Sunday, April 27, 2008

Stay True to Your Vision

"Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence." –Abigail Adams

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just begins
to live that day.
- Emily Dickinson

As I was reading an email digest, a comment jumped out at me. A poster offered up her opinion: agents decide whom to choose based on how serious a writer seems about their career.

Hmmm… I realized I was tuning into a theme. In a recent email, a dear friend bemoaned jokingly (or not) that the year was rushing past and she had barely taken the time to enjoy it. Another dear friend commented that she has no social life anymore. Both are writers. Like me. And I chuckled and realized they could be describing my life too.

Writing is fun. No doubt about it. Choosing to make writing your career is like deciding to give birth. You most certainly will be sacrificing sleep. Social occasions will dwindle because you just HAVE to get that chapter finished. Free time will become a lost memory. And your TBR stack will tower precariously. I recycle my magazines by bringing them to my hairdresser. It used to be a fabulous idea. Lately, it's been a wee bit embarrassing since it now takes me months to get around to finishing each one. *snort*

Yes, being an author is in some ways similar to being a parent. For with each finished manuscript, You Have Created Life. Several lives, usually. *smile* All neatly contained within the covers of your book.

"When superior people hear of the Way, they carry it out with diligence. When middling people hear of the Way, it sometimes seems to be there, sometimes not. When lesser people hear of the Way, they ridicule it greatly. If they didn't laugh at it, it wouldn't be the Way." Lao Tzu—Tao Te Ching

During the RWA convention last year, I attended the PRO retreat. A lovely writer gave a detailed presentation about self-promotion. The website, the newsletters, guest blogging, reviewers, handouts, mailings, *deep breath* freelance writing, and speaking engagements. A fellow writer leaned over and whispered in my ear, "And when, exactly, are we supposed to write?"

"Can the garden afford any thing more delightful to view than those forests of asparagus, artichokes, lettuce, pease, beans and other legumes and edulous plants so different in colour and of such various shapes, rising at it were from the dead and piercing the ground in so many thousand places as they do, courting the admiration or requiring the care of the diligent Gardiner." –Stephen Switzer, The Practical Gardener 1727

We ARE the diligent gardeners. We till the earth, fertilize the ground, plant the seeds, water the shoots, pull out the weeds (a lovely term for editing!), fertilize some more, trim, water and finally… FINALLY, it's harvest time.

Now all we have to do is gather the fruits of our labor and take it to an open marketplace. ARGH!!

"There is nothing which persevering effort and unceasing and diligent care can not accomplish." –Seneca (4 BC-65D)

"To be a writer is to sit down at one's desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone - just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over...." - John Hersey

No, writing is not easy. That's why we celebrate when someone finishes even one book. Why we call writers PRO when they finish and submit a story no matter what the results. Listen up. You Are A Writer. This is not a carefree career choice. Yet you, my friend, are brave enough to make that choice. You have the strength, the passion and the determination to see this through.

For every chapter you write, celebrate. For every book you finish, take a bow. For every rejection you face without giving up, give yourself a well-deserved standing ovation. YOU ARE A WRITER. Bravo!

"What we hope ever to do with ease, we must learn first to do with diligence." –Samuel Johnson

And take heart. For the initial writing does get easier. The process of editing will go quicker. Not at first. Patience is required to learn to distinguish the weeds from the budding shoots. In time, our eyes grow keener and we can see that trimming this branch will encourage the plant to flower even more. We will sense when the fruit ripens and reach forward with fresh confidence.

Another delightful friend sported a ribbon at Nationals. You may have seen it. The ribbon says simply, Move Over Nora!

Stay true to the vision. Approach writing with diligence. Hold the thought of your published books like the promise of sunshine after the winter rains. Harvest time WILL come.

"Diligence is the mother of good luck." –Benjamin Franklin

And we shall ALL be lucky, right?

Have a wonderful writing week. Let's all remember to acknowledge our strength and our diligence and be proud of what we do. Athletes may pump iron or run a 5k, but they don't have to WRITE!! (she says with a sneer)

You know you want it. You know you have to do it. So go ahead. WRITE! Remember… We Are WRITERS!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Explore... Dream... Discover...

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be." ~Douglas Adams

For many of us, writing is a happy accident. Whether we meticulously plot out every scene in advance or jump into the fray with a vague idea (knowing our future self will have to edit the crap out—literally), we often find that our best writing is a surprise to ourselves. Hopefully, to our readers as well. *smile*

That's where faith comes into the picture. We need to trust that somewhere in the caverns of our unconscious the story resides in full. Like the proverbial block of marble, the completed book already exists—we need to carve away what Isn't the story to find it.

