Anything of length I’ve ever written has started with a small seed of inspiration. Something even smaller than a capital “I” Idea, it could be a single character or scene, or even a line of dialogue. That seed only ever grows into a finished work I’m proud of after months and years of dedicated time and effort.
Much the same could be said for Write On, Door County. It started in 2012 with no land, no buildings, and no employees, but it did have a mission: to encourage people of all ages to tell their stories. The next year, an anonymous gift gave Write On a physical space to build up, so shortly after that the first employee was hired. Non-profit status followed, as well as the first writer in residence.
I was the first intern for Write On, in the summer of 2015. As I was getting to know Jerod – the lone employee at the time – and the organization, I asked if Write On had its own center for programming.
“No,” Jerod said. “But that’s the dream.”
In the meantime, there was hard work to do, and hard work that didn’t always pay immediate dividends. We planned a week long “sports and writing” class for youth that I would run. It was a show of trust for Jerod to let me try this, and it was going to be a major opportunity for me to gain experience as a teacher and writer. But, as it turned out, the class didn’t happen; no kids signed up. My pride was not so wounded, though, because participation was a struggle for many programs, even those run by established authors. The mission of Write On was worthy, and their creative endeavors deserved full registration lists, but more work was required.
I’ve kept tabs on Write On since moving away from Door County in 2016, and, clearly, the hard work has paid off. The writing center that seemed like a far off dream opened last year, and it’s beautiful. The scenic property has continued to develop, and a glance at the events calendar packed with workshops, classes, readings, camps, and more will show that participation is hardly an issue today. Write On has been built around the idea that “everyone has a story to tell,” and commitment to that idea has, after years of hard work, built something meaningful.
There’s a lesson in here for any of us who write, which is, quite simply, to write and keep writing. “Rewriting is writing,” one of my professors would say. Or, as Chuck Close put it: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.” I tell the students I tutor all the time that writing is a long process of revision, and I can say this from experience having written papers the night before they were due but also having written a thesis over the course of many months. One process works better than the other.
The work is hard, of course, and not always fun. I’m sure there were times that the employees, volunteers, and board members at Write On have felt discouraged and like they wouldn’t ever reach their goals, and I know that anyone who has ever written something more than a few pages has felt anxious and powerless at some point. The blinking cursor on the blank page is intimidating, but the incomplete project can be just as daunting.
There’s any number of versions of the truisms that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and that “it” is about the journey and not just the destination, and though they might seem trite and cliché, both statements are true. Even if no one ever knows about the hard work you put in, even if no one ever reads the finished product, even if there isn’t a finished product, the consistent dedication that writing takes is ennobling work.
However, let’s not disregard the destination altogether. Finishing a long writing project is a major accomplishment that should bring immense satisfaction and joy, as is getting to share that work with other people. It’s the sort of goal that can and should motivate a writer to keep on going even when it seems impossible. Writing is an inherently dreamy hobby and profession, but it’s writing those dreams into reality that makes it so rewarding.
I hope if you’re reading this you might be encouraged to write and keep at it. Maybe you’ll set a goal to have something done by the end of the summer, and maybe you’ll even involve yourself in Write On programming to help make it happen (after all, writing is also a collaborative process, introverted as many of us writers happen to be!). If you have the seed of an idea, you have a story to tell. Put in the work and tell it. Someday it can become something beautiful.