"Always be yourself. Unless you can be a pirate, then be a pirate."
I’ve always been a reader, but now that I am a writer, I read in a different way. Reading as a writer means you pay attention to different things. You aren’t just reading for a good story. You read with an eye for detail which leads to a deeper appreciation and understanding of craft. Reading as a writer involves paying attention to how an author develops a character or plots such a good story that you stay up way past your bedtime to find out how it ends.
I love pictures books. Always have, always will. For the longest time, pictures books were the only thing I wanted to write. Lately, I’ve felt a yearning to attempt something longer, something more fully developed.
I have the beginnings of two middle grade novels but my progress on them has stalled. I could blame my inertia on a lack of time, but like my father always said, we all have 24 hours in a day. If I’m really honest, what impedes me most is myself. I find myself comparing my writing to the writing of those writers that I admire, writers that have been working on their craft for years.
I’m new to this writer’s life and I’m just beginning my journey into middle grade waters. It’s not fair to compare. I can’t write like them because I am not them. I can only write like myself. I know that I have a middle grade in me. Perhaps, what I need to do now is embrace the pirate’s life.
You see, pirates weren’t afraid of the unknown. If they were, they never would have sailed beyond the next horizon. The work was hard, the dangers many, the rewards few - yet the men who became pirates did so because they loved the adventure. They took pleasure in the journey and were spurred on by the promise of reward.
Being a pirate, though, was hard work. The bulk of one’s day involved doing general maintenance on the ship - patching sails, splicing worn ropes, swabbing the deck – tasks that needed to be done to ensure their vessel was seaworthy. Quarters were cramped, food was scarce and you put your life at risky daily. And for what? The mere possibility of reward.
Being a writer is a lot like being a pirate. Like pirates, writers need to put aside their fear of the unknown. They must work hard at their craft, weather rejection and compete for the much treasured opportunity of having a book published. Are the odds any better for writers? No, but like all pirates know, the journey is worth the effort.
So, me hearties, join me as I throw caution to the wind. Be brave. Be bold. Be yourself. But be a pirate too. Take the risk. Conquer your fear. Set out for the unknown. You never know what treasure the future might hold. And oh, the adventures you might have along the way!