Before You Learn To Write

A conversation thread has me laughing and thinking of my own learning stages as a teenager and a young adult. We aren’t born knowing how to kiss. We get sweet kisses from Mom and Dad, and sometimes from siblings. But that sexy, lay it on me, knock my socks off kissing? We have to learn that.

As Romance writers, my friends and I chat about such a wide variety of things on Scribophile. We discuss the words young children mispronounce, we list songs that inspire us, and suggest books to read. We talk about the other Scribophile writers whose work we like, and if we are stuck on a plot point, we ask for input and help. Recently someone had a young female character who had not been kissed, and several of us admitted to kissing our own hand for practice.

I’ve said before that “Write what you know” is less than true. Write what you can imagine, and let me tell you I was a late bloomer with a vast imagination. The summer before I started high school is when I learned the truth about how women got pregnant, and how couples had sex. I’d had a few sex ed instructional classes in grade school, but it was a Catholic school, and discussed mostly which pads to buy when you started to menstruate. Thanks, Kimberly-Clarke.

No internet existed and no home computers, so I couldn’t research that way. I fell back on the time-honored method all kids have available. I talked to my girlfriends. “You mean they –” No, couldn’t imagine my parents doing that. Of course, they had been divorced all of my life, but then again, I was the youngest of three.

So if it was good enough to have people coming back for more, why wasn’t I getting any? Oh, right, I was a 14 year old shy overweight nerd. I had a blazing affair with the shower tiles, kissing and thinking about being kissed.

Back to the girlfriends. “His tongue? Really?” The shower was not equipped. If you make a fist, you can pretend that the thumb and the hand are a mouth. There’s room for your tongue.

Still, years went by before I got to use my skills. I remember being at a party with friends from work, and we were playing a really fun card game or two. We weren’t at a table, we were sitting around a nice room, kind of dark, but enough to see the cards. In almost one breath to the next everyone turned to the person they had brought to the party and started making out. Awkward. I was there alone, and was the first to leave.

I got to kiss my cousin goodbye when he went to the Army. I got a very surprising kiss from a young man as he entered the RenFaire where I was taking tickets, and lots of forgettable kisses as I worked my way out of my shyness.

When I met my husband, I thought we would be just good friends. You know what changed my mind? The way he kissed me. He focused on me, my pleasure, and used not just his lips, but his hands to touch my face, to caress my neck. There was no doubt in my mind that I had found the right man for me.

I wrote Romance before I had any firsthand (well, except for the kissing and, er, never mind) exposure. So don’t worry so much about writing what you know. You know how things make you feel, and how to express those things so that your audience gets the same feeling. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back on Sunday.

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