On my tenth birthday, I set a goal—to publish a book before I died. Only I never got around to it. I went to college, had babies, taught school for three decades, wrote curriculum, volunteered at church, ran a music camp, and served on the library board. But I didn’t write a book.
A few weeks after I retired, I thought again of my goal. So I searched through my bookshelves. And I found the book my parents had given me when I turned ten—Someday You’ll Write.
Elizabeth Yates had written this book for her daughter, who wanted to write . . . and for me, I had been convinced when I was ten.
I thumbed through the pages remembering the advice I had read so long ago:
- Write something every day. . . whether you feel like it or not.
- As a squirrel has to work hard with a nut to get the meat out of it, so does a writer with an idea.
- Ideas may come to you out of the blue and in the oddest moments, so jot them down for future exploration.
I recalled how smart I had felt reading Yates’s analysis of the opening lines of Little Women and Peter Pan and Charlotte’s Web.
And I read again the poem Elizabeth Yates had been taught by her English teacher.
The written word should be
Clean as a bone,
Clear as light,
Firm as a stone,
Two words are not so good,
I’m going to write like that one day, I had told myself those decades ago—clean and clear and firm and with one word when I don’t need two.
I remembered all this as I stood in front of the bookcase holding Yate’s book from the long-ago birthday. Now in my sixties, I had more decades behind me, I knew, than ahead of me.
So I took a breath and asked myself a question, “Are you going to try to do this, or not?”