When You Face Resistance as a Writer

Does anyone else ever feel like all hell breaks loose once you set a goal?

Recently I determined to spend a minimum of two hours each day on my novel. Since then my computer broke down and I was required to order a new one. We had “smoke week” here on the coast from the fires in the western states and this agitated me to the point where we needed to get a purifier. Some rearranging happened in our house which took up a lot more time than I expected. My husband became sick, so I tried to “nurse” him. I became sick, twice, and required a doctor’s visit. Family issues cropped up. In the middle we had the awaited “Throne Speech” and the looming threat of a federal election in Canada. And of course there was no end of strife south of the border, as I followed the news and political developments.

I also became aware that my other “work” interferes with my creative process. I am now working on a way to resolve this.

Upheavals in our lives and unsettled business constantly rob us of creative energy.

Some years ago I learned to give credit to the “stressors” in my life. Not surprisingly, I didn’t even know that certain things caused me stress. I ignored and minimized other stressors and this resulted in a kind of cognitive dissonance.

We’ve often heard the saying, The truth will set you free. It is a quote from Jesus Christ. It is remarkable how helpful a good, honest look at our situation can be.

We’ve also heard, “The trouble with being deceived is that you don’t know you are deceived.” We can’t deal with a situation when we don’t understand it. There are times of seeking and then there are times when all we can do is wait for the light.

In my case, my light came through a friend, some years ago, who loaned me a book on stress. I think it was called Pressure Points: How to Deal With Stress, by Don Osgood. Osgood talks about the fact that acknowledging stressors can be a significant key to overcoming stress. I highly recommend his book.

When I give proper credit to the stressors that impair my productivity, I actually have more peace. There are things that make it difficult to clear space in my head for writing. It is as though, by giving them a nod, they settle down.

Naming the problem has a way of reducing its power over us. Even positive stressors like a wedding in the family, or a vacation, or the Christmas Season can drain our resources.

When my children were young I learned to immediately acknowledge their distress. This made them feel cared for and removed the need for whining and nagging.

In my work with mentally challenged adults I took a Behavior Modification course which taught me that if I failed to be consistent in one instance, I could lose years of progress made with a client. I practiced consistency with my children and this made them feel secure.

We all need consistent validation and reassurance. We need to feel secure.

Since we don’t want others to minimize or ignore our needs, we should not be ignoring or minimizing them either. I find that at times I have to picture myself as the “other” in, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We are often kinder to others than we are to ourselves.

Don’t ignore. Don’t minimize. Life is what it is. Acknowledge and work your way through it. Have a little faith that you will find yourself in a place beyond this that may be better.

Many times we don’t understand the seasons in our lives. Certain periods are characterized by unique circumstances. One season passes and we find ourselves in a new place, which requires adjustment. It may be retirement, or an addition to the family, or a child leaving home. The best we can do is be “faithful” and consistently apply ourselves to the next thing that requires doing in our setting.

I read a hopeful blog this morning at Another Slice, entitled Follow the Sun. I look for encouragement wherever I can find it. There is light at the end of the tunnel, I remind myself. There is a way and we will find it by persisting in the face of resistance.

Persistence may look different than we imagined. It may mean first taking care of things that get in the way and then returning to our writing. Think of this as a pause, not a stop. Or it may mean acknowledging and then ignoring them, so that we can write.

I heard a touching story that encouraged me in a strange way. We are living in challenging times and things can get worse. What if they do? How will we manage? Things may get worse before they get better. Some things will not get better this side of eternity. I think of this when my doctor says the word “degenerative.”

The story I heard was of a man who was in a concentration camp. Each morning the men in the barracks rose before sunrise and walked miles in every kind of weather to the place where they put in a long day of back-breaking labor. He and his comrades received almost no nourishment and many succumbed. The man noticed that when the guards saw someone stumbling and failing, the person was shot on the spot. Realizing this, he knew that if he wanted to survive he needed to appear strong and capable. He decided that each morning he would get up and shave. He was a survivor who lived to tell his story.

Each day we have to do the equivalent of shaving–the thing that tells us we are strong enough for what this day may bring. I may not be able to control what happens in my life, but I can maintain my dignity in my trial. This will serve me well in accomplishing my goal.

