Writers, Don’t Be So Serious!

Why I stopped trying to prove I was a “serious” writer – and why you should too!

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I have visited this theme before in a previous post, but as my growth arc continues (hehe, you thought growth was only for fictional characters! :D) my understanding has deepened and I needed to touch on this again.

I used to have an obsession with being taken seriously as a writer. For years, I did not want to admit that I was essentially writing a romance. My current WIP is not quite formulaic, but I think it will still fit in the category. When asked what I was writing, I would reply with “fiction” or “historical fiction“. I would have rather choked than admit I was writing about, you know, two people having a relationship centuries ago and navigating around obstacles  in the way of that relationship. It was childish behavior, fueled by fear of condemnation from the “literati” who don’t consider genre “real” literature, and the knowledge that our current society often looks unfavorably upon anything that is traditionally feminine — and what is more feminine than love stories?

But, this obsession was causing me to take an overly-serious attitude towards my work. Yes, writers need discipline. Sometimes we need to force ourselves to write or finish projects after the honeymoon phase ends. And we need to devote time and energy into making a truly good, marketable product. However, an obsession with whether the majority of the reading public is going to take you seriously will only hamper your growth as a writer, not promote it. It might even stop you from telling the sorts of stories you love.

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So how have I combated this? I simply embraced what is. I like to write romances. This does not make me a silly person. This does not make my writing bad. I just enjoy writing about people and their relationships. And really, what is so wrong about that? My stories probably won’t become some monument to American literature. That’s fine. If I provide other humans with some much needed relaxation and entertainment, that’s great. If I get lots of four and five star reviews and generate some extra income, that’s awesome. All I really want is to put my creations out there. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone — and neither does any other writer.

If you’re a writer who is struggling with validation and serious-to-the-point-of-being-delirious syndrome, take my advice: lighten up. Enjoy what you write. If you do that, your best work will pour out and you’ll find it much easier to polish and sell. Some people will love your writing, some people will hate it. That’s fine. That’s life. Stop seeking validation from without. That only comes from within. Whatever sort of write you are, love that writer with all your heart!

Write on!

Writing In The Time Of Corona

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Yes, the title is inspired by the title of one of my favorite books – Love in the Time of Cholera.

I don’t think the current situation with Coronavirus or COVID-19 needs any explanation or introduction. Its nasty reputation precedes it!

Now for the serious part…

For the last eight days, I have found myself trapped on treadmills of worry due to Corona’s widespread and assorted effects.  Numbers and deaths are rising, but our data is unreliable and we don’t really know what is right at this point, if we have already hit the peak or not. Most of our freedoms have been curbed for the foreseeable future, and I have realized I am more of an extrovert than I believed. The pain of separation from friends is not to be taken lightly.  People are frightened, and the media is whipping us all further into a mass frenzy of terror with their constant coverage. Ignorant remarks online likening Corona to the Black Death are not helping.

One of my fears came true today – a lay-off, hopefully only temporary, but unsettling nevertheless. I haven’t been unemployed in the past twelve years and though I have no intentions of working in the travel industry for the rest of my non-retired life, I would rather work there than have no job at all.

Work on my manuscript ground to a halt about ten days ago. This massive interruption may put a dent in my plans to publish this year. Though I knew I did not have the means to hire an editor, I did intend to have my novel typeset, have the covers designed by a professional, and set up a website. Depending on how long this lay-off lasts, publication may not take shape at all this year.

So where do I go from here? I don’t remember the last time I felt this adrift. I have a great deal of fear now, and I sense the great fear in the collective consciousness too. I fear for my family and friends who are older or somehow immuno-compromised. I don’t want to see mass amounts of people die. But I also fear the aftermath of this nightmare. When the smoke clears and COVID-19 has been contained, where will our society be and how will it recover? Will these lockdowns ultimately do more harm than good? How many will continue to suffer from poverty and mental anguish? How many businesses closed forever, how many dreams shattered? Are we heading into a second Great Depression, a sustained period of social and political unrest? How many divorces, suicides, spirals and relapses into alcoholism and drug abuse will we see in the months to come as a result of isolation, unemployment, and desperation?

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But, whatever is going on, creativity never ceases. The muses do not really sleep. They’re always awake, kindling fires deep in the subconscious, whispering in our ears. My creativity has been strangled this last week by so much worry. Perhaps now that one of my biggest fears is manifested and “purged” if you will, I can focus again.

I must focus. There’s really no choice, I suppose.

I have always had a strong spirituality, and I will turn to this in the trying weeks to come. My writing has also always been a safe haven for me in times of sadness, and it will be so very much now. My critique group will continue online for however long it must, which should give me some inspiration  to continue. Friends have checked in on me through text or phone calls and I live with family, so my lot could be much worse. Facebook video chat is pretty cool, and so are the streams of operas and plays, and virtual museum tours.

