Broken Toes and My Writing Career

Okay, it’s totally ironic that I broke my toe this year.

How did I, a wheelchair user, break my toe? Our best guess is that it broke when my wife transferred me to bed one night. The doctor said that these types of injuries usually happens when someone stub his toe. It makes perfect sense knowing how we transfer to bed.

Foot x-ray(I went for my follow up visit, and my toe is completely healed. The doctor even printed me a copy of the X-ray. I think I’ll use it for my Facebook profile picture.)

I remember another broken toe. My first service dog’s toe got caught up in my van’s lift. It was quite of an ordeal, as I didn’t know if the accident would end Nouveau’s career. The toe eventually had to be removed and my dog made a full recovery. Chapter seven of my first book, My Exodus, recounts the entire story.

Why do I write about these two events today? Well, the summer of 2015 is an anniversary for me. Twenty years ago this summer I started writing my first book, and the chapter about Nouveau’s broken toe was the first chapter I worked on. Might not be very exciting for my readers, I know, but let me explain why it means a lot to me.

When I turned sixteen, I was eligible for summer jobs through a government grant. I had some great experiences working for such places like Peterson Air Force Base’s newspaper, city planning, and the district attorney’s office. My supervisors for employee of the year even nominated me almost every year I worked.

Once I turned twenty-one, however, those jobs opportunities weren’t available to me. That meant my summers looked a lot different. With time on my hands, I decided to tackle an ambitious project — writing a book about my service dog.

I knew my project would be challenging, but I had no idea that it would lead to my life’s work. The first story I worked on was about the time when Nouveau broke his toe. It was a story that I had never written out before, and it was on the top of my list of things I wanted to include in my book.

The first thing I did –besides writing “Toe”– was to email a friend I knew was a technical writer. I wanted to keep my project a secret, but yet I wanted someone to look over my stuff. Bob agreed to be my editor, and I sent him my first draft of Toe.

I couldn’t believe What Bob sent back. He was gentle but firm. “Tait, if you want to be a professional writer, there are things you must work on,” he wrote. “You have a lot of misspellings, your verb tenses are often wrong and the syntax of some of your sentences does not make sense. I’m willing to help you, but you must make the effort to improve your writing. “Looking back and knowing how immature I was back then, I am surprised that I was able to keep our agreement. I can only say that I was so committed to being a professional writer that I didn’t mind Bob’s pushing me. Perhaps I can compare it to any young person who wants to be successful in a career. We all need a mentor to push us, and Bob was mine.

MyExodus-Cover150dpiAs the summer went on, Bob kept stressing the importance of outlines to know where the book is going. I understood why Bob was big on outlines, but I didn’t take him as seriously as I could have. I definitely knew what stories I wanted and needed to include, but I didn’t know the order or the ending.

That changed when I went to a wedding late that summer. 1 Corinthians 13 “The Love Chapter” was read during the ceremony, and it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard before. I suppose I had heard it before in church, but it grabbed me that day. I thought the writer’s words were exactly the way I felt about Nouveau, and it would be a perfect ending to my book.

I wrote down my thoughts in my notes/outline thinking I’d use it when the time came (yes, I warmed up to Bob’s outlines!), but I ended up not going in that direction. It did, however, get me thinking about the Lord and his role in my story. It would be three years before I’d fully flesh it and discover the purpose of my life — disability ministry.

My first book was written out of a desire to tell the story of my first service dog, to spend my free time doing something I love to do, and practice my writing. Consequently I hooked up with a “real writer” who took me under his wing and taught me the craft. The summer of 1995 was truly the start of my writing career.

The Bible commands us to remember. Remember where we came from. Remember how we got here. Joshua goes further by having the Israelites place twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan to look back on what God has done. In this case, the twelve stones represented the final steps into the Promised Land.

Twenty years ago I began writing a book. Today I’m remembering writing that book, and praising the Lord for how he used it to mold and use me for his glory. This is my memorial to a time when I began traveling the road the Lord had called me to. Broken toes and all.