It’s Not Who You Are

We can choose to be identified by our past or we can have faith to move beyond it.

As I commit myself to working on my novel again, I am having to deal with demons of the past. “You won’t follow through.” “You’ve failed before.” “What makes you think you can do it this time?”

If you’ve ever tried to change a pattern in your life, you will have run into similar taunts and fears. But there are numerous testimonials to the contrary, examples of how people prevailed against odds. You can be one of those people.

I have a large bookshelf and sometimes I look at my books and ask why my novel is not yet published. What am I missing that the other published authors have?

First of all, my worth is not defined by whether I am a published author or not. Secondly, my life is not over yet and the potential for publication is still there. I just have to persevere and acquire a few skills. This may still add up to publication. I will also have to do the hard work.

Doing the hard work is probably the most important part.

I once surprised a lot of people who never gave any thought to my capabilities. You see, I attended college when I was young, but I didn’t graduate. In fact, I dropped out of two classes during my final year in college.

Then I went back to college after our children left home. I had no confidence in my ability. A friend was working to finish her degree and my attitude was, “Good for her.” But I could never do that.

The truth is that I again dropped out of two classes. History was repeating itself. But the following year something changed and for two years I took a full course load, even more than a full course load, and I graduated with my degree, with highest honors.

That voice you hear in your head, telling you that you will fail, don’t listen to it. It does not know you. It does not acknowledge all of your capabilities.

We all have an accuser that tries to keep us from getting up and trying again, trying harder, and succeeding.

The first year I took a full coarse load in college I was extremely stressed but I set a daily goal of how much reading I needed to do. I scheduled a time to work on my assignments. I attended classes faithfully. All of these added up to eventually completing my degree.

That year our school went on our annual weekend retreat and while there I climbed a small mountain. It was challenging. I didn’t know if I could make it. But I did. Whenever I didn’t know if I could succeed in my studies, I reminded myself that if I was able to climb that mountain, I could do this.

Look at a success in your life. Remind yourself of your ability. Persevere. Prevail. Don’t allow that voice in your head to define you. It’s not who you are.

What to Write About – Leave a Legacy

I don’t very often talk about content in writing. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve touched on this subject before.

There are messages out there that need to be shared. A few questions I always ask myself:

1) Am I the one to speak about this?

2) Where/to whom do I talk/write about this?

3) What is the best format/presentation method/platform?

5) Is now the time?

I think for awhile Facebook hijacked my ideas in the sense that it was where I posted short scripts, rather than blogging them or writing a book. As writers we need to determine what specific message we are to make a priority and write about. After this we determine when and where and how we will deliver the message.

This morning I read a couple of blogs I follow. I noted this in one blog: The Russians, for their part, wanted paralyzing chaos and to destabilize the United States politically — Mission Accomplished, Ivan. This blogger posts political content and adds personal commentary. The reason I chose this quote is because I see a lot of material these days that is causing destabilization and I think as writers this is something we could respond to. I would add that Russia does not get all the credit for chaos and destabilization.

Another blogger I follow, who is an inspirational writer of poetry, confessed today that she is actually a “political junkie” on Twitter. She deviated from her usual form and wrote about being moved to tears by a mother who lost her son this past week when a passenger plane was shot down over Iran. She felt the need to draw attention to the plight of Iranians at this time.

I hear from more and more people who are distraught by what they see around them and want to speak out. Don’t allow your voice to be silenced when you have a conviction that you need to speak. Some things need to be said, even if there are repercussions.

Although our privilege to speak freely is being challenged, today, silence is not the answer. Wisdom is.

Count the cost. Be courageous. Be considerate. Be prayerful. Think through what it is you want to say, then choose your words carefully.

I read this recently:

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. – Elie Wiesel

As writers we have a very significant role. We communicate a message that has the potential to influence others. We pass on information. We help people look at things from different viewpoints. This can be encouraging to some while it is threatening to others. Once again, I do not believe the solution is for people of good intentions to remain silent.

What is your motivation? Why do you write? I am encouraged when I see writers who aim to achieve good in the world. As we have seen, there are those whose motivation is less lofty.

In deciding what it is we want to say, it is also helpful to know exactly what it is we are doing. One person may want to document their journey. Another may want to give a commentary, or an evaluation. Some write to teach and share information. Others feel the need to alert people to current events or developments.