I suppose I should use this “down time” to put my nose to the grind stone and edit like a hurricane. I certainly can’t say I’m just too busy this week or burnt-out from work. I just need to pull my attention from the insanity going on outside my door and look inward, to the mysterious place of dreams and inspiration.

Times of adversity don’t last forever…but the writerly spirit does. I will continue to remind myself that this is but a temporary limbo, that every day of worry is one we will never have to repeat, one day closer to a cure or a drop off in cases and deaths, one day closer to the end of lockup –er, lockdown.

One last insight. Like many Americans, I am accustomed to a rather cushy life. Aside from the usual nonsense and glitches of daily existence, my experiences of discomfort have been mostly fleeting and highly personal. I have never lived through a global crisis of this sort and magnitude. My book is set during a tumultuous time that took place over a span of several years. Hopefully, an economic crash does not unravel the very social order of the United States and tip us into something even more frightening and destructive — like a revolution. I now find myself with a whole new admiration for other humans who lived through times of darkness and uncertainty.  The day to day stress of such things is extraordinary and coping with it and moving forward takes strength. Humanity’s survival through so many ghastly happenings is a testament to the amazing durability of the human spirit.

One thing’s for sure…I will never again take dining out or sitting with a journal and some coffee at Panera for granted ever again.

 

Be well, and write on. ❤

Invoking The Muse

 

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So, on Thursday night, I invoked the muse. It had been a while, admittedly. The holiday season combined with too much analysis and a good dash of sloth all combined to create a distinctly non-creative stew.

But last night, I got hungry, hungry for real food. I realized I truly may never amount to anything if I do not work harder at my goals. Some of those goals are not completely under my control, but being a published writer is. So, I sat in front of my laptop, opened the document, and edited until around 11PM.

And just like that, the muse returned. She came slowly at first, having been ignored for so long. But deep down, she knows that I am honest. Though my devotion to a schedule might not be steadfast, my longing to be a storyteller and my thirst for the waters of creation are genuine.

Now, she’s gifted me with a little flame to tend. A flame that is growing steadily brighter as I read the story I began writing nearly five years ago, remember the joy it brought me, listen to the playlist I made for it, and find all sorts of ways to improve it. I had stopped editing seriously somewhere around Thanksgiving, but there will be no more long hiatuses.

The muse has been loving and extraordinarily patient. She is standing by to help make this novel the best it can be, as well as tending other stories for me in the strange nether world where ideas reside. I am already hearing the siren’s song of those other tales, as a matter of fact.

But first, I must finish what I started. I must apply myself faithfully and deliver the story I promised, the story that has been such a delight to me, to the world. No more fooling around.

Write on.

 

How Long Should Writing A Book Take?

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As you all know, I have been working on my novel for over four years now. I started this blog in 2018 during the second draft. I intend to self-publish in the first half of 2020. Since the time to send my baby out into the world is drawing close, it has me thinking (among a million other things) about how long it took, and asking a question: how long should writing a novel take from beginning to end?

This is a question not easily answered. Writing a book is certainly fun but no cake walk. There’s the first draft where you become hopelessly enamored of your story and write on pure passion, the second draft where you see the myriad flaws in your romance, and usually a third or, you know, sixteenth draft in which you reconcile the first two states and make peace with them. Then, there’s the designing and marketing phase, which isn’t writing, but is every bit as serious and important as the actual writing.

How long is all this supposed to take? There’s no real answer to that. Everyone has their opinions, of course, and everyone works at a different pace. If you have to do any significant research for your book, as I have had to, that can also slow you down. So can procrastination, perfectionism, and all the other tiny incidents that make up the game of life.

As I aim for publication in early to mid 2020, that makes five years of work for this project. I personally feel that is too long and for my next novel, I will aim to complete all drafts and publish within three years or less. The story is percolating within me now, and I intend to start outlining soon, to avoid any sort of writer’s block. Taking several years on end also heightens the possibility of burnout, another notorious writer’s enemy we all should strive to avoid.

If you are a writer, nail down exactly how long you wish to spend with your book and try to stick to your deadline. Your audience will thank you. 🙂

 

Write On!

 

 

 

The Third Draft! We’re Almost There!

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Yes, I took another long hiatus. Summer tends to have this effect on me. But, I am back and I have big news!

I am now working on the third (and hopefully final) draft of my novel. I completed the second draft in July, and am now seventeen chapters into my edit. Between hand edits and the help of amazing editing tool ProWriting Aid, I am well on my way to producing the best work that I can.

