Wednesday, July 5, 2017

IWSG: Trusting Myself as a Writer



Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

The awesome co-hosts for the July 5 posting of the IWSG will be Tamara Narayan, Pat Hatt, Patricia Lynne, Juneta Key, and Doreen McGettigan!
 
July 5 Question: What is one valuable lesson you've learned since you started writing?



Just one? Actually, there probably IS one valuable lesson I could share that I have been calling different things over the years, and it has something to do with trusting myself as a writer.


When I first started out, I could go back to high school when I was given the sole job of writing a 'biting' letter to the Tacoma News Tribune about a fight that had broken out between a group of rowdies from our school and another high school. As I recall, we felt justified in our guys throwing the first punch and it was my job as our school's Corresponding Secretary to convince the public in a letter to the editor. Well, my "too nice" attempt didn't pass the scrutiny of our student council. Another student (a guy) stepped up and wrote the letter. NOW, it's very likely I was NOT qualified to write that letter, but I let it define and redirect my secret desire to be a writer.

Fast forward to graduation and marriage at nineteen. I discovered my husband was a poet of a writer (and still is). I learned this reading his letters when he was in the military. Remember the days of handwritten letters? They are so much more romantic than email, but ....that's another story and discussion. When I was finally able to join him at a U.S. base, I took it upon myself to convince him he should be a writer. I talked him into signing up for the Famous Writers Course (title, as I recall). Does anyone remember this course? It was later sited as being a fraud and made front cover news on a popular news magazine. We sought a base lawyer to get out of the contract. Hubby then told me something that has always stuck with me and I have never forgotten.
Writing is "your thing" not mine.

Fast forward to two children later and I am a stay-at-home mom for three years. I took my first Creative Writing course at a local college and loved it. We set up a spare room in the basement with a typewriter and a lovely view out the window. However, nothing came of my writing attempts and we needed the income if we were to ever to buy a home. If writing was "my thing," it had to make us money to work. Translation: my writing wasn't good enough.

I went back to work with the idea I could work and write at the same time. I must say I have heard of writers who make this work, but I could never figure out how to juggle a job with cooking, cleaning, raising children, and family time, let alone job demands. I had a gem of a husband, but he was old school when it came to cooking and cleaning. (He has since entered the modern world :-) Writing fell to the wayside, but I managed to write some, slowing inching forward.

I read a ton of writing books, joined a writers' group (more than one over time), and played with words. I took their constructive criticism seriously and in the beginning listened to everything they said. Every piece I wrote changed a lot, but I realize it was part of the learning process. I had not yet learned to trust my gut in my writing. 

Word got out I was trying to write at work. My boss approached me with the idea his friend had a story I might want to tell. It was a worthy idea, and may have been wonderful, but I passed. I later explored this idea in a college assignment, interviewing the elderly at a local nursing home. I must admit I enjoy telling the stories of others (you have seen this on my blog), and editing too (as a new job became), but if writing  was "my thing," it was time to get my fiction published.


This April, something  miraculous happened. My first work of fiction, The Shells of Mersing, was accepted by Evernight Teen. This novel was written three times, first time in 1998, following
my stay in Malaysia. Writers in a critique group spent time critiquing The Shells of Mersing, some more than once, and I am forever in their debt.

I've read in Books on Writing that this is probably the novel that should have been buried under the bed, lessons learned, but I couldn't give up on it. I loved the story and characters too much, and the settings and locations were deeply embedded in my heart. I had to get it right. In January, I wrote in my journal 'this was the year'. I either would find a publisher or self-publish myself.

Meanwhile, I did a final round of edits and made two dramatic changes to the book. I had been toying with these changes for a long time, but here I was in a new community with no writers group in the area, and to ask my good friend to read for a third time just wasn't an option. I needed fresh insight.    

I asked my husband (remember the poetic letter writer?). He had read the Harry Potter series two times (!).....so I figured at the very least, he knew what youth, adults (and boys) liked to read. I saw this series bring nonreaders to the table in droves, my grandson included. Turns out, my husband is a fantastic reader and has an excellent ear for scene and chapter endings....and redundancy.

I also followed my gut this time, by adding a prologue and a new opening scene. It had started too abruptly before. I wrote the book I wanted to read, and very possibly, learned to trust myself as a writer for the first time.  

I would like to add a bit more. When we write, our motivation needs to come from within. If we seek our personal best in our writing, we are the only competition we will ever need. Not everyone will like what we write or understand our message, and that's okay too. I know those reviews are important but they aren't the end all either. I've read plenty of books that felt so-so to me, but others adored....and vice versa. I am writing for a certain audience, and they are the ones I hope to reach. It all comes back to trusting myself as a writer.


34 comments:

  1. Your post made much sense to read. Having trust in one's self is a must in whatever writing one does. Happy July.

    Yvonne.

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    1. Thank you. We journey along and learn so much in the process! Looking back is always easier.