Occasionally people write cathartically, as a form of personal therapy. Some want their words to soothe and heal and bring comfort. Others write to entertain with wit and humor.

Our personality will incline us in a certain direction. A few people have expressed a sense of “call” to communicate a specific message or to deliver it in a very specific way. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what sets us writing but I think it’s safe to say it is interest and concern.

Whatever your content, whatever your style, I encourage you to contribute. Your voice is unlike anyone else’s voice. What you have to say matters. Together we can work towards creating a more insightful, more caring and more peaceful world. We can address some of the chaos and hopefully bring a greater sense of stability. Let’s leave behind a legacy for those who will follow. Your voice could be the one someone has waited for.

Update on My Novel

To my dear readers who have followed my story…thank you for your incredible patience.

It would almost make a story of its own for me to document my writing journey these past months. I finally decided that at the end of the year I will put my novel aside. In other words, it must be finished by then. There are other things I want to be freed up to do.

My biggest struggle has been that I want to write non-fiction. I don’t feel like I am a novelist. I’ve had to greatly adjust my writing style in order to write fiction. Many times when I have been blocked I have read a variety of books on writing, or I’ve read novels, or I’ve picked up Writers’ Digest magazines. I always find the magazines extremely motivating.

However, lately none of the above have helped me get out of my slump. I’ve had a series of revelations, however, and these are now beginning to motivate me to keep writing.

First of all I realized that I was embarrassed to be writing a “fluffy romance.” I actually kept thinking of people who I DID NOT want to have read my novel. My husband insisted that many people loved books by Louis L’Amour, and they were not profound treatises. He kept reminding me that I was a good writer. He told me he enjoyed the parts I had read to him, and that my writing was as good or better than published authors he’s read. “If you can do that, over and over, then you can write a good book.” Don’t underestimate the importance of novels, he’d tell me.

But, I argued, that is not all there is to a book. All of the pieces have to tie together and be in the right order, and you have to keep track of all the threads, and round out all the characters, and build the tension, etc., etc. It just seemed like I would fail, and worse, I might not even know where or why I failed.

I’ve had segments of my work edited and it has proved to be a very humbling experience. However, I decided I needed to move on from there by thinking about how much I learned, how my writing changed and improved, as a result.

I read somewhere that I needed to love my book. Someone pointed out that I had a bit of “self loathing” going on here. In other words, I no longer believed in my story, nor in my ability to tell it.

One day, when I felt particularly low–the day that my editor friend told me that my main character sounded pathetic (in other words), and that my language sounded like something from twenty years ago–yes, I was really told that…I drove to the ocean and was ready to delete my book and cancel my plan to attend a writers conference in August. The thing that held me back was that, for no reason I could put my finger on, I just believed that God actually wanted me to go to the conference this year. If I believed that, then I needed to go. I don’t want to live with having failed to have the courage to do what I needed to do.

Even deciding to love my book didn’t help me keep writing. I still wanted to quit more often than not. The truth was I didn’t believe what I was writing was significant.

I had been trying to dig deep, to get in touch with my characters’ feelings. Yes, there was some good writing. I could tell when it was good and that I needed to do more of that.

I think the breakthrough came when I realized that I knew my book inside and out. I had lived with it so long, I understood my characters better than my editor. And I had grown. I was able to recognize pathetic now and use it. That day I wrote back to my editor friend and told her that, yes, my character starts out with weaknesses, and she knows this, and it bothers her. I told her that maybe I am writing in a twenty year old style, but I’m OK with it. I’m probably not going to change that.

I began to see strength in my story. I took ownership.

I had taken pieces out of my story. Now I began to integrate them once again, in a different way, because I could see they contributed something vital. I slashed whatever didn’t serve a clear purpose. I made a list of what I wasn’t sure I should include and as the weeks passed the decisions became clear. I finally had a sense, not only of where I was going, but what I was doing with my story.

If I had not put a time pressure on myself, I would not have been pushed up against a wall. I would not have realized how much I hated my story and how I was actually seriously avoiding finishing it.

Most of all, I would not have come to the conclusion that I was the only one who could prevent it from being pathetic. I was the only one who could make my story as strong as I wanted it to be. I was the only one who could say, this was how I intended it and I love it now. It is now a true representation of me as a writer.

