When I was 30 years old, I moved to Minneapolis and got a job in a book warehouse. My official job title was “Picker.” This meant that I went around the third floor of the warehouse holding a computerized print order in one hand and pulling books off the shelf with the other hand. I put all the books into a grocery cart and I took the grocery cart and wheeled it into an ancient, crabby freight elevator and went downstairs to deliver the order to the shipping department. Then I took the stairs back up to the third floor and started over again.
It wasn’t a challenging job. It didn’t pay much. I was on my feet all day long. My back hurt. My hands hurt. But I was happy. I was surrounded by books and by people who loved to read them. Also, for the first time in my life, I was writing.
I got up every morning before work (the alarm was set for 4:30) and wrote two pages before I went into the warehouse. And then, when I arrived at work at 7:00 to punch the time clock, I received my daily so-you-want-to-be-a-writer pep talk from a coworker.
Let’s call him Bob. (Even though his real name is Gary).
Bob wanted to be a writer, too. But he wasn’t writing. Every morning we had the same exchange.
Bob: “How did the writing go?”
Bob: “How many pages did you write?”
Bob: “Do you think Dickens wrote two pages a day?”
Me: “I don’t know how many pages Dickens wrote a day.”
Bob: “Yeah, well let me tell you something, you’re no Dickens. So what’s Plan B, babe? What’s Plan B for when the writing doesn’t work out?”
For this question, I had no answer.
I turned my back on Bob, pulse pounding, fists clenched, and climbed the stairs to the third floor and started picking books.
When the alarm went off at 4:30 the next morning, I thought about Bob and that is part of the reason I got out of bed.
It is a truly excellent to have someone to believe in you and your ability to write.
But I think it is just as helpful to have people who don’t believe in you, people who mock you, people who doubt you, people who enrage you. Fortunately, there is never a shortage of this type of person in the world.
So as you enter this month of writing, write for yourself. Write for the story. And write, also, for all of the people who doubt you. Write for all of those people who are not brave enough to try to do this grand and wondrous thing themselves. Let them motivate you.
In other words, do it for Bob!
Your friend in writing,
Kate DiCamillo is the author of The Tale of Despereaux (Newbery Medal), Because of Winn-Dixie (Newbery Honor), and a The Tiger Rising (National Book Award finalist).