Over time, a memory can take on a new meaning. Sometimes you don’t get to cherish and enjoy a marking of time, because you don’t know it will be the last time you go there, do that, or talk to them.
Going into 2016, I have classmates that lost their fathers, the world has lost some of our most creative entertainers, and I lost my friend, Marilyn Tucker. Below is a picture of a table that I have posted many times. It’s at a house on Canyon Lake in the Texas Hill Country. I often joke about it being my favorite office, my favorite place to write. It looks out over the water and in the early morning I would sit there and watch the sun rise from behind the hills.
It was more than the beautiful view, it was the people that were there with me. The fellow writers that understood the creative process. The moments of silence that are needed when creating a fictional world that is real in your head. Marilyn Tucker gave this gift to me, not just the place, but a tribe. When I sat there in November I didn’t know it would be the last time. The last weekend with our tribal leader.
This has been a year of many blessings, joys, and wonderful accomplishments. But as tragedy often does, I was blindsided. In my fifty years, (it might only be forty eight, but I lose track), I have had unexpected losses, but the depth of this one caught me by surprise. She was not my mother, my sister, or my child. She was my friend, my tribal leader.
Almost three years ago, Marilyn Tucker invited me to be part of her tribe. A tribe that truly loves, supports, and understands each other, even our flaws and scars. We were very protective of this small group.
Let me back up a moment and tell you about my experience in being a writer.
Every writer needs a tribe, and not just any tribe, but one that is drama free. Not free from the ups and downs of life. Not an everything-is-good-all-the-time type of crap, but free of the self-created drama, of not knowing the difference between pride and truth. Drama brought on by jealousy, envy and bitterness. It can swallow you whole before you’re even aware it has snuck up behind you.
There are times it seems as if everyone is doing better than you, finishing their stories, selling their stories, multi-book contracts, making more sells, going to bigger events, making more money, better marketing, winning awards and getting better reviews. We create illusions for a living and sometimes the best illusion is our own life.
Every writer needs a drama free zone were we can laugh at petty insecurities and self-doubt. The business of writing is exciting, thrilling and soul sucking.
You have people in your head that have stories to tell. You create a world from bits and pieces of who you are. If you’re truly honest and authentic you get to create characters that no one else can create. Your secret thoughts, desires, wishes and dreams are given life. Your view of the world and the people in it shape your story. You take the real and create a fantasy.
Eventually you will get brave enough to send it out for others to read, to strangers that have no care for your heart.
You want people to love your baby, to tell you and everyone they know that you have the most beautiful, creative, poignant story. You can’t wait to hear how the characters made them laugh…made them cry. You want them to see your baby as special and unique. You want the world to accept your baby and lift her up, to celebrate her.
Your story is the best part of your secrets, your heart. Sometimes it’s the part you hide and keep buried, and when you bring it to light, you want people to understand.
Some will, but others won’t. They might even call your baby names: unpolished, not worth reading, unbelievable, unmarketable, predictable or worse, boring. Yes, there will be people for whatever reason that don’t understand and they will let the public know.
If you let them, they will make you doubt yourself – Like we need any help in that area, right?
You tell yourself it will be better when you….get published, have more followers, get more books out, make the bestseller list, win awards or get that multi-book deal.
But the pressure gets worse, then you move into feeling like a fraud…what happens when they find out the truth? You aren’t really smart or creative – it was a fluke. The voices turn the self-doubt to a new level. I’ll never write another story anyone wants.
This, my friend, is where the tribe comes in, where they chase away the bad voices and get to the truth. My tribe leader, Marilyn Tucker, created a safe haven where we could create, brainstorm and vent. A group that spent time laughing at our own insecurities and looked honestly at our goals.
A group that reminds you of the joy of writing, the excitement of creating a new world. The emotion you create on the page becomes real and you remember why you write. What do you do when you lose your leader?
You go adrift for a second. You come across a problem that you would have called her for and stumble when you remember she’s not available anymore.
What do you do? You move forward in her honor. You reach out to her other friends and together you build a new tribe. You take every encouraging word she said to you and plant it in your heart until it has roots and you harvest those words when you need them. You tell stories and you laugh. Marilyn lived to make others laugh. When she was reading her work out loud, she would count the times people laughed, that was how she knew if she succeeded in her goal. We remember her stories and laugh in her honor.
And we remember most of all, we are story tellers – we tell stories. We have the power to look at life, to take the joys and the sorrow and create a world that we can share with others. Our stories are not for those that don’t understand. They are for the ones that want to understand, that want to be reminded that even in our darkest moments, there is love. In the midst of a storm, we can find peace. For a moment, we can connect to others through words. Marilyn Tucker, you will be missed every day. Thank you for making me a better writer and more importantly, a better person.