Tuesday, October 19, 2010


A writer I’ve always admired just died. Belva Plain lived 95 years and wrote more than 20 best-selling novels, of which there are over 28 million copies in print. Her books are the kind you can sink into and lose yourself for hours. Her characters are as real as the people next door. For the most part, they are not heroic figures, at least not in the usual sense. They have no super powers, no extraordinary talents and certainly no sophisticated weaponry. They live in the real world and struggle with real problems. But I don’t need to rattle on about Ms. Plain’s books. If you’re drawn to stories that are built on a system of honor and timeless values (and I think most readers of Avalon books are), you’ve probably read at least one or two of them.

What I really want (aside from honoring a writer who has given me a great deal of pleasure) to talk is about the fact that she did not begin writing novels until she was a grandmother. Apparently she wrote poems and short stories when she was younger and always wanted to write longer works, but just didn’t have the time when she was raising her family. (How many of you can identify with that?) She said that eventually she realized she was just making excuses and that “I didn’t make the time.” There’s a statement with which I’m sure most writers can identify, especially women writers.

Finding time to write really means making time to write. Time isn’t something you can find. It’s not hiding under the bed like a dust bunny or under a sofa cushion like loose change. In order to have time to write, I have to give up something else. I have to limit time in front of the TV. Sometimes I have to say “no” to an invitation that sounds like fun. I won’t make a quilt this winter. I need to curtail my reading time. (Ouch!) Obviously, I don’t want to totally eliminate any of these things. If I did, I might get a lot of words written, but I doubt they would be very interesting. Writers have to live in the world – paradoxically, the same world from which we need to periodically excuse ourselves.

We’ll never know how many books Belva Plain might have written if she had started earlier. Would she have been as good a writer without the experiences gained during the years when she was devoting her energies to other things? That’s something else we’ll never know. In the end, it doesn’t matter. What does matter are the books she did write and the lives she touched, both publicly with her writing and privately with the other facets of her long, full life.

I’m grateful for the books she finally wrote, for the insights I’ve gained from them and the pleasure I’ve experienced. And I’m heartened that I’m not the only one who waited until I was a grandmother to write my books. As for the time thing, I’m still working on it, trying to find the right balance. I suspect it's something we all grapple with on a daily basis, no matter where we are in our life journey.


Fran Shaff said...

Nicely written, a wonderful tribute. Thanks much, Sandy.

Sandy Cody said...

Thank YOU, Fran, for taking TIME to read and comment on the post.

Jane Myers Perrine said...

Thank you! I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed her books many years ago. She is an inspiration.

Jane Myers Perrine

Loretta C. Rogers said...

A very nice article, and inspirational, too. I've read several of Belva's books. She was among my many favorite authors. Thank you for reminding us, that writers must make time to write.

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Sandy Cody said...

Jane, I haven't read any of her books for years and, like you, had forgotten how much I enjoy the stories. I remember more about them than some I've read much more recently.

Loretta, I need to constantly remind myself of that.

Thanks for stopping by.

Elisabeth Rose said...

I don't think I've read any of her books but I'll look them out in the library.
It's good to be reminded of the writers who inspire us and the pleasure a good author brings to so many people for so many years. Thanks Sandy.

Tessa McDermid said...

Thanks, Sandy, for remembering her. My grandfather-in-law sent me some of her books when I was starting out. He was a writer for the movies and thought she might be someone to inspire me. I enjoyed her stories because they were good - and because his gift showed he believed in me.

Tessa McDermid

Sandy Cody said...

Lis, I think you would enjoy her books; they follow interesting characters through several generations and we get to watch them change and grow.

Tessa, how encouraged you must have been to receive such a gift from a professional writer while you were still earning your own credentials.

Thanks for commenting, everyone.

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Carol Hutchens said...

This was a great post. I haven't read her books, but your message is so inspiring.

Writing takes dedication. I waited to start work on my dream, as well. Do I have regrets? Some. From all you read, getting published was easier in the past. But was it really?
Did I have a handle on the emotions, experience, knowledge, to create characters? Do I now?
These are questions I consider ofter. Your post proves I'm not alone.
Thanks for the message.