re all “grown up.”
If your calling is to write, then it’s time to get started. If you’ve taken a hiatus for whatever reason, there’s room to start again. Share what you know, where you are in your faith journey. Learn as you go and be persistent.

Carolyn R. Wilker, editor, storyteller and author of Once Upon a Sandbox. Carolyn will present a workshop, Making True Stories Memorable, for Canadian Authors Association, Waterloo-Wellington Branch, on February 28, in Waterloo, ON, and will be on faculty of Write Canada 2015, co-leading the Creative Nonfiction Intensive workshop.



Glynis said...

Oh isn't that the truth? Sometimes we want to jump ahead and skip a few of the early steps. But when we do that we either lose heart and give up or we blunder on without learning properly and then we get fed up. Oh yes, those words ring loudly in my ears, too. "One day at a time, Sweet Jesus!" Thanks, Carolyn for a wisely written piece.

Bobbi Junior said...

I'm not sure who made the comment, but someone said it takes years of hard work to become an overnight success. You've expressed it very well, Carolyn. So often we compare ourselves to others who have already put in those years. We need to be patient with ourselves, so we can grow into maturity in all these areas. I need to keep this front and centre in my mind when I get frustrated with myself!

Peter Black said...

Thanks Carolyn. Important points for the writer's development and helpful and encouraging for the journey.
I like your transition to the inspirational / spiritual application.~~+~~

fudge4ever said...

This is encouraging Carolyn. Your thoughts reminded me of the phrase "little by little" which I read from Deuteronomy 7 this morning. Step by step, little by little was make progress.

Rose McCormick Brandon said...

Carolyn - I always appreciate your encouraging words.

Carolyn R. Wilker said...

Thank you all for your comments, Glynis, Bobbi Junior, Peter, Pam and Rose. We all start wherever we are, and if we keep going and keep working at it, we do get better.

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