I finally found my strength and the strength in my story and it motivated me. I saw that I could write a book I would love. And this was the book I wanted to share.

 

 

Organizing for Writing

As writers we are always collecting material. I have file boxes full of notes. Numerous computer files. Bookshelves of books. My brain is constantly coming up with new concepts to write about. New angles. New stories. I can’t possibly keep track of them all.

Between my electronic notes and files, and my physical files and notes, I sometimes am overwhelmed with all the resources I have collected. It’s as though an avalanche of ideas is always coming at me and I don’t have time to sort it all and to prioritize it.

I received the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert, from my son for Christmas. He knows I am a creative type as I dabble in art and music and writing. Incidentally, I finally found a template that works for featuring my photography online. You can view it at LensArt. What I was going to say is that Elizabeth Gilbert sees inspiration as a sort of entity of its own, like a “spirit” that makes an entrance into our lives and beckons us to follow it and create something. She also says we can’t sit idly and wait for this sort of inspiration to knock on our door. We grasp it when it does, but in the meantime creativity needs to find us busy working.

As I’ve already said, my problem is not that ideas don’t come to me. On the contrary, there are too many ideas competing for my attention. Too many projects I’ve started, and so many more I want to begin. My problem is more in the area of effectively working with my ideas and not losing them.

I’ve finally come to the conclusion that it is alright to have all of this evidence of raw writing material–files upon files, books upon books. For too long I compared myself with others who were not writers and who didn’t have this semi-organized chaos, and thought I needed to be like them. Then one day I observed that other writers did indeed have the same challenges I have in dealing with endless resources. I wasn’t some odd sort of hoarder. I saw that writers need a lot of material before we put pen to paper. We need lot of exposure to other sources. We end up doing a lot of gathering and collecting.

If only I had someone to help me with the task of sorting, organizing, storing and retrieving. What a luxury that would be.

In the early church there were theologians who had sponsors who enabled them to write because they provided them with scribes or secretaries and often paid their living expenses. I read about one church father, I believe it was Origen, who had seven secretaries at one time. Imagine that. In this way he was able to write reams of material.

Of course, back then all of it was done by hand. At least I have the advantage of a computer which, compared to handwriting or using a typewriter, is an incredibly useful tool, taking numerous hours off of my writing time. I don’t miss the days of pulling paper out of my typewriter and erasing.

Like most writers, I continuously face the tedious task of documenting my ideas and organizing and prioritizing them, without the aid of a benefactor or the assistance of secretaries. I’ve had to train myself to be alright with a bit of chaos when too much focus on cleaning up my reference materials takes energy away from actual writing. 

There is a sort of dividing line I need to be conscious of, an imaginary line dividing the past from the present. It separates the collected material from the collections I am working with.

When I write, I pull items forward from the past into the present. Some of my collected material is no longer relevant. It needs to go. Other material must be accessible, not lost in some slush pile–namely, a place from which it is never retrieved.

From time to time I need to go back into the past and remind myself of what is there.

Memory is an amazing thing, the way it retrieves information. But my memory  occasionally needs a little help and so I go back and review what I’ve written and stored.

I am determined to continue to work at implementing an effective organizational system. An effective organizational system is one where I can utilize material that is helpful and retrieve it when I need it.

Currently I sort documents into broad categories and sub-categories on my desktop, in Scrivener, in my email program (I email links to articles to myself), in online bookmarks and in my physical filing cabinet. I use Google Keep to take quick notes when ideas come to me. I have to consistently work to keep ahead of the clutter and remain focused on what it is I want to write.

Organizing is not an end in itself.  The result I am trying to achieve is to free up more time to write and to become a better writer. Keeping this in mind helps to protect me from what could easily become an obsession–organizing.

My Happy Place as a Writer

...ok, I didn't buy it.

For a long time I searched for my Happy Place as a writer and I didn’t find it. The reason I couldn’t find it was because I needed to create it. I needed to understand what this place is made up of. Most of all, I needed to identify the core of my motivation.

Writing can be a lonely, thankless venture. For about five years I have been in the process of establishing myself as a writer and I admit I am still far from where I plan to be. But I am exactly where I want to be right now because this is the place from which I move forward.

