Friday, August 22, 2014

Freedom—Yikes! by Laurie Calkhoven

I have an active career as a freelance children’s book writer. As much as I enjoy that, I’m known to grumble a bit about the fact that I don’t have time to write “my” books. I finished Michael at the Invasion of France (the last of my Boys of Wartime novels) three years ago. Since then, I’ve been too busy to do more than think about writing anything of mine. Not that I’m complaining.

Then, I hit a freelance drought in the spring. I was busy with speaking engagements so I didn’t really notice at first. But suddenly this summer I had a lot of time on my hands.  And no paid work.

I’ve been asking for this for years, right? You’d think I’d be grateful (aside from the freaking out about money part). But like others who posted this month, and I’m quoting Bob Krech here, “the kind of freedom that was in front of me was a little scary.”

I sold the Boys of Wartime series in 2007. Ever since, everything I’ve written has been under contract. Not only was I facing a blank page. I was facing a blank page with no guarantee of income.

What was I going to write? What if nobody bought it? What if it turned out to be a big waste of time? Gradually, with lots of deep breaths and meditation, I pushed those questions and doubts aside and made a start. I tried to find the joy I had when I started my first novel, when simply the act of creating characters and story and putting words down on paper made me giddy with happiness. A time when I wasn’t dependent upon my writing for income.

It was a slow start. I had an idea, but not a lot of confidence. I tried to go through all the usual steps I take to start a novel, to get to know my characters. It wasn’t working. My process for this book turned out to be different from that for all of my other novels. I had to stop trying to force things and simply let it come. By the middle of the draft, once I got out of my own way, I found myself laughing at the things my character was getting up to. I found the joy in discovery.

Two weeks ago I turned over a complete first draft of Roosevelt Banks, Good-Boy-in-Training to my critique group. Tonight, with their help, I’ll start thinking about how to revise it.

Yay, freedom. But also, yikes!  And now I’m ready for a new freelance job.


  1. Great post! Freedom without structure can be daunting. Love how you found joy in writing by getting out of your own way. Now, if someone could just teach me how to do that....

  2. You are so brave. I'm loving these posts this month. Hoping some of the bravery will rub off.

  3. Fantastic! There really is joy in the discovery...

  4. Courage, inspiration, and creativity in one post...that you can earn a living as a writer is inspiring. Writing for the joy of it with no paycheck is courageous. And, having a finished product that reinforces why you chose the career you did is creativity at its best. Brava Laurie!

  5. Thanks, everyone. And it's funny — freelance queries started coming in when I finished the draft. Nothing firm yet, but it's coming…..

  6. I love that you discovered a new process after working through the fear -- AND got a new manuscript done! Woohoo!

  7. Wonderfully honest and hopeful post, Laurie! The courage and confidence required for such an isolated art is incredible, isn't it? You definitely gave me encouragement! I can't wait to read Roosevelt Banks!