Like usual, everything is taking longer than I thought, so this means my book will not hit the market until 2020. If all goes according to plan, I would love to put it out there to coincide with the anniversary of when I began working on the first draft in earnest, which would be mid-March. If not, April would be perfect too.

I will try to update this blog more frequently. You might get some posts about editing! Stay tuned and Happy Autumn!

Why You Must Write the Stories You Love

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I have always believed that a writer must write the sorts of stories they love to read. Writing for market trends — known as “being a hack” — was never something I could nor wanted to do. Since childhood, I created my stories from whatever my imagination seized upon. As an adult, I continue the practice. I don’t think we will ever learn completely why stories are written and where the ideas originate. Some of them are, of course, based upon personal experience, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

For those of us who craft tales about characters much different from ourselves, having experiences we have never had, in locales we have never been able to visit, there’s no explanation for writing what we do. I couldn’t explain to you in a million years why I keep circling back to eighteenth century France in my own work. Something beckons me and I have no idea what it is. I only know I have to acknowledge the call.

I grew up believing it was natural for writers to flex their imaginations in whichever direction they were drawn. That with a sharply – honed  sense of empathy combined with proper research, we could place ourselves in the shoes of a completely different person and experience life through their eyes for a while. Whenever I follow this instinct, my writing breathes in a way it never could if I did not. To me, this dedication, this passion, is what bestows life everlasting upon a book. It is, indeed, the very essence of being a writer.

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Unfortunately, I am witnessing what appears to be a slow but steady erosion of the writing spirit. There are many voices now saying that it’s not a writer’s place to craft stories too far removed from their own sphere of earthly existence. Some voices scream, others whisper or imply, but make no mistake, all speak the same message: It is inappropriate to stretch your imagination. Giving life to characters outside one’s own race, culture, gender, religion, sexual preference, state of health, or life experiences is over-reach that cannot be tolerated. It reeks of privilege and appropriation.

I have been watching these debates rage for a while now in real-life and online. I’ve withdrawn from several writing forums because of them and dedicated a lot of brain power to the subject, brain power that would have been better applied to writing stories. If these ideas are taken to the extreme that many in the publishing world wish to take them, we will be left with little more than unsatisfying memoirs as author Lionel Shriver noted. Imagine what our bookshelves would look like if writers never left the confines of their own life experiences on the page. We would be deprived of many great works and the shimmering richness that makes up the reading world we all love.

Though I can be moody (how typical) and an epic procrastinator among other things, I consider myself a basically good person. I place a high value on all life forms. I endeavor to be respectful and honest. And for years I have sought to expand my consciousness through spiritual searching. Those who know me very well would (hopefully) describe me as a good friend and a sympathetic ear. Outside of self-defense, I would never intentionally harm other human beings. But I maintain a hardline stance on unabridged freedom of artistic expression for creative as well as legal purposes. Naturally, we should strive for accuracy and excellence in all that we do, but the writer’s imagination should never be shackled by the political rhetoric du jour.

Indeed, it is the writer’s duty to portray and preserve the stories of humanity in all their beauty as well as their ugliness, to seek out the beating heart of human experience and capture it on the page for others to find. We can learn a great deal from the arts. Studies have shown that avid readers have more empathy and higher EQ than non-readers. That says a lot about the importance of honest writing.

I will continue to write what my imagination embraces, write the stories that reveal themselves to me, uncensored. I am too authentic to fake things, too in love with my trade to dumb it down. I don’t foresee my work getting a great deal of flack, but for those writers whose work will  leave them more vulnerable to criticism, I hope they are also willing to follow the siren song of the stories within that seek release.

In closing: Always write honestly. Always write what you are called to write. Refusing to do so will only strangle your voice and flood the bookstores with mediocrity.

Write on.

 

Why Reading is Essential to Writing

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I have heard that some writers have a phobia of reading while they are writing. They believe that the words of another writer might sneak into their subconscious and influence them too much, dampening their own voice, even resulting in plagiarism.

I can sort of understand where this fear comes from. However, in my experience I have found it to be untrue. If I don’t read, my inspiration dries up. My words become blah and even my desire to keep producing dwindles.

I really believe that reading is to writing like sunlight is to flowers. It’s nourishment. If not for reading other books, would a desire to write your own ever have even been born in you? Probably not. Other stories fuel our passion and even sometimes help us when we are stuck by providing new ideas. One thing leads to another and before you know it, the story you just read is feeding the tiny one that’s already growing somewhere deep within.

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So if you are a writer who doesn’t read while you are working and you are finding yourself stuck, pick up a book, either a new one or your favorite one. Lose yourself in it for a while, a solid hour or more. You might just find that the struggle is gone or a lot easier to deal with when you look up.

Write on!