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 I’ve withdrawn from several writing forums because of them and dedicated a lot of brain power to the subject, brain power that would have been better applied to writing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.

 

When The Going Gets Tough, Remember Your Passion

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We all know how writing projects begin. You get a rush of inspiration and the words flow like magic from your brain through your fingertips and onto the page. You have been seized and there is no stopping you now or maybe ever.

Then, you hit a terrifying (figurative) brick wall.

Maybe you realized your plot is riddled with holes. Maybe you discovered your protagonist is rather one-dimensional. Maybe your enthusiasm or your very ability to string words together seems to have evaporated. Whatever the reason, you feel as though your inner writer is either dead or comatose. You begin doubting your project as well as yourself and wonder if you should just abandon ship and forget this difficult business of being a writer.

Every writer experiences this at some point. It is an inevitable part of the process. Sometimes it’s a sign of burnout — doing too much, too fast, and you need to take a break to restore yourself and nourish your creativity. And sometimes, it is a symptom of taking things for granted and having lost touch with your passion.

While passion is an unreliable thing that cannot always be counted on, it is the initial spark that lifts a project off the ground. Why else would you devote countless hours of your life to an activity that may bear no financial fruit nor earn you any professional accolades? Your started writing because you loved it, because it seemed indispensable, because you knew it was part of your purpose in life, and if you can revive those feelings, you can usually revive your work.

But how to revive something as irrational and fickle as passion? Ask yourself what you wanted to tell the world when you began writing. Why is this project important to you? Why is the craft of writing important to you? Then, try to recall the exact feelings you had when you were bursting with inspiration and it all seemed so easy. If you can call forth those feelings, you can probably feel your way back to your path.

Protecting Your Passion: Or Why You Must Safeguard Your Writing Time

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Scientific studies have shown that time is considered the most valuable commodity. Time is indeed precious and as our world grows increasingly complex and competitive it can be hard to establish boundaries and set priorities. Lack of time is one of the most commonly cited difficulties amongst writers.

Making time to write is obviously of utmost importance to anyone who aspires to become a successful and hopefully professional writer. Carving out writing time, however, can be tricky. If you are struggling with this important step, here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. Take It Seriously — Like Work
    A lot of people have this silly idea that writing is easy, that it’s really not even work. Anyone who has ever made a serious effort at writing knows that is a fallacy. Though writing can be enjoyable, it takes time and effort to see any good results. Treat writing as though it truly is a job. In other words, when you are writing, you are busy and cannot be expected to do anything else unless there is some sort of emergency and the writing MUST get done.
  2. Set Up A Writing Schedule
    With most jobs, workers are obliged to follow some sort of schedule. Many writers have found that scheduling writing time helps them to actually get the work done and create a good habit. Pick a time (or at least a time of the day or week) when you can devote yourself to writing. It may be a couple of hours or only fifteen minutes, but every little bit helps and you will soon see results!
  3. Set Priorities
    If you are serious about turning your passion into a profession, you need to set priorities. Priorities often mean sacrifices of some sort. This might mean that instead of three nights out and about with friends, you will only have two or even one if you are really pressed for time. It can be difficult, but there is no shortcut to success –and if you want it badly enough, you will do what needs to be done.What are your thoughts on making time for your writing? How have you managed to sneak writing time into a busy life?

Finding The “Heart” of Your Story

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Yes, I haven’t been blogging at the pace I was last week. As the saying goes “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”. 🙂 I have however, enjoyed some very nice time among friends and inspiring people, a must for all writers of every sort.

Lately I have been thinking about the heart of my book. What exactly is the “heart” of a book you may wonder? To my understanding, the heart is the overall theme, the very core of the story, the subtle lesson to be learned. I would say that my current book’s heart is probably that ultimately, love conquers all. Perhaps it is cliché, but it works. The skill lies in communicating the theme in an original way. If you remove the heart, the story collapses and dies.