"Like an old gold-panning prospector, you must resign yourself to digging up a lot of sand from which you will later patiently wash out a few minute particles of gold ore." ~Dorothy Bryant

Outlining, editing, revising, querying… Work-work-work, where's the fun? Yup, being a writer isn't the happy-go-lucky traipse through springtime flowers we imagine it to be. *sigh* Ah, but the rewards are indescribable. As our unique tale emerges, we delight in how smooth the story feels, how solid the sculpture appears, how grand and glorious it is to be a writer! There's no denying the effort involved yet what an amazing triumph. Whether the story snaps in at eleven pages or stretches for three hundred and fifty, You Have Created A New World.

A world where characters gasp and giggle, struggle and strive, kiss and snuggle, and dare to prevail against dire odds. You Create Magic. Which is why writers more than anyone understand the element of surprise. Hah! When we re-read a particularly good day's work, we might find ourselves sucking in a startled breath when the words drop off. But… but… but… we sputter… where's the rest? For one amazing instant, we *feel* the complete book and our linear consciousness wonders why the heck we stopped! Relish the shiver of excitement, my friend, because YOU are a writer!

"That's the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they've been all along." ~Madeleine L'Engle

Those bursts of illumination aren't constant. Like fireflies, they flit in and out providing flashes of inspiration when our inner sky grows dark. Yet every writer experiences a similar rush—a combination of exhilaration and anticipation. We Are Magic. Ideas dancing in the air. Words transforming into stories before our astonished eyes.

How freaking cool is that?

This week, let's celebrate the magic. Recognize how the process of writing takes us places we never imagined we could go.

"I think that wherever your journey takes you, there are new gods waiting there, with divine patience - and laughter." ~Susan M. Watkins

Let's recognize writing isn't about playing it safe. Jump into the deep water! Walk the tightrope without a net!

"To do anything truly worth doing, I must not stand back shivering and thinking of the cold and danger, but jump in with gusto and scramble through as well as I can." — Og Mandino

Writing is a grand and glorious adventure. An opportunity not only for self-exploration but to take risks. We're not skydiving here. *smile* We're free to leap out of the airplane a dozen different ways, knowing we can back up and jump again and again and again. Why play it safe? Have faith and tell Your Story Your Way…

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." —Mark Twain

Let's have a fabulous and productive week!


"The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible." --Arthur C. Clarke

Monday, April 14, 2008

Our Secret Power

A wonderful friend, a comrade-in-words, and my sworn soul sister sent me a lovely card, which begins:

“Follow Your Destiny, Wherever It Leads You.” --Vicki Silvers

The words inspire and yet also challenge me. Why? Because the countless books on “manifesting your dreams” or “the secret to success” often seem to obsess over the need to control your destiny. When things reach beyond our control, we feel helpless or worse, as if we’re doing something wrong.

“We can’t control the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” –Unknown

Writers often get this instinctively. How many here have veered away from the outline or, for the many pantsers here, realized that the characters were taking you in a direction you absolutely did not expect? Just the other day I muttered to myself that I better be careful or I would write myself into a corner.

Even in the worlds WE create, there’s still this element of unpredictability, a realization that we can’t control everything. There is no magic wand. No magic spell. Except perhaps one…

Never-ending Optimism.

This the secret power each and every one of us holds deep within our soul. When we choose to activate the secret power, we often find exactly what we need at exactly the right time.

“You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.” –Jagger/Richards

What if destiny seems to lead me to something I don’t want? And what if that something turns out to be just what I need? That’s the magic of our secret power at work. If the winds change, it’s pretty darn clear that unless you have faith that you can navigate and trust in your skill as a sailor, your shaking hands won’t be able to adjust those sails and… Hel-lo, Davy Jones’ Locker.

So we need to work with our destiny, realize that life is a relationship. Just as we’ve learned that cooperation is key to a successful relationship with loved ones, friends and coworkers, we also need to embrace the cooperative relationship between Author and Book, between Self and Destiny.

This same wonderful, delightful, most appreciated friend told me that she realized, had her book been picked up last year, she might never have joined RWA. Yet the friendships, the camaraderie was such a joy to her, she believed Destiny knew what she needed. I was touched and more than a little astonished. I certainly wouldn’t choose a friendship with ME over a book contract. *chuckle* And her words gave me pause because I wondered… how many wonderful, delightful, incredible, NECESSARY ‘things’ might pass us by in our fervent quest for publication, our need to promote, our desire for the best-selling book. We push because we believe we have to, yet our secret power is always there.

Never-ending Optimism.

If we remember to tap into that secret power, we can afford to take a breath now and then. We can afford to relax and TRUST that our destiny is working with us. When we rely on our secret magic power, we give more power to our greater self. How many here have wrestled with a plot quandary, only to have the answer come when you finally turn off the effort and just relax? I swear, I HAVE to install a waterproof recorder in my shower since so many of my plot points come to me there.