Right now I have a great deal of experience, raw material, writing resources, ideas, and visions of possibilities for the future. With each day that passes I accumulate more writing aids and grist for the mill. This is a good place to be. 

Five years ago I quit my job and began to work diligently on my writing. At that time I gained a lot of momentum as a writer. However, a year later I went back to work at two consecutive jobs. All the while I kept having a gnawing feeling that I was to focus on my writing. Finally I submitted my resignation. (I don’t recommend quitting your job unless you are convinced in your heart that this is what you are to do.)

The past two years have been riddled with doubt and confusion as I vacillated back and forth between staying at home on a reduced income and going back to work again. After repeated rejections from agents and editors I contemplated giving up fiction writing altogether. I over-analyzed and second-guessed myself after numerous blog posts with virtually no reader response.

I admit I have yet to regain the momentum I had during the first year before I went back to work. However, the time in between has not been wasted and I have gained many valuable insights.

Little has changed around me, but something has changed inside me. I have embraced the messiness and the beauty of where I am today. I have accepted what I have, and even what I don’t have.

I made two decisions which are moving me forward.

One, I am motivated by love. I write because I love people. I want to inspire, encourage and entertain people.

Two, I want to write.

I can write anywhere and on any subject. I may write comments on social media, or messages and emails to friends, or notes on birthday cards, or I may write in my journal. The success of my writing does not need to be measured in terms of financial profit. I write because I love people and because I love to write.

I am truly grateful for each writing resource I have studied, each note I have taken, each creative line I have written. I am grateful for all that has brought me to this place where I am today and all that will influence my tomorrows to come.

If there is one thing the past months and years have taught me it is this: Writing is a struggle and it will always be a struggle. That is why it is so critical to know why I am writing and who I am writing for.

My future success may not come in the form of a published book. In fact my future may look much like my past. I’m OK with that. I now see intrinsic value in what I am doing from day to day. I am in my Happy Place.

 

How I Beat Writer’s Block

At the Peace Arch border crossing, entering the U.S. from Canada, the border patrol person asked me what I did for a living. He seemed very interested when I told him I was a writer and offered me a cure for writer’s block.

“You know what you have to do to overcome writer’s block?”

Of course I wanted to hear what he had to say.

“You have to travel. That’s what will get you over writer’s block.”

He sounded so confident, I decided to take his advice to heart.

I travel to a park or the beach, and sit in my car and write. I travel to a local tourist area and walk around for half a day. I travel to home decor stores to see their enticing displays. I visit the ocean, or the mountains. Since I live in the Pacific Northwest I have access to numerous places to get inspiration for writing, places like Granville Island, Fort Langley, White Rock, Crescent Beach, Deep Cove, Belcarra Regional Park, Stanley Park. I could go on.

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Granville Island, British Columbia

My budget constricts me a little, but I have still managed several longer vacations in the past year or so, traveling to the Okanagan Valley, to Manitoba to attend two weddings, to Ontario to visit family I hadn’t seen for decades, to New England to do research for my novel, and most recently to Portland, Oregon to attend a writers’ conference.

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Red Lion Hotel on the River-Jantzen Beach, Portland, OR

 

I’ve read a lot of advice on how to overcome writer’s block. If I am blocked, it is for a reason. Usually it is the pressure of the urgent. The sense that something is more important than writing.

I am also an artist and a musician and the answer to why I don’t paint, or play piano or guitar is the same. The mundane duties of life supersede my artistic ambitions. If I am not writing or painting or making music, it is because I have not placed a high enough importance on these activities.

I recently visited the website of an author and agent I met at a writers’ conference and saw that his last writing post was dated June 28. My natural response was one of sadness. Why is this skilled writer not writing regularly?

Maybe it is because we writers are not machines. Yes, we can seat ourselves at our desks and determine not to get up for four hours. This will produce results of sorts. Some writers are able to adhere to a self-imposed writing deadline and I expect their email as consistently as Saturday, or a full moon. But we are not all like that.

The greatest hindrance to good writing is a depressed spirit. Traveling, getting into a new space and making new encounters, works very well to lift one’s spirits.

