Why writing is kind of like riding a bike.

Have you ever seen an advertisement offering bike riding lessons? Nope, me neither. Sounds a bit silly. I mean, who would pay to learn how to ride a bike, right? More importantly is it even necessary? My kids learned to ride bikes when they were four. I remember watching my middle daughter hard at work one day, picking herself up again and again. “How do I keep my balance?” she asked. “It’s just something you have to learn,” I told her. At the end of the day she had it mastered.

Back when I was nine, and just learning to ride a bike, my older sister told me what to do. She showed me how to get on, where to put my feet and hands, and how to stop. A piece of cake. At least it looked that way when she went tearing down the road as fast as those pedals would take her. Trying it myself was a totally different story. Remembering to pedal while not steering myself into a ditch was challenging enough, but the most challenging of all was keeping my balance. Mind you, I ended up with a few skinned knees before it was all over and palms bit with gravel stones. Yup, we lived on a dirt road.

But I was determined. I knew it wasn’t something that was beyond my capabilities. Everyone I knew could ride a bike. It was child’s play, after all. So I set out to learn, secure in the thought that I would. It was just a matter of time. Practise, practise, practise. It was the only way I was going to learn. My sister could show me as many times as I wanted her to, but she couldn’t do it for me. You can’t teach someone balance. It something you understand through doing.

It’s that way with writing. We can read all the books on writing we want, take a hundred and one classes, but none of those things will make us a good storyteller. We actually have to hit the keyboard and start writing. Of course we’ll be wobbly in the beginning. We’ll fall more times than we can count. We’ll get our pride hurt. But each day, as we practice, we’ll get a little better. We won’t feel so uncertain. We’ll work out all the wobbles.

While I might be able to tell you enough writing rules to get you started, becoming a storyteller is altogether different. Good writing doesn’t necessarily make a good storyteller. I happen to believe that the ability to tell an interesting story, one that engages the reader, is a bit like bike riding. No one else can teach us, it is a skill that we develop with a great deal of practise. It takes time and determination.

I’ve never taken a writing course. I’m sure many of you haven’t either. I own perhaps half a dozen writing books. I may not be able to explain how I tell a story, the same way I can’t explain how to I keep my balance on a bike, it’s just something I do. Right or wrong, I’ve learned what it takes to make a good storyteller. You’ll learn that too. Writing is easy. That’s right, you heard me. Easy. I know someone who whipped up a novel in two weeks. The first thing he’d ever written. Was the story any good? What do you think? Perhaps the worse part was the writer wasn’t interested in making any changes, or working to improve what was there. Their writing was VERY wobbly, but it could have been improved had they understood that the writer you are in the beginning is not the writer you’ll be further down the road. Good storytelling is a skill you acquire over time.

Do you agree that good storytelling is something that is acquired over time, that writing can be taught, but storytelling can not?

Preparations

I’ve been thinking about my reading on Sunday a lot this past week. I suppose that’s only natural. I’d like to make sure that the excerpt I read is interesting and  since there are shifts back and forth in the story, I didn’t want to  confuse the listener, either. I’d sort of like to read the third chapter but I find it a bit emotional and so I decided to stick with something safer.

I’m to tell a little bit about the book, set up for the excerpt and then read for 10-15 minutes. They’ve allowed time for Q&A afterward. I opted for the minimum time, since this is my first time at such an event.

I had an email from another first time author who will also be reading and she tells me she hasn’t put a whole lot of thought into it. Although I have read my work in public on a few occasions to small crowds, this will be her first time. Is this a fool hearty move on her part? For a fleeting moment I thought, it sure is.

I like to be prepared. I need to be prepared. But when I stop and think about it all my preparation, all my fretting over which chapters to read (since they are short chapters I will need to read two) isn’t going to change anything the moment I start reading on Sunday. I’ll either mess up or I won’t. This other author will likely choose her excerpt and read it over a few times the night before. Likely when it all comes down to it no one’s even going to know the difference. I mean, how many times can you read something over? Even reading it over in practice you can stumble a time or two and even if you don’t stumble while practicing that doesn’t insure you won’t when you’re reading it for real . And is it even that big a deal if you do stumble? Heck I never signed up to be perfect.

I know I never seem to mind if I’m listening to someone else and they falter. In fact, I go away without thinking about it at all. Is anyone even going to care or remember once all is said and done? I’m not under any illusions here. I’m pretty small potatoes when it comes to some of the other seasoned authors who will be reading that day. I’m reading right after Vicki Grant…an award winning author. It might have been nice had they lumped all of us first timers together but for some reason the organizers at WOTS didn’t bother to ask my opinion. Go figure!

So I’ve prepared as much as I can. I’ll wait until Saturday evening and go over it a few times. I’ll arrive early at WOTS, hopefully meet some authors whose work I admire, perhaps buy some books. My son will snap some pictures of me smiling my face off. When 1:00 comes and someone from WOTS introduces me I’ll step forward and do my thing. Will I be nervous? You bet!! But likely there will be others who are feeling the same way.  It’s all for the sake of my book and putting it out there so I guess you do what you have to do. There’s no turning back now. Hopefully, someone will be interested in my book and when it arrives on the bookshelves they’ll buy it. Wish me luck, people. What have I got to loose?

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  • Publication date April 30, 2020. Available for pre-order NOW.

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