Sunday, January 31, 2010

Face The Truth

"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 beingthe period between the initial Idea and the impetus for Action. It really does feel like jumping off a cliff or skiing down a mountain. No safety belts here. You simply push off and go. Exhilarating it may be, but it's 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. Buscaglia

Now, I’m not just talking about the obvious risks. It’s a given that submitting your work, seeking publication, sending out queries, facing book reviews, promoting sales and everything in between, makes your heart palpitate and leads to an excessive need for chocolate and hugs. Yet only a writer truly understands the gut-wrenching trepidation that can occur every time we 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.

Creating Something out of Nothing.

Where do these ideas come from? From what magical resource does the Perfect Word or Dastardly Plot Twist spring? Believe me, learning to play 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 because 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 is still a tremendous leap of faith. 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. Every writer should take a moment and acknowledge the magnitude of this journey. YOU ARE A WRITER. Do you realize how special that is? Perhaps we're not knotting a bungee cord to our ankles and leaping off a bridge. Yet every time an author sends out a query it's the equivalent of jumping out of an airplane without even knowing if you have a working parachute!

The risk may not be physical, but the stress, the worry, the fear, the hope, the anticipation and the exhilaration is no less. Hiking to the top of a dangerous mountain peak is daunting. Having dozens to millions of strangers flip through pages penned by you requires similar daring. It's the equivalent of speed-dating, as anyone and everyone can reject you. Except with speed-dating it's one at a time. Authors must brave the possibility of endless rejection simultaneously.

*gulp*

Writers also have the rarest of pleasures. A hiker may scale a mountain top. A sky-diver can leap out of a plane. An author jumps head-first into the wild unknown of the imagination. Each world is unique. Each story personal and written without guide ropes or parachutes.

“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 deep into my creative being in order to compose one more tale. 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

Along with every other writer, I’ve discovered something incredible. I didn’t know if I could compose a chapter, and I did. Didn’t know if I could complete a book—I’ve written four. 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, this is a fantastic reality. Everything else is a risk except that one thing. Every Time We Write, We Improve Our Writing.

Excellent! 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.

Hmmm…

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 the worry and stress about this decision is near to driving me mad. Just last year, an agent advised that a particular genre was selling. THIS year, another agent suggested that same genre is dead. Who’s right? And where does that leave an aspiring writer?

Awhile back, I put the question to the late, great 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!

--Chiron O'Keefe
Also featured at Pop Culture Divas and Between the Lines.

9 comments:

Kathy said...

Ah, yes. So confused about what to do with my wip - chuck it and get back to the other one - or keep working it - I came over here and feel inspired - once again!

I remember my first writing task - sit down and write for 30 minutes - I thought I would die - that 30 minutes was so long. I used to stare at the computer all day long and only be able to write by 4 p.m. How far I have come - have written several manuscripts (no longer keeping count).

Maybe I'm stuck because as I edit I'm hearing the critics and worried that it's all crap. I need to get into the story and see which way I want it to go. And why is it some parts I don't like but don't know what to do with them. Maybe if I listen to myself, I'll find those answers.

Thanks, Chiron!

Linda LaRoque said...

I so admired Kate Duffy. For me it would be impossible to write something I didn't love though I have to admit I've fallen out of love with a project.

Inspiring post, Chiron!

Miss Mae said...

I really like the "Write the Damn Best Book That You Can." That's how I feel. I'm no Victoria Holt, or Agatha Christie, but I pound out the best I can do...and hope...just hope that an editor/publisher thinks it's the best too. :)

And I really feel like I'm jumping out of a plane w/o a working parachute sometimes! LOL

Where do you come up with these terrific posts, Chiron? You are a marvel, you really are. :)

Chiron said...

Hey Kathy!!

Hah! Boy, I hear you. Seemed like thirty minutes can last forever. Yet now we find, when we're In The Zone, suddenly you look up and hours have zippped by!

There's times too when I worry about the reception, but in the end, all that really matters is that we best ourselves. Keep in mind, Nobody EVER erected a statue to honor a critic. *laughs*

When we think of all the innovative writers who stuck to their guns (Sorry, e.e.cummings, but until you learn to use capital letters, we just don't see the appeal :-D), people like J.K. Rowling, for example, who was turned down repeatedly before finding publication for a 'limited run'. ;-D

All it takes is one "yes" and the times we heard "no" really won't matter anymore.

You keep rocking, fellow Diva!

--Chiron

Chiron said...

Hi Linda!

Kate was amazing. She inspired and encouraged so many people along the way.

Hmmm... I've yet to fall out of love with a project, though I do sometimes feel as if I need to pull away and refocus in a different direction.

My stubborness sometimes gets in the way of common sense!! *grin*

Thanks so much for stopping by, Linda!!

--Chiron

Chiron said...

Hello Miss Mae!

What a lovely thing to hear. *blush* You're a treasure, my dear!

Yup, that's where I'm at. And frankly, writing the Best Damn Book we can WILL lead us to where we need to go. It may take time (and more than a few sleepless nights) but if, at the end of it all, we can look with pride at the work we've accomplished, that's a damn fine life. *grin*

And anytime the wind is too stong, and we become vividly aware of the lack of parachute, the good news is, we can look to the right and to the left and grab hold our fellow writers (who just happen to be tumbling alongside of us!).

Thanks for jumping in, Miss Mae!

--Chiron

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Whats up dude

It is my first time here. I just wanted to say hi!

Anonymous said...

Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.