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I'm in My Element

Story ID:7913
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Caldwell ID USA
Year:2012
Person:Me
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Chicken Soup has a call out for Writers. I wrote this to submit to them.



I’m in my Element

“Michael?”

I turned to my severely swollen wife Georgia. “Yes, Hun? Are you having contractions?”

“No, silly. That shouldn’t happen for at least another month.”

“Sorry …I guess I’m a little anxious for our first child to fill my arms. What did you
want?”

“I know we planned for me to go back to work after my maternity leave ended, but I
think I’d like to stay home for our children. You make a good wage. Things will be tight, but we
should be able to make it.”

“Won’t you get bored at home all day? And you’re right, things will be tight. What will
you do?”

“I want to write. I’ve always wanted to write.”

“If you think that’s what you want to do, I’ll support you all the way.”

Seven months later, I sat with our growing daughter Vanessa snuggled in my arms,
looked at Georgia and asked, “Did you write anything today?”

Her head swiveled in my direction. Her eyes turned a darker shade of brown, and she
snapped back at me, “No! Do you have to ask that every other day? Stop nagging me!”

I struggled to remain calm. “But you said that’s what you wanted to do.”

“I do! It just doesn’t happen you know. I need to be in the right frame of mind. A
person just doesn’t sit down and start to write. I need to get an idea and then plan the outline …
what do you know?” She stormed from the room.

Vanessa cried in my arms. I rocked her and wondered what I’d said to upset my wife. “I
was only trying to help.” I said to my daughter. She stared back at me, blinked and blew a spit
bubble. I took that as an agreement. “I guess writers are touchy.” Another spit bubble proved me
right.

A few months later, Georgia joined a local writing group. They met once a week. The
members took turns hosting the group in their homes. I was proud of Georgia for finally getting
into her writing.

On the nights she hosted the group at our home, I served coffee, tea and snacks to the
ladies. While not serving, I sat and listened to the members critique each other’s work. Many
of them wrote children’s stories.

By that time, I’d read so many children’s stories, it seemed easy enough to write one. The
man who hated English class in school and writing, began to write. I started with children’s
stories and failed. I switched to humor and had a little success. A local monthly free paper started
using one of my humor stories in each edition. Sadly, that came to an end, when I wrote a
piece that made fun of fireplaces. A major advertiser in the paper supplied firewood in the
area. My stories were cut.

Georgia’s group fell apart. She lost interest in writing.

Me? I had the writing bug. I couldn’t stop. I plunged forward. The rejection letters
poured in. The mail box was my worst enemy. No one used email in the early 1990’s.

In 1996, I moved to another city for a new job, discovered the internet and an online
group called “BBS Writers”.

My writing life changed. Members of the group included both established and hopeful
writers. Two women helped me. One lady, Deb, became my best friend. She told me, “Michael,
I know you like to write humor, but in every piece you write, your ending always has a touching
side. You should write romance.”

Romance? Not for me.

The other lady taught creative writing in a community college. She said, “Mike, you
have great ideas, but I’m afraid to tell you, your grammar sucks. Before you write anything
else, buy yourself a few grammar books, study them and learn.”

Her words stung. Critiques are hard to accept.

I sulked for a week. My friends told me they liked my stories. Who was this person on
the other end of a dialup internet connection to say my friends were wrong?

I got the grammar books. They landed in the bathroom, where most of my reading was
done. I removed all other reading material. It was me, the grammar books and a hard cold seat.

I read them over-and-over.

In 1998, I wrote a story about the antics I did in the window at the office I worked, sent
it to a local paper and made my first sale. I followed it up with three sales to the Ottawa Citizen.

Two more moves came and went. For five years, my writing went on hold as I adjusted
to new places and jobs.

In October of 2003, I stood at the front of a chapel in a funeral home in New Jersey. The
urn with Georgia’s ashes shined brightly under the lights of the chapel, as I spoke about our life
together and failed to hold back my tears.

That evening, I sat in the silence of my house. My son mourned alone in his room.
I turned on my computer and searched for widow and widower support groups. I found my new
home. I wasn’t alone. Others suffered the loss of loved ones.

I poured my heart out to them. They reciprocated. It was healing to write my thoughts
and feeling down. The more I wrote, the better I felt. It was back. Writing soothed me.

I stopped writing about my grief and began to view the world in a different way.
In everything there is a message to be told. I looked for those hidden gems that most people
fail to see. I started a newsletter to showcase my work and promised my readers at least one story
a week.

I never fail to do this. It’s my motivation. All week long I think about what I will
write next.

My friends steered in the right direction. I needed to write from my heart. The first story I
sold, has since sold twelve more times and made me close to one thousand dollars. It has
appeared in several major newsletters. Their subscribers joined my newsletter – more than four
thousand at the time of this writing. I’ve sold three stories to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Several
more have sold to other publications. An actor/producer/director contacted me. He wants to
make a few short films based on my essays.

I read the work of others. When I come across a good one, I make a point to compliment
them. They reply, “Thank you, Mike. Coming from a writer with your skill, this means a lot to
me.”

Me? Skill? Maybe I’m modest, but I thought they were better than me.

I work in telecommunications as a project manager. My writing is a release. One day,
I hope it will be my living. At night, I look at the television and get bored. I itch to write. The
television goes blank with the touch of a button. Blues pays on the stereo. My fingers move to
the music. They dance over the keyboard. A story unfolds.

It took me more than twenty years to make it this far with my writing; I’m not stopping
now. One day it will be all I dreamed it to be.

When I write, I’m in my element.

Michael T. Smith