What if you are writing a story and you do not know what the heart is? No need to worry. Sometimes, the heart is what you discover first and sometimes it takes a while. If your story has yet to reveal its heart to you, ask questions. What do you want to tell the world? Why have you written this story? How do the characters change throughout the story and what do they ultimately learn? Record your answers honestly, and your book’s heart will open itself to you. (No chocolate or flowers required. 🙂 )

Making Peace With My Passion

 

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For a long time, I was loathe to admit what sort of fiction I was writing. I did not want a lot of people to know that my stories were mostly romantic ones. As I said in my second blog post, not all of these stories had a happy ending, but most did. Yet I felt like most of my creations were shameful fluff and so long as I continued writing about “silly, unnecessary things” such as relationships, I would surely never be taken seriously as a writer. I was, of course, thinking about all of the scathing critiques I had read of anything that falls beneath or close to the romance umbrella, and was fearful of being cast as someone who cannot tell an original, realistic story, someone who will be forever looked down upon by the “literati”. This fear exists among writers of other genres too such as sci-fi and fantasy, also often maligned as nothing more than smelly, literary cheese–despite legions of adoring fans.

Though a bit of my reluctance remains, I am proud to say I have mostly gotten over my hang up. I am not certain that all of my work neatly falls into the category of romance and some of it feels closer to historical fiction, but whatever my writing may be, I have made peace with it. I am what I am, and I write what I write. And I am sure that when I publish my work, someone, somewhere will enjoy it as much as I do.

Are you a secret genre writer? Drop me a comment below!

All About Love

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So last night, I established the fact that yes, I am indeed a writer. If you do not know me personally, you might be wondering what exactly it is that I write.

I mostly write fiction. I dabble in poetry and have a deep appreciation for it, but storytelling is my first love.

And speaking of love…that’s what I mainly write about. Love. I don’t know if my works really count as romance per se. While I would say most have a happy ending, not all of them do and I have often read that HEA is a requirement for a story to be considered a true romance. I also like to throw a lot of other  ingredients into the mix of the story and some of those ingredients have teeth, E.g. revolutions, embarrassing secrets, old traumas, etc. But when it comes down to it, the cores of most of my stories are relationships. A boy and a girl coming together and riding the waves of life beside each other as best they can. Maybe they will swim, maybe they will sink. The potential is unlimited.

Why do I write about love? I don’t really know. The only answer I can think of is that I love it. I love the journey. I love the gradual revelation of character, the strengthening of bonds and emotions, the beautiful language that fits these sorts of stories, the choices to be made, the healing and redeeming power of love in all its forms. And I think that’s reason enough.

The novel I am revising now is a historical romance (mostly). I hope to have it finished sometime in 2018. I have another one, probably a short story, percolating inside of me at the moment that I intend to get out there one way or another.

So keep following my blog. I might just become one of your favorite authors someday! 🙂

What Makes A “Real” Writer?

What makes one a “real” writer? This is, believe it or not,  a question that has tripped me up for a while now. A writer can be technically defined as “one who writes”, but surely there is a little more to it than that.

Despite the fact that I have been actively writing stories since the age of seven, I am reluctant to define myself as a writer. I have gone so far as to say that a real writer is one who has been published, not one who has yet to be published. I do not refer to myself as a writer. I say “I write”, but I am not “a writer”. I have a fear of being thought of as pompous or as a fraud, so I always err on the side of caution.

But I think I am beginning to realize my idea of a writer may be a flawed one. I am indeed a writer. I have been writing stories since elementary school. I have submitted plenty of stories and poems to magazines over the years. I am currently rewriting my third novel. I even moderate a writing critique group. Could I not safely lay claim to the title of “writer”?

I think I can as I have come to another conclusion of late. A writer is one who is devoted to the art and craft of writing and is willing to put in the effort to make their work the best it can be. In short, a writer is serious about writing. They may not write every single day, but they always circle back to creating, and believe in unlimited potential–and seize opportunities.

Watching successes take place within my writing group as well as learning about all of the new pathways to publishing the internet has created, I feel my drive to succeed and share one of the things I love best growing within me a little every day. And I know it is time to start taking action, to start laying the foundations for future successes.

I have plans for 2018 and 2019, sorts of plans I have never had before, at least not as seriously.  This year, I have goals of completion and sharing. One of my interests is to build an online presence and find an audience– which begins with this blog.

Nothing is certain, just like everything else in life and I cannot swear that I will meet my goals this year. But if you happened upon this blog and enjoyed this post, I hope you will follow me and watch me as I try to “get serious” about being a writer.

My inner writer is demanding it.