Last summer, hubby and I fell in love with a new series called Burn Notice. The main character is a spy—half Derek Flint (Our Man Flint) and half MacGyver. What I love is when faced with impossible odds, his face twists into a tight smile and he says, “Hand me that bobby pin, a bottle of avocado oil and some spackle.” *heh-heh* He doesn’t even entertain doubt. He knows he has to win. He is totally in touch with his secret magic power.

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” --Winston Churchill

Sometimes, destiny leads us to unexpected places and the greatest challenge is to keep our eyes open to the new possibilities before us. To recognize that there is opportunity for life, for love, for success, for hope in every minute of every day.
As writers, we need this more than anyone does. We need to nurture our secret magic power. Unpublished writers believe that once we hold the golden contract or sign with the all-powerful agent, our heavy lifting comes to an end. Published writers know that it’s just the beginning. No matter what phase we’re in, we need to cherish and cultivate our secret magic power. We need to Believe In Our Destiny.

Oh, and one more thing… WE NEED TO WRITE!! *grin*

This week, let’s all take a breath now and then, let’s nurture our secret magic power and get in touch with our optimism, and most of all, let’s resolve to trust in our destiny…

We Are Writers...

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Passion, Patience, and Persistence... The life of a writer.

"Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write." ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Passion, Patience, and Persistence. These are three of the essential qualities needed to be a successful writer.

First… Passion.

The need to write, the fervent desire to create worlds and watch the stories unfold on paper is prerequisite. If you don't feel as if your life would be desolate without the act of writing, flee while you can!

Still here? *smile* Good!

Nurture that flame within your heart every day, every hour. Trust me, you'll need plenty of fuel to keep that passion burning. No matter how tempting it can be to wallow in despair, kick any such tendency to the curb. You're a writer, damn it! Your heart beats a little faster when the words fly by, right? You quiver with excitement when a new idea hits and you can't wait to trap that elusive inspiration on a fresh page. Am I close?

When the writing sucks (and we've all been there) you'll be tempted to toss your story out along with your dreams.


This is a relationship and the honeymoon phase comes and goes. Okay, that came out a little more risqué than I intended but I do love a good romance. *smile* Nevertheless, the sentiment holds true. You must cling to the passion that first drove you to pound those keys in a fever of excitement. Keep that passion alive. Remind yourself daily: I am a writer. Look in the mirror and pour your heart and soul into those four little words. Hear them for what they are. An exclamation of undying passion to the career you've embraced.

We Are Writers! Yeah, baby!

Next up… Patience.

"The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with."
-- William Faulkner

Dang it! *shakes fist at muse*

The inspiration dangling before our mind's eye never seems to coalesce quickly enough.

"Having imagination, it takes you an hour to write a paragraph that, if you were unimaginative, would take you only a minute. Or you might not write the paragraph at all." ~Franklin P. Adams, Half a Loaf, 1927

Patience is essential because you never really know where the muse will take you. The process of writing is a mixture of applied focus and blind faith. A good metaphor might be of trying to start a fire by rubbing sticks together. Others have done it. The process looks easy enough. Yet the length of time required before that first spark of flame may feel like an eternity. And to our dismay, the first spark doesn't burst into a raging fire.

Be patient. Each word leads to another. Each sentence becomes a paragraph. Each page gets you closer to a finished draft. In our world of instant gratification, it's difficult to remember how much time is required to write a book. Thank goddess for our passion, eh?

Time to remind ourselves of the heart of our own life story: We Are Writers! We CAN and WILL make this happen. One word, one page, one chapter at a time.

Which takes us to the crux of our quest: Persistence.

"Never give up! Never Surrender!" – from the movie Galaxy Quest.

No matter how many times I use this quote, it always rings true. These words need to be inscribed on our foreheads. Backwards, of course, so that when we're staring at the mirror shouting, "I am a Writer!" we can read them clearly. *grin*

Writers write. And it doesn't matter if you're published, pre-published or don't give a damn about ever being published (I've heard of this elusive creature, though I have yet to meet one).

Writers write. Remember that. Persist even when you hit the inevitable slump. Persist even if rejections pile up. Persist when your heart is into it and when it's not.

Hold that vision in your mind like an Olympic torch. You want to go for the gold? Visualize your finish line. See yourself clutching your published novel in hand. Or signing The Contract. Or answering the phone and screaming like a maniac because you just got The Call.

Got the vision? Great, now get to work!

"If you haven't got an idea, start a story anyway. You can always throw it away, and maybe by the time you get to the fourth page you will have an idea, and you'll only have to throw away the first three pages." --William Campbell Gault

And consider this…

Every writer goes through dark moments. Every writer wonders about his or her talent. Every writer worries about the dark moment or the climax, the character arc or the pacing, the beginning, the middle AND the ending.

"Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built." --James Allen

You can do it. Why? Because You, my friend, are a writer.