One weekend I travelled down to Lynden, WA to help my son and his wife paint the interior of their house. My husband took a separate car and came later, after work. When I returned back home, my husband went through the border first and I followed after him. The border guard greeted me and I told him I had been visiting my children.

“I heard you ‘Tom Sawyered’ your husband into painting a house.”

I laughed, and thought to myself, border guards read too. Once again my little journey proved to be inspiring.

Maybe traveling isn’t your way of getting over writer’s block. Find out what works for you and do whatever it takes to get your thoughts out there for people to read. Somebody is waiting to hear from you.

 

Getting Past the Fear

Last night, at 4:00 a.m. I finally pressed ‘Send’ and submitted my first ten pages to the Oregon Christian Writes Manuscript Submission program. For $5.00 you can have an editor or agent look at your first ten pages when you attend the conference. They may or may not want to meet with you and possibly ask for your complete manuscript.

Before I go on, I’ll just give you a brief summary of what has happened since I dropped off the scene for awhile. I hope we can be the kind of friends who can pick up where we left off because that’s the kind of friends I mostly have. We are in this for the long haul and know there will be interruptions for various reasons.

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the direction of my life and during the last three years I took two different admin assistant jobs. Previously when I was blogging regularly (2012) I was between jobs and very focused on moving ahead with my writing.

Working at these jobs made me realize that I have a very strong admin gift, as I have been told, but that my passion is not so much in the area of keeping a machine running as it is in connecting with people and finding ways to make meaningful contributions. I like to contribute in many ways. Hosting a meal, planning a birthday party, interacting with children and seniors, finding and sharing significant information, decorating my home, creating beautiful paintings, taking photos, building memories with loved ones, problem solving, and enriching my marriage.

While I was working I kept thinking that I was wasting my time. I know I wasn’t actually wasting my time, but maybe I was missing opportunities. I felt I was missing the things that only I could do. However, I had to counter-balance this with the fact that I was helping others on my job reach their goals and that is very significant to me. I love to help others in this way.

But now I feel the time has come for me to start my own business, in a sense. This is the second go I am having at building a writing career and to tell the truth it scares me. I could have pressed ‘Send’ at 10:00 p.m.yesterday but I had a fear of putting my work out there. When you are younger, I think, your mind doesn’t go so many places and consider so many possibilities before making a decision. In other words, you basically just think, if I mail this, then I might get a publishing contract. What could be more exciting?

But me, I was sitting in bed thinking, is this really how I want to be perceived? Is my novel saying what I want it to say? Am I being true to my characters? Would I be embarrassed if so and so read this? If so, why?

I have a lovely friend, a published author, who is nudging me along with my writing. She even came over this week and helped me sort out my first ten pages. I was completely stuck. I have spent a very long time trying to find out where my novel starts, how much is back story. After sending her several different chapters, because my book is mostly complete, she finally said, “That’s it! That’s where your book starts!” I was so relieved, until I tried to figure out how to move ahead from there and suddenly it looked like none of the rest of the book fit. Thankfully she was able to help me out with that too.

It’s an understatement to say I’ve learned a lot in this process. But one thing I do know. I keep getting excited about sharing what I have learned with my readers, right here, on this blog. It is what I have finally discovered to be one of the things I love the most. As I said before, I love sharing significant information. So, I am keeping this thought in the back of my mind and trying to figure out the best way to do this.

Back to last night. With those questions rolling around in my mind I took another look at my writing, and specifically my last page, because I felt uncomfortable with it. My friend, Gail Sattler (check out her novels-she writes humor), had helped with my edits on these ten pages and really improved my writing. She has a lot of experience and knows how to put the feeling on the page, unlike me. But, as I looked at the last page I saw it wasn’t me. I had to take out the things I loved that she had suggested and turn it into my writing. When I finally did that, then I was able to press ‘Send.’ Incidentally, she is also the kind of friend who says, “I’ll mail yours with mine.” I wonder why?

Writers can relate to the fear of putting ourselves out there. There are so many ways to fail. My plot might be weak, my middle story might lose the reader’s interest, my writing style might be boring, or I realize I can never write like so and so.

Nobody in my family is a writer. I am breaking new territory. I admit I am afraid of what people will think of me, of my writing. I want to be seen as a thoughtful intellectual, but maybe I am just a hopeless romantic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and that is confirmed by book sales. I am just trying to find the courage to put myself out there, whatever it is.

