Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Exposing Your Guts and Trusting You Won't Get Kicked There

I recently reconnected with a woman (Allison) I used to know back when we were both nonprofit executive directors. I had no idea she’d written one book and had great ideas for two others. I asked if she wanted to be part of a writers’ group and she hesitated at first.

Seeking support can be scary because we’re putting ourselves out there, in the big wide world where criticisms can feel harsh even when given with the utmost care and respect. She’s not alone in her hesitancy. One of the women in my writers’ critique group is going through a crisis of confidence – and almost wanted to give up writing. And she’s written three books!

Writers (and other creatives) can lead isolated existences. We can fall into troughs of self-doubt and struggle to reach those creative heights that used to bring us such joy.

Allison finally gave in and is ready for a writers’ group and to “expose her guts.” She wrote: The joy of writing is one thing; the act of being an author is another.

How right she is! Being an author is very different than writing. It entails seeking constructive criticism, refining our craft, growing as writers, understanding the publishing industry, slogging through writing even when we feel like never writing again.

The great thing is we don’t have to do it alone. All it takes is trusting that the women in your circle have the same fears and dreams you have -- and that they won't kick you in your exposed gut.

Have you found the support of others important in your life?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Can Dreaming Be Harmful to Your Mental Health?

A recent and controversial blog post by literary agent Nathan Bransford cautions writers about letting their big dreams turn into expectations that are impossible to reach. He wrote: After dreams are eroded by reality, there’s a hollow place where those dreams used to reside. It doesn't feel worth it anymore, even if you've achieved modest success that you should be extremely proud of, and would have made you happy if your expectations were in check.

While most comments supported his theory, many people disagreed. One woman posted:
Those dreams that get you through should be treated as little prayers, hopes for the future. Write with the intent that you will be famous or on Oprah’s couch. That intent acts as a goal you aspire to reach. I'm a big believer in "shoot for the stars, if you hit the moon it's still way farther than the couch in a suburb surrounded by Stepford wives."

I like to dream big. Do I dream of writing a book that Oprah puts on her favorites’ list? No. But I do write out my dreams and post them on my “intentions” bulletin board. I ask the Universe to support my dreams and aspirations. And I believe we are all worthy of success.

I do understand that Bransford is describing a point where dreams morph into unrealistic expectation. And yes, that can be harmful. But I say let’s err on the side of dreaming. It’s a lot more healthy than setting your sights lower than necessary.

I'll leave you with three quotes on expectation to ponder. What are your thoughts about dreaming big or setting high expectations for yourself?

  • Expectation is the root of all heartache. -- Shakespeare
  • High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation. --Charles Kettering
  • We must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation. --Ivan Illich

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why Not YA?

The YA (young adult) book market is thriving. In fact, some literary agents are only accepting YA manuscripts. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer are two publishing phenomena that drive the rush to find YA authors and their potential blockbusters.

Teens and young adults are savvy buyers and want literature written for them about the issues important to them. This means that authors must know how to talk (write) and behave like teenagers. It also entails skillfully addressing once-taboo subjects like sex, drugs and homosexuality because those are part of the teenage experience.

When I was a teenager (a hundred years ago), I read what was assigned for English class (books like Lord of the Flies and 1984) but not much else.

  • What books did you read as a teenager and were they written specifically for a younger market?
  • As an adult, do you read young adult novels? Why?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Do You Get Mileage Points for Flying by the Seat of Your Pants?

August seemed to go out like a deflated balloon. I haven’t had a lot of energy the past week for writing, or much else for that matter. I’m glad the summer is over – too much travel away from my beloved Durango. I’m hoping the fall brings with it some renewed energy and a chance to nest during my favorite season of the year in Colorado.

Regarding the writing life, the second book is coming along although not as quickly as I had hoped. To keep me on track during the writing of the first book, I used a storyboard (see photo) to mark progress and to outline. I started a similar storyboard for the second novel and am doing much more outlining of plot on this book.

My question to you is whether you consider yourself a planner (outliner, list-maker) or more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type person. Or are you a little of both depending on whether it’s your personal or work life? I definitely fall into the category of planner/list-maker but hope to be more of the 'fly-by' type with some practice.

Off to make my list of favorite fall activities. Notice I didn’t write ‘chores.’