I didn’t participate in Nanowrimo 2015, mostly because I forgot about it. I was feeling like I slacked off, but then I was glad I had, because of what happened Thanksgiving week.
It has come as a surprise to me that for some people, writing doesn’t come naturally, if it comes to them at all. I read an interview with Nora Roberts years ago where she said, “I thought everyone made up stories in their heads,” and I thought, Wait… everyone doesn’t?
Last week, I’d been trying to figure out what to get one of my kids for Christmas when I saw Matt Skunda at a Bible teaching. Matt’s a leather worker, and I knew from Facebook that he’d been working on something I thought my kid might like. (Very cryptic, I know, it’s not Christmas yet and my kids read my stuff.) I figured I might as well spend my money with him. Win-win, right?
Wrong. No one has wanted to sell me something less than Matt did that day. I just looked at him for a minute, because I’d never before needed words to persuade someone to make something and let me pay him cash money for it, so I was stumped.
I guess he got tired of me looking at him, because he explained himself.
“I’m trying to launch this Kickstarter campaign, and I’m completely stressed about it. I’m stuck, because it’s all this writing to do, and I have absolutely no gift for writing.”
I hardly know Matt, really. I bought something he made me once (back when I could talk him into selling me things). I know a little bit about him, and we’ve chatted a couple of times at different things. He was going to teach me how to shoot guns so that I could write about it, but I never got around to it, because I stopped writing that story and didn’t need to shoot guns anymore. The offer was still on the table, but it’s not like we’re friends or anything.
I’m sure everyone reading this is good at something, better than most, maybe, and you’ve probably experienced being able to help people simply because you are good at something. I’m also sure you’ve experienced needing to not help everyone with that thing. Because you can’t say yes to everybody, or you’d never get your laundry done.
So I sat and looked at him for a minute, that stress he mentioned all over his face, and I told myself this wasn’t my problem, and to keep my mouth shut, don’t say anything, just don’t speak at all.
“I could probably help you with that,” I said. “I’m a writer.”
I’m also terrible at listening to anyone, myself included.
“I’ll buy you dinner,” he said. “Or lunch. Or anything.”
“Or you could make me that Christmas present I asked for in the first place.”
Deal struck, and my Thanksgiving week began with a six hour marathon of writing my very first Kickstarter project. I felt like that was forever, but Matt said he’d spent three weeks trying to do what I did in a couple hours. (He will never be nicknamed “Giver of the Compliments” by anyone’s standards, but that one worked for me.)
Kickstarter talks about how you really need a great video, and it’s true, and he had that already. But you still can’t explain much of anything without words. The first chunk of writing hours piled up because it took a lot of Matt’s words to explain what he was trying to do so I could write about it. It wasn’t just about selling really nice leather belts, it’s about selling those belts to fund a job-training program for teenagers in Columbus, Ohio. The one thing I did know about Matt was that he’s been passionately involved in working with kids in the city. Over the years, he started seeing a gap of knowledge with the kids he mentored – they didn’t have the skills to get and keep jobs. And that was going to stop every forward movement they tried to make. But to do something about that, he needed money. So he started a business. I saw all the plans, all the models, the spreadsheets, the websites.
And oh my, the belts. You’ve never seen such belts.
Now there’s a Kickstarter to help get the funding to go to some craft shows next summer, then that money will get the training program off the ground. The products are great. The copy is written. The cause is worthwhile. I slept until almost noon the day after Thanksgiving. Then Matt wanted to do a complete rewrite, so we did that on Saturday. I finally know someone more perfectionistic than me, which makes me feel a lot better about myself. It’s been a nice week.
I just said, “I’m a writer.”