I read something helpful today in Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight V. Swain.

Don’t try to be all things to all men. Universality of appeal is a myth….Quit wasting your time pretending that it doesn’t exist, or that there’s some esoteric way around it….You can’t change yourself at will to suit a given public. You must accept yourself the way you are. Then, seek out an audience that sees the world the same way you do. Can you be sure that such an audience exists? You can. Individual you are indeed; and different. But not that different, for you’re human also (p.117-118).

“You must accept yourself the way you are.” Haven’t we all heard that a million times before.

I didn’t want to hurt Gail’s feelings by taking out those really good bits, or re-wording them. But the writing process is about helping the writer become the best they can be and that means the best THEY can be. Gail gets this. She’s awesome.

I truly hope that I will be able to write here with some consistency over the next months. But, one of the best things that I have learned this past year is that this is a dialogue. It may look like the conversation has ended when bloggers stop posting for awhile. Maybe for some it is. But others just need to re-group, decide what they want, figure out the best way to move forward, and trust the timing. The break may be exactly what was needed.

 

Why do you write?

Recently I had someone ask me why people blog. I explored a few blogs to see what other writers are saying. If I were to sum it all up I would say we write for two reasons: ourselves and others–we want to give something to others and we want them to give something back to us.

We want to share ourselves and have others do the same. You tell me your story. I’ll tell you mine. We are looking for subjects that resonate with us and we are looking for people who get it, or get us.

I enjoy creating and discovering meaningful dialogue. I feel rewarded and even excited when I read a blog where someone expresses a thought succinctly or uses language in a way I would never have thought to express myself.

It happens in comments too. I don’t think we give comments enough credit, not only from the reader’s perspective, but also as writers who comment. A good comment can be as skillfully crafted and insightful as the blog itself. Comments are reflective responses that allow us to see how readers received what the author of the blog wrote. They are also an opportunity for creative dialogue.

I guess I am just plain fascinated by how people think and communicate. Some are all compassion and understanding; others are aloof and intellectual; still others are agitated and insulting. Why? What is it in their experience that makes them react this way?

I was facilitating a discussion group this weekend and had an amazing opportunity to watch in person how people interact with each other. One of the participants started out by clarifying that she is a “thinker” and not “emotional.” She didn’t like to be “told”…. Another participant immediately revealed something very personal, hurt from the past, and shared how he was willing to risk being vulnerable. I appreciated both of their openness. But I noticed that the other people in the group were more responsive to a third person, a song writer and performing artist. I think years of experience had taught her how to anticipate the kind of response her words would generate.

In blogging we are looking for a response. How do we get people to talk about what matters to them? Of course, we want to talk about what matters to us, but if we are not tuned in to others we can actually impede communication, as happened with the two examples I gave.

Some bloggers are naturals. They have discovered not only what others want to talk about, but how to get them talking. We love to read their blogs. They are the writers that tend to get picked up by publishers.

I love this writing journey. I love the blend of experience and thought and communication that makes each blogger unique. I think this joy of discovery is the reason I blog. Why do you blog?

OCW Conference

I promised to report on my experience at the OCW Conference. Initially the goal was to find an editor who would want my novel. As the date approached I saw that I would not complete editing my novel in time.

I did a lot of the hard work, as I had intended. But something was missing. At the conference I found out what it was.

I did not show my novel to anyone nor did I pitch it. But I consulted with my coach and a mentor. What I learned was very helpful.

I learned, first of all, that I am writing “women’s fiction,” not a “romance,” as I had thought. In women’s fiction it is the story and issues of the heroine that drive the book, not the romance.

For me coming to this understanding was huge. It meant I now understood why I could not accept some of the recommendations of my critique partner. It is alright for me to do the things I want to do, and feel I need to do.

I also dug deeper, with the help of my coach, and refined the underlying message of my book. I now have greater clarity about how to proceed with my writing.

Several people encouraged me to stay with my novel. One author remembered my characters from the time I shared my story with her last year and she is particularly waiting for me to finish the book.

At the conference I found something I needed and for which I did not even know I was looking. Now I can’t wait to see what my book will look like by the time the next OCW Conference rolls around.