Taking off the Training Wheels
By Candice Gilmer
I used training wheels on my bicycle, probably longer than I should have, but they stayed there, hanging on my back tire. I refused to take them off my pink Huffy bike with the thick pink seat. I was too scared to take them off. Because, if I took them off, I could fall over. And I was terrified of falling.
One day, on a bright summer day, a neighborhood girl got a new bike. She came over to my house, which had the longest driveway, to show off her new glittery, maroon-purple Schwin with its flowered banana seat. I remember that seat. It was a true banana seat; long, thin, white, with little flowers all over it. Little plastic tassels hung from the handlebars, in white, pink, and that dark maroon, just like her bike. The ultimate girls bike.
And it didnt have training wheels.
She allowed me and all my friends to take turns sitting on that bike. When it was my turn, I sat on the seat, thinking that the hard banana seat was perfect. Oh, how I wanted that bike! Not my bike, with the rough-n-tough Huffy version of a seat, three times bigger and extra cushiony -- creased with the heavy pink vinyl. It was for rough-n-tumble girls. Not me, I was a girly-girl. I wanted that flowery seat.
Putting a foot on one pedal, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that her bike didnt have training wheels. And I knew I wouldnt be able to ride it.
Oh, but I wanted to.
But I could fall.
Then, with my foot on the other pedal, I pushed off.
Down my ten-car-length driveway, across the street, and sitting atop the neighbors steep driveway, I realized I had rode across the street!
With no training wheels!!
Squealing with delight, I rode that bike as hard and as fast as I could, the fifty yards or so, back to my front porch. I hopped off the bike, and ran into the house, screaming!
Mommy mommy mommy mommy! My mother sat in the living room with my grandmother who was visiting us for a few days.
What? My mothers annoyed voice hit me.
Mommy, I rode Jennifers bike, Mommy! I did it! I rode all the way to the Kellermans driveway!
Mom looked outside, seeing the bike and realizing the implications of me riding a bike without training wheels. You did, she said, grinning.
I did Mommy, and it doesnt have training wheels!
Well, then, my grandmother said, lets go get those training wheels off your bike! You dont need them anymore! And with that, the three of us went out into the garage and pulled my training wheels off. I didnt need them anymore.
And now, I have once again pulled the training wheels off. But this time, my training wheels dont come off with just a plain old screwdriver. I had to pull them off my mind.
You see, Ive been a writer all my life. A writer with training wheels. Training wheels that disguised themselves as fear, anxiety, worry that Im not good enough to be a writer. Afraid that I could never be able to walk into a bookstore and see my name on one of the covers. Afraid that I would just be one of those people who claimed to be a writer, but could never get published, with stacks and stacks of manuscripts, rejection letters, and books on how to be a good writer, my version by some college professor thats only published in medical journals.
And my training wheels kept me still. They kept me reading those how to books, kept me staring at my manuscripts without sending them out, because I was afraid. I was terrified of failing. So terrified, I didnt want to receive rejection letters. I didnt want to fail. I mean, really, everyone knows someone whos wrote book after book and never been published.
I didnt want to be that.
I was so terrified of writing and never getting published, that I did everything I could to keep myself from writing. I wrote fan fiction stories, I built a website to house the fan fiction stories, I made graphics for the web site that housed my fan fiction. If you dont know what fan fiction is, its writing stories about copyrighted material, like Star Wars or Buffy the Vampire Slayer things that can never be published without written consent by the owners of the genre. Fan fiction is a really easy way to write and never have to face the fear of rejection slips. Write stuff that can never be published. Then you post it on web pages that dont pay you for it. The best thing you can get is the occasional hey, I really loved your story, note from some polite e-fan. But, alas, this is what I did, how I tried to avoid the pain of those rejection slips.
Then I had an epiphany.
Take off the training wheels.
Just get over it and do it.
Forget about the fear. Fear is not a good thing. Just write. Do it, for yourself, do it for your health do it so that your brain doesnt explode.
Yeah, your brain can explode if you dont write.
Trust me on this. If you are meant to write, believe me, your head will explode if you dont.
Which is worse, then? Your head exploding from lack of writing or a little bitty piece of paper that said, hey we didnt like your story? Personally, Ill take the little piece of paper God knows I dont want my head exploding.
I call myself a writer. It isnt how I pay the bills. But it is what I am. I am a writer. I took my training wheels off. Because the stories I have to tell are unique to me. Only I can tell them, because only I have them. No one can do it for me.
Writing is not easy. It is not a fun job. Its a whole state of mind. It is what you do. With your whole being. And theres more to the job description than just sitting in front of a keyboard all day.
You have to read, all kinds of stories. From that blockbuster best seller to that unknown little novel that was collecting dust in the corner of the library. You learn from every page you read. Its inevitable.
You have to edit, you have to study. If you hated grammar in school, youd better get over that now. Its an integral part of writing. You dont have a choice. You have to make the words come alive on the page. Not only for your reader, but for you. The same kinds of sentences over and over are very, very boring. Trust me on this one too.
Take writing courses. Seminars, lectures, college classes, whatever fits your budget. Do it all if you can. Something valuable will come out of every single one you go to.
Join writers groups.
Practice your craft. All day long. Write till you cant see the screen anymore, or till your hand cramps so hard you cant move it.
You have to.
Its part of it.
Just do it.
I took my training wheels off today.
Im not allowed to be afraid anymore. Thats not part of the job description.
And with pride, I call myself a writer.