Monday, January 28, 2008

Please Yourself First

Weekly Motivational Essay for Writers (reprint)

Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together.
-- Anais Nin

Being a writer means taking risks. With perhaps our greatest leap being between the initial Idea and the impetus for Action. It really does feel like jumping off a cliff, or skiing down a mountain. You push off and go. Exhilarating it may be, but also just a wee bit scary.

“The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing, is nothing, and becomes nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn and feel and change and grow and love and live." --Leo F. Buscagila

Now, I’m not just talking about the obvious risk. It’s a given that submitting your work, seeking publication, sending out queries, facing book reviews, trying to up sales, and everything in between, makes your heart palpitate and leads to an excessive need for hugs and chocolate. *smile* Yet there isn’t a person alive who understands what writers face every time they sit down to scratch out a few more words.

Yikes! I’ve said it before and yet I’m still in awe of the process…

Something out of Nothing. Where do these ideas come from? The perfect word? The plot twist? Believe me, learning guitar (which was no picnic, let me tell you) was a breeze compared to this.

“Oh, an A chord to F sharp minor to B minor to E. That’s easy. I Already Know Those Chords.”

Yet every new story must be original. We may learn how to phrase a thought or craft a pleasing sentence. We may develop an *ear* for timing and rhythm. Eventually, the clich├ęs wind down and the adverbs become less important. We evolve as writers. But the Magic required to pull those words out of thin air… well… It’s still a leap. A matter of reaching deeply into our subconscious. Delving into the shadowy parts of our psyche. We’re Taking A Chance.

So here’s what I think. Everyone here should take a moment and acknowledge just how freaking incredible this task is. You Are A Writer. Do you realize how special that is? Forget bungee jumping and skydiving. You are the real risk taker. Wow…

"Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore." Andre Gide

I don’t know about you, but every time, I sit down to write, I let go of all that is safe and familiar. I push myself into the depths of my creative being in order to write. It’s taken more courage than anything I’ve ever done.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
--T.S. Elliot

And like most everyone here, I’ve discovered something incredible. I didn’t know if I could write a chapter, and I did. Didn’t know if I could write a book—I’ve written three. Each risk, leads to Something. How far can we go? As far as our wings will take us…

"You've got to jump off cliffs all the time and build your wings on." –Ray Bradbury

The more we write, the better we get. That, perhaps is the only sure thing about writing. And, in my oh-so-humble opinion, that is fantastic. Everything else is a risk except that one thing. Every Time We Write, We Improve Our Writing.
Okay… Good. So that’s a given. But… What do we write? Do we write to please others or to please ourselves?

"Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth." --Katherine Mansfield.

The truth.


The truth is we want it all. Don’t we?

I’ve faced my own dilemma, one that many writers share. I’m just not willing to chase the market. Sometimes I dearly wish I could. Yet I worry and I stress about it. Just last year, an agent advised me that a particular genre was selling. This year, another agent suggested that genre is dead. Who’s right? And where does that leave an aspiring writer?

I put the question to Kate Duffy and here’s what she said:

“Write the best book you can and please yourself first. We, writers and publishers, create markets. Each author, no matter what the genre, is a franchise.

Editors don't buy by genre. They fall in love with a book and figure out a way to publish it that will make money.” –Kate Duffy

So… there you go. Take risks. Face the truth. Build your wings. Write the Best Damn Book you can and Please Yourself first.

Have a wonderful writing week, everyone! Remember… We Are Writers!!

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