I’m not undisciplined, I’m just a writer!

Yesterday my husband took dragged me out to lunch. It should have been an easy bribe—an offer of food I don’t have to shop for, prepare, or clean up from—but I’ve been entrenched in formatting my novel for CreateSpace.

I confess, I tend to get hyper-focused. Actually, I suspect I have Attention Deficit Disorder. I’ve often described myself as undisciplined, but that’s not true. I’m only undisciplined with things I don’t want to do anyway. Controlled chaos. Selective laziness.

I want to write; therefore my fingers can become glued to the keyboard. Literally. Well, almost. I often snack while working, so sometimes my fingers are sticky. If you’re a neat freak, you don’t want to look at my computer … or my workspace in general. You might feel the urge to send pictures to one of those Hoarders shows.

All kidding aside (ahem) I’ve gathered from Twitter that I’m not the only obsessed writer. I see you tweet about forgetting to walk the dog or start dinner or change out of your pajamas—for days. I remember seeing an old movie about a man obsessed with writing … or painting … or inventing … whatever. Someone who cared about him brought food trays to him, but they stacked up outside his door, untouched.

It’s a good thing I have a husband who insists on being fed daily or I might waste away. Ha! Who am I kidding? I’d find one of those food tray delivery services. Oh wait! I already have one. It’s called Me ‘n’ Ed’s Pizza. Don’t worry about me. I’m good. But if any of you want to bring me a tray, my door’s not locked. Just push the empty teacups, coke cans, and chip bags aside.


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The REAL reason writers need to blog

If you’re an extroverted writer, this post probably won’t mean much to you, but if you’re an introvert, pay attention. It’s lonely being a writer. My circle of live-and-in-person writing friends is just big enough to span … a card table. Once a month. Yeah, I’m about as introverted as you can be. So you, my blog friends, are my main literary circle.

And yet, about every other week, I decide blogging takes too much of my time. I ponder cutting back to a weekly post. Maybe none at all. Or I could save time by not replying to comments, but as I’ve said before, I consider that akin to inviting you into my home and then refusing to speak to you.

I do a lot of whining on this blog. I rant on occasion. I voice my doubts and fears. I’ve lost some readers, but I’ve gained some too. And what do you do in return? You commiserate, you thank me, sometimes you even laugh at my weak attempts at humor. You give up some of your precious time to read my posts and leave comments. But that’s not the best of what you do.

You give back more than I deserve, but exactly what I need. You encourage me. Sometimes you do that with a slap on the back—you can do it. Sometimes you do that with a slap across the face—snap out of it. And sometimes your cheerleading also whacks me upside the head.

If you read my last post, you know I’ve been struggling to write that knockout query letter. I’ve been haranguing a couple of friends to HELP ME! About mid-morning yesterday, I decided I was sick of myself. Neither one of those friends needs help writing their query letters. I was too needy. I was pathetic.

About ten minutes later, I saw notice of a new blog comment. It was this one left by Brett. I read it and almost cried. It touched me that she would care enough to write such a comment. And then, I had the opposite reaction from what I’m sure she intended me to have. I got angry.

Not angry at Brett; angry at myself. It was time to fish or cut bait. Either I’m a writer or I’m not, and if I am, I darn well better learn to trust myself to write. No “sales pitches” aren’t my thing. So what. It’s my book. I wrote every word of it. Who better to tell an agent why she should be dying to read it?

So, I will write my query letter—a bright and shiny one. And I won’t ever quit blogging. I’d miss you guys too much.

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No, really, why do you write?

I write fiction; if you write non-fiction, most of what I’m going to say won’t apply to you. Why do you write? I’m sure you’ve been asked that question. You’ve probably given an answer.  I have—more than one—but those were quasi-truths. At the time, my answers were valid. I just hadn’t put enough thought into the question.

These things I’ve always known:

  • I don’t write because I have to. Writing is not the reason for my existence. Nor do I need to support myself.
  • I don’t write because I have some great message for the world.
  • I don’t write because I think I’m a better writer than 90% of those published.

So, why do I write?

  • I do write to entertain myself.
  • I do write because I like playing with words. Seriously.
  • I do write to clear some of these stories out of my head.

But, for me, the real question is why do I write what I write? Why are all my stories character-driven? Why are they all set in the real world (or real world plus a supernatural element)? Why are they mostly dark?

What the heck am I trying to work out?!

That’s what it comes down to for me. I write because I’m trying to figure out something. I’m searching for an answer.  Maybe more than one.  Probably more than one. Or am I just trying to discover the questions? I might not be ready for the answers yet.  Hmmm … I must keep writing.

So, tell me—really—why do you write?

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Waiting for the words

You may have noticed that I got off schedule in my blogging. I’ve been de-stressing. I decided to quit the numbers game … I’m not watching my blog stats or Twitter follower counts. If any of you leave comments, I’ll know you’re still reading … and if you don’t, I’ll still assume you’re reading, but have nothing to say. I had forgotten how “de-stressful” cello music can be until Lydia Sharp shared this video on her blog yesterday. So I’m sharing Cello Suite No 1, “Prelude” by J.S. Bach with you and suggest you let it play while you read this post.

Part of my stress was caused by worrying about not writing. I have two novels, two poems, and one short story started, but the flow of words had stopped on all of them. Some of you regularly write from prompts. Christi Craig usually sets aside Wednesdays on her blog to share her results of this method. But for the most part, using prompts has not worked for me. I try. I read one prompt and get nothing, then I go to another site and read that prompt, but still nothing comes to me. I can force myself to write something, but my heart isn’t in it. So what works for me?

Most (all?) of us in the U.S. observe daylight savings time, so on Sunday we rolled our clocks back one hour, and when I woke up at my usual time on yesterday morning, it was still dark outside. A short time later, I stepped out on the back patio just as the sky began to lighten over the mountains. The scent of damp earth wafted up and brought with it a memory of waking in my grandparents’ house.

Then, my writer’s mind began to play with that memory. I was not a little girl; I was a woman. But that woman was not me; she was a woman who had fled something. This house was not her house, yet it wasn’t the house of strangers either. And so it went.

As soon as I could, I sat down at the keyboard and began to write. I worked in spurts, writing until I didn’t know what was coming next and then doing laundry, or vacuuming, or reading while I waited for more to be revealed. By the end of the day, I had written 2600 words. It seems a complete story. Maybe the best I’ve written.

I think, for me, it’s best not to force the writing. That’s not to say I do nothing while I wait for new inspiration. There’s always something to edit, or story ideas to jot down, or blog posts to write. But creatively, my mind balks at being forced. If writing prompts work for you, use them. If they don’t, look—and listen—for inspiration elsewhere. And wait … it will come.

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First novel, love it or leave it?

I realize most of you who read this blog have never published a novel, but I’m going to ask for your opinion anyway. Often I’ve read the admonition you shouldn’t attempt to sell your first novel. I saw someone question why on Twitter just yesterday. If anyone answered, I didn’t see those tweets.

Of course, we all know there are exceptions to every rule. There are prodigies in every field. If you were one of those, you would be too busy with your career to be reading this blog. So, how do the rest of us know when this “first novel rule” applies?

Obviously, if you were ten years old when you last wrote anything longer than a shopping list, the chances are exceedingly slim that your first novel will be of publishable quality. And if your first novel was written during NaNoWriMo and you query it on December 1st, don’t be surprised when agents fail to fight for the privilege of representing you.

Is the real thought behind the rule that you learn to write by writing? If so, what if you have seriously studied the craft, whether formally or self-directed? What if you have written short stories? Then are you “safe” to query your first novel?

What is your take on the first novel rule?

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