Training Wheels for Writers

We each remember the day we learned to ride a bicycle without training wheels. It was a feeling of triumph not to be believed. Finally we could venture out into the unknown on our trusted steads and see the world. 

The magic thrilled us though in the beginning it was scary to try and balance on only two wheels while steering around corners and speeding down hills. Writing is like that and so is life. 

When you write you may need training wheels in the form of craft books and magazines, a community of writers to hold you while you learn to balance, a list of prompts to get you started and perhaps some rituals and routines to ensure a daily writing habit.

Life requires training wheels as well. Some guidance to help navigate the chaotic world while keeping a balance in your daily life. Training wheels offered me a prompt for writing as I remembered back to the day I first rode my bike without training wheels.


            Summer evenings stretch out like magical hours when you’re seven years old. Dinner is over and bedtime is as far off as the first star that sparks in the darkening sky. That was the hour I learned to ride my blue two wheeler bicycle without the sissy little training wheels bolted to the rear wheel.
            I’d been trying and failing for a few days and on this humid night in Levittown my Dad promised I’d be riding before the street lights blinked on.
            Running behind me like a guardian angel Dad held the rear bumper of the bike so I wouldn’t tip over as I pedaled around the block. It was hard to balance because I kept looking behind me to see if he was holding me up.
            “Look in front of you,” he kept saying. “You’ll stay straight and balanced.” So I kept looking ahead of me because Dad was a man you could trust to steer you straight.
            Finally, after four turns around our neighborhood block, I stopped at the corner next to our house and tried to catch my breath.
            “You know,” Dad said, “you rode halfway around this time by yourself.”
            “I wasn’t holding the bike all the way from the other corner! You did it all by yourself!”
            I dropped the bike and hugged Dad. “I did it! I did it!”
            I wouldn’t have to be embarrassed to ride my bike now, afraid of being called a baby by the other kids in the neighborhood. And the next day I would ride to my best friend’s house and tell her the good news. She already could ride her bike without training wheels and now we could ride together for hours in our safe 1950s community. A time when a bicycle was an activity and not just a means to get from one place to another and then thrown on the ground to wait while kids went indoors to play video games.
            Now I’m an older woman trying to figure out what the rest of my life is supposed to be about and I have no training wheels for this last third of my life. I wish Dad was still here to help me stay balanced. When I look behind me now for clues to which way to head, there is no tall handsome guardian angel holding me upright.

            Now, as each summer afternoon more quickly fades into navy blue evening I remember Dad’s words of encouragement and paraphrase them, “Look behind you. You did it all by yourself.” And it gives me hope I can do it all again.

So go take off your training wheels and dive right into whatever it is that will make your life soar down those wonderful hills with the breeze in your hair, the sun on your face, and a smile to light the future.


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