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  2. In the end, we all have to write what we want to read and hope that others will want to read it too. But that is the only writing worth doing. You can't write a romance novel or a children's book if you don't love that kind of fiction and want to read it.

    I'd like to add that where I live, with its small population, there are only a few writers who can make a living from it, and they are all married or partnered so that someone else can pay the bills while they work on their masterpiece and hope it will sell. The rest of us have to work a day job! :-)
    Just Finished Reading Ballad For A Mad Girl

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    1. Thanks, Sue. I continue to admire all who juggle writing with their jobs and everything else in life. I managed to publish nonfiction during that time and kept chipping away at my fiction. I'm thankful for that intense, important time of learning. Then a job layoff forced me into early retirement, but financially, we were in a better spot and could handle it. It didn't make writing any easier. The craft is still difficult for me, and life continues to interrupt in good and bad ways. Balance is the key word here.

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  3. Loved hearing the story. You trusted yourself, never gave up and have a published novel, which I am reading now. It is truly "publisher author" quality.

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    1. Thanks, Cathy, my dear friend and fellow writer of many years :) You have always encouraged me. This means a lot. I can't wait to see your sweet romances in print. Soon, I just know it!

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  4. Meant to say "published author" --oops.

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  5. What a wonderful journey story. Congratulations.

    ' Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

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  6. Good for you! Your path with your first published book sounds like mine, which was originally written back in the 70's. (You know - before dirt.) You believed in it and in you and it finally happened. Congratulations.

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    1. Aw...someone else who hung onto an idea and saw it happen. Thanks, Alex!

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  7. Trust can take time for us to develop, but it sure is essential to trust ourselves as writers. We know what's best for yourselves, our books, and our characters.

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    1. There really is no other way, and everyone's journey is different too.

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  8. Hi Sharon - it's fascinating to read everyone's journey to where they are now - and yours too ... so glad you found your voice - that to me is the main thing ... enjoy the writing ... cheers Hilary

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    1. And it really is an ongoing adventure. We have to continually accept the person we are and all we were meant to do. I really do believe life is a calling. Thanks Hilary!

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  9. Hi Sharon,

    You've been on quite the writing adventure with all its challenging, interesting twists and turns.

    Indeed, the driven motivation from within. The catalyst that inspires. Trusting yourself, believing in yourself, as a writer, as someone who writes driven by the magic of the written word.

    Well done and thank you, Sharon.

    Gary

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    1. Hi Gary. Thanks! It really is the magic of the written word isn't it? Those surprising twists and turns make writing rewarding and just plain fun at times.

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  10. Learning to trust yourself is so important, for sure. There have been times in the past where I didn't, going against my gut instinct for a project, and those are moments I still regret. Glad you ultimately didn't give up and were able to publish a book you've held so close to your heart for so long!

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    1. For me there really was a learning curve, and still is, for that matter. I've saved those early starts and one story in particular I may try to salvage, but probably best to leave the rest alone. Trusting your instinct is also knowing when to cut your losses.

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  11. Sure found the path as you kept at it. Way to be. Have to trust ourselves for sure and we'll get there.

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  12. How cool. Huge congrats and way to never give up. Of course, I'm sure there were times along the road you felt like giving up, but it's what we end up doing that counts.

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    1. Oh, that's for sure. So many things can sabotage the journey too, lack of self-discipline for instance!

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  13. I'm glad you didn't give up on it. My first novel I love top pieces and won't ever give up on it, despite all the books and people who say it should be shelved or put away. Not happening. ;)

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    1. Thank you, and good for you staying true to your first novel. I find it encouraging that others have experienced the same.

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  14. This is such a great post. Thanks for sharing!

    www.ficklemillennial.com

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    1. Thanks, Gina. I hope you found some encouragement here. Happy writing!

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  15. Excellent post and details your answer to the question posed and shows the ups and downs you dealt with. I'm glad you have your poetic husband with you and that you never gave up and know that your work does have value and ,erit

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    1. Thanks, Birgit. My husband and I met at 16, so we've had plenty of experience supporting each other's endeavors. Not all, but the big heart-felt, gotta-do ones.

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  16. Trusting yourself is a key lesson to learn and put into action. Oftentimes, you reach a point where you have to trust your gut and make moves accordingly.

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    1. I like that you added "put into action." Acting on what we've learned is the final step. Thanks, Angela!

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  17. What a wonderful post!
    I think that trusting yourself as a writer comes with experience and confidence in your abilities...it's a growth process which doesn't happen overnight.

    (P.S. I love handwritten letters!!)

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    1. So very true! We set off on a journey and have no idea what we will find or learn. Staying the course takes courage, which in itself builds confidence. I discovered this to be true when I first learned to sail a small sailboat, which I sometimes use as a metaphor for writing. Thanks, Michelle!

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  18. Having trust in one's self is a must in whatever writing one does. Happy July.

    gclub

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