As I pull together my thoughts for the larger, more emotionally intense post regarding the shitstorm that ended my marriage, I thought I should write something else. Because I like to write. Sounds simple when I put it like that, but I’m always frightened that what I have to say won’t be good enough, deep enough, or poignant enough. But something in me clicked yesterday. So let me tell you a little story.
I’ve been reading a lot lately. Mostly blogs, as I’ve finished my Christie Golden novels (yes, yes, I know), and I’ve been bookmarking writers whose styles speak to me. There are so many talented writers out there that I sometimes even feel a bit downtrodden after reading their words, because I find myself thinking if they’re struggling to gain an audience and make money from their writing, what chance do I have? Sometimes I will read something an author has put together and wonder how I would try to say the same thing, but in my own words. Invariably, I feel as if I do not measure up. It is disheartening, to say the least. And other times I read something and am so blown away by the author’s storytelling skills that I want to crumple up all my papers (figuratively, I guess, since everything I do is digital!) and start anew.
Then yesterday I read Victoriamixon.com and some pieces of the puzzle fell into place for me. Victoria Mixon is an entirely approachable, down-to-earth, talented editor who has struggled with learning about the publishing industry and the difficulties that come with being an independent editor. She writes useful anecdotes ranging from the pros and cons of writer’s conferences, to dealing with the inner demons that seem to plague all artists, to exercises you can do to overcome self-doubt and writer’s block. Many of the people who write to her advice column seem to be very young authors, and she treats them with the same respect as an established, published author. It really is a positive environment for learning, asking questions, and nurturing your love of the craft of writing. Something she said to one of these young writers really stuck out to me. I’ll quote it here (it’s long!):
“Keep writing whatever you feel like writing. Let it be terrible and don’t worry about judging it. Just write it if it feels like being written.
Avoid trying to ’say something.’ Focus on recording tangible details. Flannery O’Connor described writing as recording whatever stimulus you receive through your five senses. Go ahead and record that—in long, excruciating detail. Everything. Unedited. The more stuff you write that you know you’ll never use in a publishable piece, the greater your freedom will grow. You can write anything! Garbage! Tripe! Vomitous spew! You betcha! And all great writing grows out of that freedom.
You’ll never run out of material to describe in your immediate daily experience. You’ll never run out of dialog to record that you and your friends and family say all day long every day. Keep a detailed journal. It counts!
Read books you love. Don’t try to mimic them. Just read them, enjoy them, use as they are meant to be used—for the sheer pleasure of reading. When you don’t feel like writing, don’t. Go out in the world and have adventures. You’ll write about those whenever you’re in the mood.
You’re very young still—you’ll go through a lot of ups & downs as you work your way through life with this craft at your side. So don’t worry about it, just claim it in your own unique, individual, quirky-&-boring, tacky-&-refreshing, cliche-ridden-&-special way. Sometimes more quirky—sometimes more boring. It’s okay! Let it be that part of your life where you get to screw up as badly as you darn well please, and nobody can stop you.
Your skills will improve. By osmosis, if necessary. And then when you’re an old, crusty, opinionated professional like me. . .they will still be there for you.”
Does it sound a little cliche to tell someone to do something simply because they love it? Yes, of course it does. To keep trying, even when faced with difficulties or, god forbid, failures? Yes. But is she correct?
I think so.
Because when I wrote about overcoming fear and anxiety, about putting myself out there for the world to see and praise and criticize and potentially just ignore, this was a necessary realization to come to. You keep putting yourself out there and trying again because you love what you do, be it writing, painting, drag racing, or playing football. It all sounds so simple, but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve made myself do. I’m terrified of people and interacting with them. I’m terrified of opinions, or sneering, or judgement. Even compliments are hard for me to take! But I’ve come so far in opening myself up to be creative and active again. And thanks to positive spaces like Victoria’s blog, I stay focused and on track, and I become more positive every week.
Here are some of the other sites I’ve been reading, so I offer my thanks for your inspiration as well:
Apple Cider Mage — A blog about World of Warcraft and feminism, it’s well written and always insightful. Powerful critiquing and attention to details.
Joanne Wadsworth — Author of a Young Adult paranormal romance series, she offers sound advice and is always friendly and approachable.
Little Lonely Traveler — A travel writer, feminist, and storyteller. I like her stories because not only are they well written and entertaining, but I went to school with her — so the descriptions of places and feelings surrounding the towns in her tales are very recognizable to me.