10 May Write on yo
Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk about writing for a solid hour on a tele-seminar hosted by the fabulous Kym Coco. She inquired about my journey of becoming a writer; the benefits of a writing practice; how writing has changed my life; common beliefs that keep people from writing; and how writing could be an access to realizing our potential. I could have talked for hours on this subject and Kym masterfully pulled the points from my long-winded and passion-filled answers.
The day before I began writing my first book, Waiting for Jack, I was not a writer. And, it took me years to actually call myself a writer. I was becoming an author but being a “writer” seemed to be some elite category where I had to earn membership. And maybe that’s true. At some point in my journey, I began to call myself a writer. Now, in my blogging, I am getting close to the total word count of my first book. It took me 9 months to write that and I have only been doing this for 33 days… I have never been a proponent of speed-writing but I am seeing what is possible when the fire burns hot.
Over the years – and in particular last year – I have written a lot on the topic of writing. I often explore the inner struggles of putting words on paper and allowing ourselves to create (big surprise, right?). I don’t claim to be a great writer but I do claim to be a decent one. There is a lot more room in non-fiction for us newbies whereas fiction writing necessitates a talent in another category altogether. I salute fiction writers and am not sure I even want to have to be that good!
Writing through this journey has already provided many things. Reading your comments feeds me; I process what needs to be processed; I am chronicling an important event in my life; I am strengthening the muscle. It is a practice. And, it’s a practice I don’t want to let go of. I don’t often wonder what I will write; I just sit down and put my fingers on the keyboard. I let it suck at first – and often it sucks badly. I attempt not to edit myself as I go. Sometimes it seems to flow with ease, other times (like today) I stare off in space and check my Facebook newsfeed with some frequency. Sometimes I watch the word count at the bottom of the page knowing that 1000 words is my magic number where I can breathe a sigh of relief.
Then, after I get to what feels like the end, I go back and re-read what I wrote few times over. Correcting obvious typos, then attempting not to duplicate too many descriptive words. I attempt to remove excessive “that’s” – ‘cause that’s what Kristina Hall told me to do. I attempt to keep sentence structure interesting – yet mostly I attempt to not be anal in my editing. There is more room in blogging to be free with grammar and punctuation than in a manuscript headed for publication. I like making some of my own rules as I go. Beginning sentences with “And”; using fragments; utilizing punctuation in a way that fits my mood; definitely splitting infinitives (sorry mom!) and of course, dangling prepositions at will. So far, no grammar police have stopped me!
My main words of wisdom from yesterday are – if you are deeply called to be a writer, you must write. Most writers (if not all) have horrific committees in their heads telling them they are terrible. There is so much room for angst in this profession. Simply Google quotes on writing to recognize you are not alone.
According to many great writers, no one sits down and writes brilliantly the first time. If you are a writer who does, power to you. For the rest of us, lets take comfort in the wise words of Anne Lamott – author of 12 books including many bestsellers as well as being a former writing instructor. During an interview she was asked about her writing process, she replied,
“There is no fantasy out there. I don’t sit down and say, it’s so great to be me. I am in the same boat as the rest of you. I sit down at the same time every day. I do it badly, and then I do it again. I have terrible self-esteem and lot of grandiosity – I carve out a small thing I am going to handle and then I do it badly… A horrible, unreadable first draft is the way home.”
Then there are editors… Rest assured, there is someone out there who can help even the worst prose. If you are writing and writing and keep feeling like you are drowning, call in the big guns. There is no exact “right time” to hire an editor. Some choose to work with someone in the beginning, some wait until they have a bunch written and some wait until the final moments to have a solid once over. The only wrong time is not at all. Every writer needs an editor – we simply can’t see our words after a certain point.
It’s essential to give your writing the attention it deserves and hire someone to assist you somewhere along the way. I do caution new authors about bringing someone in “too early” as I hate to see an author lose their blossoming voice. Let yourself develop your own style, then get feedback about what works about the style and what is just plain awful. A good editor is brilliant with words, able to hold the vision of the book, as well as the pain of our often raw self-expression. Really, they are word therapists for the book as well as the budding or the veteran author.
Given my “full” life at the moment, I just sent 30 plus word files to my newest editor, Mary Ann Tate, who will help me put together my second book – which is on writing and includes all the assignments and exercises I give my author clients. I simply cannot do it on my own right now. It took me 2 weeks to even send her the files… Right now, I don’t want to look at them or figure out what is missing. It causes a pit in my stomach and my mind to go gray. She will organize my documents into something that flows then tell me what is missing so I can write on that point. It’s time for that book to be complete!
Now, I am about to hire another editor to work with me on my re-write process. I realize that particularly at this period of my life, I need help. This person, the brilliant and quirky Ellen Moore, loves my writing and my message. She will encourage my raw expression; determine what should be developed and ax what needs to go. I want to cut all the fat, eliminate any wussy components and bring in this new sense of urgency I am living at the moment. Urgency for what you might ask? Some things are clear. There is a new urgency around the fragility of life; all we hold dear; and how life can turn on a dime. There is certainly a new desire to reevaluate the path I was taking and eliminate the irrelevant.
What do I want? For now, I want the freedom to be and do; a life full of adventure and discovery; big messy amazing love; fuzzy blankets and feather pillows; good socks; my Mac computer; fast internet; a strong cell signal; quiet; play time with my dogs; a good stereo and long walks in the woods.
On my abundance circle call on Monday, we explored this question:
We’ve all experienced situations in our lives or in the world around us that have served as a reminder to wake up in some way. When this happens how do you relate to that wake up call over time, as life moves on? Do you continue to stay awake or do you hit the snooze alarm and go back to sleep? What is one area of your life where you’ve hit the snooze alarm on your wake up call, and what will it take for you to go for it?
Yes, my recent turn of events inspired the mood of this question. I was in the middle of testifying in front of the Senate during our call but I submitted my answer which I had previously explored in this blog. This is clearly my exploration these days. And, I would love to hear from you. What do you think? What will it take to wake up? (And by “wake up” I do not mean snap out of it as I was told recently to do). I mean, where are you asleep? What matters to you? What do you want to create? What do you want to accept? How do you want to live? What are you waiting for?
If we don’t allow events to shape us then what is the point? The shape I am taking has grit, some of the messy soot, delicate green buds, passion for writing, love of you all, angst and fierce passion.
And, one day, I will be restored to wonder.