Advice, Craft, Family, Fiction, Goals, Tips, Writing

How my anniversary led to a writing epiphany!

I don’t often mention him here, but I do have a husband, and today is our wedding anniversary. Which one? Well … let’s just say it’s closer to Golden than Silver. My husband tells me his co-workers can’t believe he’s still married to his first wife. I was thinking about that yesterday when I realized I could relate it to writing. You’re not surprised, are you?

We married young—way too young—and, on the surface, we had little in common. (He’s not even a reader. *gasp*) But the most important thing we shared was the concept of marriage as a commitment, not an experiment. We had some very rough times, times when the temptation to give up appeared like a key to the Promised Land. “This is too hard. This is not what I wanted. This is insane.” At times, that was a daily litany, but always we kept going. We had a commitment we would try our best to honor.

Can you see how this applies to writing?

Everything I wrote before the last two years was only an experiment. Could I do it? Would it make sense? Would I like it? Then, for what reason I may never know, my purpose for writing changed. On the lowest level, I could say I just switched “I” to they in that last question. Would anyone else enjoy my writing? That’s still an experiment, you say. Ah yes, but almost immediately my attitude toward writing also changed.

No longer was it enough to see if I could write something a theoretical They might like. I had committed to learning how to write so the well-read They would like it. I committed to learning the craft of writing. I committed to learning the whats and whys and whens of writing so the quality of my work would depend on skill rather than luck.

Quite often since then, my writing litany has echoed my marriage litany –writing/editing/querying/whatever is too hard, it’s not what I expected, why am I doing this? Then I remind myself nothing worthwhile comes easy; those authors whose work I admire worked long and hard to produce it. Writing is not an experiment; writing is a commitment. And it’s another one I’m determined to honor.


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Advice, Doubt, Goals, Life, Motivation, Publish, Tips, Writing

A view from the train of eternal optimism …

In a typical week, I may spend as little as 30 waking hours in the company of another human and 14 of those are on Sunday. I might live on the extreme edge, but it’s the nature of writing that requires we spend a good deal of time alone. Some of you are able to write in Starbucks—I stand in awe—but I must write in isolation, and yet, I don’t feel isolated at all.

Through a kind of magic I don’t attempt to understand, I’m connected to The Internet. That situation is both good and bad for a writer. Good because I’ve found a lot of other writers more or less as isolated as I am, which is a joy; I’m able to do a lot of research for writing projects without leaving my seat; and I can learn about the publishing business—but  that last one can also be a bad thing.

When I started writing seriously, I did so in a state of ignorant bliss. My train of thought rumbled along this track: I love books … I can write … I’ll write a book … I’ll get it published. As simple as that. And so it began. Sometime during the writing of my first novel, I realized I didn’t know how to write as well as I thought, so I bought a book on writing, then another … or six. But still, I didn’t know anything about publishing, and though I had an internet connection, I never thought to research that aspect. Or maybe at that time, agents, editors, and publishers had not yet availed themselves of the technology. Whatever. I remained blissful.

Then, real life interrupted and I, for the most part, let my writer’s life slip away. When I returned to it, I discovered that agents had blogs, editors had websites, and magazines published digitally. My writer’s world had opened up. Unfortunately, this new fount of knowledge informed me it doesn’t matter how much you love books, or that you can write—or even write well—your chances of getting a book published are slim to none. POP! My bliss bubble burst.

And yet, I continue to write with the goal of publication. As you may know, if you’ve followed this blog awhile, it’s not easy for me to maintain a balance between adequately informed and blissfully ignorant. (Witness: Beware the Blue Muse.) In fact, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But what else can I do? My train hasn’t reached its destination. I love books … I can write … I’ve written a book … I’ll get it published. Miracles happen.

If you’re riding this train with me, how’s the view from your seat?

Photo credits: Richard Heeks – Richard Heek’s photo stream at Flickr

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Fiction, Goals, Motivation, Writing

Beware the Blue Muse

Do you think this Blue Muse is pretty? Pretty poison is more like it.

Some of you have read this blog since the beginning, and though I’ve tried to keep my posts in the vein of positive affirmations, I’ve also let through a post or two written after I crashed with “post-critique syndrome.” As most writers do, I struggle with confidence in my writing. But until now, I’ve been able to quickly move past it and press on because I saw it coming or, at least, recognized it for what it was.

My recent experience has been more insidious. This time, it was not one big thing, but an accumulation of small things that turned my Muse blue. I was blind to the process and devastated when discouraging thoughts started flying furiously at me. I can’t write. I’ve reached my limit of ability. I shouldn’t even be blogging. And on and on. Every one of those thoughts presented itself as reasonable. It was time to face facts.

I reached out to a few writer friends who graciously shared their insights and encouragement. And then, three more things happened in as many days. One of my sons, who had no idea of my discouragement, has just completed writing a book of Wynton Marsalis trumpet solo transcriptions. He stopped by and talked about how tedious the work was and how, many times, he had to force himself not to quit. Then, one of my daughters-in-law mentioned that to get ahead in her field of financial accounting, it’s not necessarily how well-qualified you are, but whether or not you’re persistent. And finally, I picked up my copy of More magazine and read this quote from Mariska Hargitay: “The only reason I have the career I have is that I didn’t quit.”

Message received.

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