Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Write Better. Change Lives.

Being a writer is hard for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that the only measure of success is whether you're published or not. But there's so much more to being a good writer than getting published. Though I'm a definite fan of working toward publication, it can't be the only goal.

If I've learned one thing as a mom, it's that self esteem has to come from within and not from some outside source. People don't typically tell you that you're doing a good job as a mom. Your kids certainly don't. And strangers only comment when you're doing a bad job. Like when your kids are screaming and hitting each other while you tear through the grocery store at record-breaking speed, because if you don't get everything on your list then you'll just have to repeat the whole nightmare again tomorrow.

So how do you keep from throwing in the towel, convinced you are a horrible parent? You watch your kids while they're sleeping. You pay attention when they're playing nice with others. You take note when they do something kind. Most of us won't get Mother-of-the-Year award (which, apparently, is a real thing--my cousin won it last year). But that doesn't mean we suck as moms.

Similarly, we can measure our growth as writers by paying attention to the little things along the way. We can take delight in a well-turned phrase. Gain confidence when a passage we've wrestled with finally comes together in an amazing way. When we open our WIP for some edits and find the tone and feel similar to that of the bestseller we were just reading. These are the moments that strengthen us. That tell us we are doing a good job, even if no one is saying it.

Just because we are still working toward publication, doesn't mean we are crap storytellers. And our goal should not be to get better just so we can get published. Our goal should be to get better so we can write stories that change people. Stories that will make them better for having read them. Stories that will offer a much needed break from the stress of real life.

To be a storyteller like this takes dedication and talent. Writing emotional, moving characters takes practice. Writing a story that changes someone is not something that can be done overnight. But if I am able to write stories like that, then I will consider myself a success regardless of where my publishing journey takes me.

My goal of being published is what drives me to become better. To learn from others who've walked the path before me. To beat my story to a bloody pulp, then pick it up and nurse it back to health until it's even better than before. But being published should never be the only measure of my success or personal worth. As with being a mom, there is so much more to consider. The intangible. The unmeasurable moments. Those are what make us great.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Can't Stay Away for Long

My writing time-out crumbled last night when a scene I'd been puzzling over suddenly began re-writing itself in my head. I couldn't bear to type it out on my phone (as I'd been doing with other lightening bolts that struck during my step back), so I flew to my laptop and opened my story for the first time in three weeks.

After working on my novel, a fairy-tale retelling of The Princess and the Pea, for six months straight, a step back was just what I needed. My break coincided perfectly with the holidays (impeccable, though accidental, planning on my part). As I took a breather to enjoy being with my family, I was surprised to find that my story stayed right where I'd left it.

Crazy, right?

Too often I feel that if I don't spend every spare second on my WIP, it will somehow leave me. Like it must be paid constant attention in order to make it real. But taking a little break from my lovely WIP has taught me that it's not going anywhere. And though I still feel compelled to finish it, I now know it's okay to come up for air. And at this point in my story (done, but not query-ready) the air was absolutely necessary.

I've gotten some great feedback from beta readers. My mind is sharp and I'm seeing things with new clarity. Plot issues I struggled with a month ago are now being worked out in my mind. Plus, reading several books during my break has given me new confidence. My book is not yet as amazing as they are, but I feel like it's within reach. I'm close.

And that's an exciting thing.