Monday, July 25, 2016

The Office Bathroom that Made Me a Writer

As the release date for my first novel approaches, more people in my every day life are asking me questions about being an author. By far, the most common is some variation on, "Why/How did you start writing a book?"

I've got lots of answers for this, because there are lots of reasons - but I haven't shared the most direct reason yet. It's almost kind of embarrassing. But here at Middle Grade Minded we come clean. So *deep breath* here's the story about the day that I first began to write the book that would eventually become The Peculiar Haunting of Thelma Bee.

I was just getting settled in to being married, settled at a pleasant new job, and settled into a really great place by a river that felt like home. Basically, everything was going shockingly well. My coworkers were exceedingly pleasant, caring people, and my boss did things like install a communal massage chair in the office and play meditation music while we worked. It was wonderful.

But I felt itchy. Happy, but itchy - like I was missing something.
 You know that feeling where there's a song you can't get out of your head, and it fills you up with longing and nostalgia? It was like that only the longing and nostalgia was for some unknown place I couldn't put my finger on. I needed to make something. Unfortunately, I was totally out of practice in my writing. For years I'd only penned comedy sketches, lesson plans, or corporate copy. And also, I didn't know how to write a book. I do you just, "write a book?"
I thought maybe I should take some classes or something, but schedules and conflicts and commutes and blah blah blah - you get the idea.

Then I had to pee. This is a key element in the story.

My boss, the one with the meditation music, was also big on inspirational quotes. So much so that she furnished the office bathroom with its very own quote-a-day calendar. No knock on the effort, but this daily bit of zen usually provided more eye-roll fodder than inspiration for me.

But this day, the day that I first started writing a book, the calendar that sat next to a very nice vase of flowers and some Bath and Body Works hand cream read:

"A year from now you may wish you had started today." - Karen Lamb

I thought about that. I really thought about that. And it was true. I didn't know how to write a book, but I was going to learn, and I was going to start learning that day. On my lunch break I found some paper and started brainstorming. What were those swimming ideas that seemed so elusive to me? It had to do with a river, and it had to do with ghosts, and it even had to do with a cafe that served best-in-the-world hot chocolate. I just scribbled down everything I could capture.

That was Day 1. The day that I really became a writer was due in large part to a bathroom calendar.

So, I've come clean. That's my big origin story. But the sentiment on that calendar, cheesy though it may be, has stuck with me and did absolutely change the course of my life. What do you want to do?

Just start. Start today. Future you will be glad that you did.


Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

That's a great story! And the sentiment, while short and sweet, really captures what it takes to achieve something. Thanks.

WendyMcLeodMacKnight said...

I love this so much Erin and I am SO excited about your book!

cleemckenzie said...

There is a reason peeing is good. Congratulations on your book.

Melyssa Mercado said...

This made me smile so hard! You never know when and where the right words are out there ready to be received. Great post, Erin!!

Erin Petti said...

Thanks so much, Elizabeth!

Erin Petti said...

I'm so psyched for YOURS, Wendy!! :)

Erin Petti said...

Indeed, perhaps many reasons peeing is good! :) Thank you so much!

Erin Petti said...

Thanks, Melyssa!