Writing is a solitary pursuit. I remember telling my professor-uncle I wanted to be a writer. His response was that I should prepare for a painful, lonely existence. I was in college and had taken a few writing classes. Still high on workshop praise and being ever the pragmatist, I decided writing was the “career” for me. At that time I hadn’t heard the one— What’s the difference between a writer and a large pepperoni pizza? The pizza can feed a family of four. To be fair, my counselor tried to steer me into editing. I wasn’t having it. My uncle’s warning went right through me.
I was all about my books, all about becoming the next Stephen King. I still have the dance program with my bio that states exactly that. I’m gunning for you, Mr. King. And now, in my writer’s group, they often tell me (because they know I eat it up and they’re sweet and want to pet me) …they can feel the King in my prose. Or it’s just that I gross them out. King is known for going for the gross-out as his last-ditch effort.
While in a story, I often feel pulled between two worlds, the real one and the one I’ve created. One of the most difficult moments of the day is transitioning between those worlds. Saving my file and/or closing my laptop is almost painful. I have to shake the stars from my head, and when Abbott was alive, I used his daily walk to get my head in the real world. Nothing like below-freezing temps or having an arm ripped violently to the side as you pass a squirrel to confirm what’s real.
Writers who want to have written but don’t want to write have this problem: they don’t know how to cross the threshold into a world of their creation. They can’t get into it. If you have trouble feeling inspired, try this: set a timer for ten minutes. Write whatever comes. Better yet, act as if you’re telling a story to someone, maybe something from your childhood or something that makes you mad. Better, better yet. Actually get a pen pal. Remember those? Today it would be an email pal. Offer to swap stories. That way you’ll have an audience. Vomit your raw thoughts on the page for ten minutes, no editing, and hit send. You’ll find your voice that way. And probably a deeper friendship. I tell my students the best fiction stories begin with truth. You start with what actually happened and make it go where you want. You get to re-write your memories. What’s not to dig about that?
My writer’s group consists of seven women. Two are published ex-professors, two are self-pubbing Jedi masters, one is a blogger-theologian pursuing a degree in counseling, one is an ex-psychologist Taekwondo black-belt. And there’s me. My claim to fame is I always wear black. We call ourselves The Little Red Writing Hoods. We keep each other accountable (as in, meeting’s tomorrow…where is your submission???) and take some of the isolation out of writing. We tell each other what’s working and gently, ever-so-gently, what’s not. We never say words like boring.
I am grateful for everyone who invests in my work, which is to say, in my dream. I know how it sounds when a person says she wants to write for a living. Might as well say I want to join a rock band. Be the next Lady Gaga. It sounds as responsible as I’d like to win the lottery for a living. I know. I know. So, to those who believe in me by giving your time, thank you. Although the creation of the story is done in a vacuum, its final execution has to happen in community. With Bookworm just out of beta-reading stage, the importance of my support system is hitting home. My heart is full. That’s good, because one needs a full heart to withstand the querying process. Flesh wound, Mr. Agent-who-rejected me, merely a flesh wound.