The to and fro of words

When I was younger, I wrote stories.

Stories about animals.



I wrote a great, novella-length poem in high school about a girl from Atlanta who lost her soldier lover in the Civil War. (I was into the whole North and South TV mini-series, and completely in love with Orry Main. What girl wasn’t?!)

In college, I wrote and wept my way through writing classes and teachers who pushed me to my emotional limits, because, after all, that is what great writing entails.

Then I had kids.

And all I had time for was real life.

The smell of freshly-bathed baby boys. The fuzzy sound of giggles and whispers through baby monitors. The sweet, sticky heaviness of my son’s head against my heart as he slumps into sleep.

Real life.

Beautiful life.

Precious, holy life.

So I wrote what I knew to be true in those moments. And I still do: non-fiction, a full-length memoir, weekly newspaper columns which try to give local folks a hopeful twist on life each week.

And I swore I’d never be able to get back to writing fiction.

Until I tried it.

Now I’m hooked.

Leaning back in the seat of my writing chair, legs plunging into the breeze of words and imagery, metaphor and simile, I’m swinging into story.

And loving it.

Writing fiction is no easier than nonfiction. Indeed, I believe it is more difficult.

More raw.

More true.

Because in the still of the night as my pencil scratches out a characters deepest fears, I scratch out my own.

And only by facing the deepest parts of myself can my stories reach their deepest, most life-changing potential.

Any less would be a disservice–indeed an untruth–for the readers.

And so I press on into this renewed journey writing fiction.

Pushing into the wind.

Pulling against the chains that keep me anchored to the swing, while at the same time freeing me to careen into uncharted atmosphere.

Sucking me into the great, to and fro of words.

In her fabulous book, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, Natalie Goldberg writes:

A writer must say yes to life, to all of life . . . Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist–the real truth of who we are . . . with a yes on our lips so there can be no more noes in the world, noes that invalidate life and stop these details from continuing.

What about you? Do you write fiction? Nonfiction? Poetry?

What keeps you writing?

 What inspires you to write from your deepest places?  

This post was written as part of the One Word at a Time blog carnival on “swings.” Be sure to check out all the great posts on that topic today.

18 thoughts on “The to and fro of words

  1. You have a way with a metaphor. I’m completely entrenched in the world you have created in your current MS. Thank you for allowing me an early glance. Keep moving that pencil and uncovering those fears the enemy would try and convince you are yours alone. They’re not. And sharing those fears so lyrically as you do, you give courage to others and give a voice to those who have yet to find their own.

    (Don’t cry, Amy…Oh, dang. You’re crying, aren’t you?)

    1. Dagnabbit, I AM crying. And it’s too hot and humid here for me to lose any more hydration. I’m so grateful God “swing” me right into your precious path, girl!!!

  2. The swing from fact to fiction is not such a far motion. Your characters will be real because they will reflect dreams of reality be it a nightmare or simply a fantasy or hope. Fiction can be an extension of our stories with some flare and imagination woven in.
    Your book should be a best seller!!

  3. I’ve never been much of a fiction reader; maybe that’s why I’m not into writing fiction either. I’ll take good ol’ non-fiction any day, but I’m thankful that there are those like you who can write beautifully for the fiction lovers out there. Keep up the good work.

  4. My childhood dream was to be an author but the “practical” matters of life got in the way. The past few years a story started to gnaw at me and so I’m in the throes of writing my first novel. As my character learns and grows, so do I. You captured this perfectly.

  5. This is beautiful, as always, Amy. My fiction writing is inspired by real life. I think everyone’s is a bit of their life. What I’ve been working on is a generational woman’s fiction, based on the stories my mom has told me of her childhood and growing up over the years.

    I truly love the way you have with words and darn no matter how hard I try, I cannot mimic it. It is yours and yours alone.

    BTW, I ❤ ❤ ❤ Orry, too:-)

    1. Cyndy–I think you’re right! Which must be why experienced writers so often recommend “writing what you know.” Thanks, as always, for your encouragement. And writing blessings to you this day!!!

  6. North and South? Loved it! Orry Main? Hottie! But I must admit, George Hazard was my fav.

    I’m in the midst of editing my first novel. My first reader let me know I was playing it too safe by not going deep enough into the pain of my characters. If I don’t go deeper, my story will not have an impact on anyone. It’s much harder than I thought to go into the depths! It’s scary, but I have to honor the story I feel compelled to write. I pray for courage to be truthful.

    Natalie Goldberg’s book is amazing. I also love The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Both helped me to be brave and WRITE. : )

    1. Hi Natalie and thanks for visiting! Editing is so hard. And I have so much more editing to do, I suspect! And yes, George was mighty fine, too. Blessings on your writing!

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