Lately I’ve been thinking of the bar I’ve set for myself as an author. Now this might just be a response to a rather stressful month but I’m thinking maybe my bar is too high. I’ve said to a few people that I don’t want to be forgiven for being a debut (if I ever even debut) but I want my first book to smack readers right in the face with its awesome. If I don’t end up in the same sentence as Kirsty Eagar, Melina Marchetta then I’ve failed. God, how arrogant am I?
I’ve been thinking about leaving myself room to grow and about being okay with that. Because the truth is where I am now is really only the beginning. I’m at the start. And it makes sense that my writing would grow and change and eventually end up being what I so desperately want it to be. The book I’m writing now is actually the very first book I’ve written. And maybe it’s the joy of a new story starting to birth in me (the thought that I have more) that’s making me okay with it not being astounding with its brilliance.
I read somewhere that in Graffiti Moon Cath Crowley was only just starting to tap into how she wants to write. It took Melina Marchetta ten years to write again after Looking For Alibrandi. Many brilliant authors navigate years of rejection before finally breaking through.
I’m not saying any of this to say that I’m going to slack off. Not try as hard and be happy with mediocre. Because I’m not. But I’m going to be okay if I don’t win awards, get five stars or if this book doesn’t even end up in print. I’m going to be okay because I’m going to grow and get better.
and p.s my next story will totally smack you in the face.
Originally posted December 24 2012
I’ve been thinking lately about vulnerability.
It’s scary isn’t it? Being vulnerable. There needs to be a taking down of walls and an offer for people to glimpse inside. We spend so much time putting up those walls and reinforcing them in an effort to keep the rest of the world (bar a few) out. We don’t want to be seen, judged, exposed. Not by people who don’t know us; not by anybody really. We hide and we’re good at it.
The thing is though when it comes to writing vulnerability is somewhat essential. And, I think, a choice. We can pour ourselves into our work but still hide. Hide behind our characters and their choices, distance ourselves in narration, keep that wall up and not go there. But the readers know. I know. I know when a book is still protecting itself, not being real with me not letting me know who it really is. And as a reader I want to be in. In the character, in the story, in the world. It’s a subtle thing but it’s there. It’s the difference between this book was okay and this book invaded me.
In my own work I can feel my fear. Fear to let my character think or say that. Fear to really really say what’s going on. I want to protect my characters, protect my world. I don’t want them opened up and raw. But they need to be. I need to open them up so people can see them. Because when a character is really really open, vulnerable, it’s (confronting), it’s (uncomfortable), it (invites response). It gives the reader something to see, and sometimes they see themselves. And that is a very freeing thing.
Originally posted November 12 2012
So lately I’ve been falling in love.
Maybe it’s the warmer weather and the promise of Spring just around the corner triggering some hormone in my brain that makes me feel gooey. But I don’t mind. I’m falling in love with my story.
It catches me off guard. I could be thinking of something totally unrelated or listening to someone really closely then all of a sudden my mind is taken over by my characters and I’m overcome with a swooning sensation.
I count the hours until I can be with my story again. I get excited. I have a crush. A total crush on my book.
When I’m actually submerged in a sea of notes and rewrites the love tends to wane a bit. But then I hit it. Oh the zone. Beautiful, magical zone. When everything stretches out before me and my hands can’t type fast enough. Addictive.
I hope you’re falling in love too.
Originally posted August 29 2012
It’s no secret that great art can be made through pain. There’s a beauty in the sadness in me connecting with the sadness in you. It’s deep, it’s raw, it’s alive. But what happens when we get better? When that broken part is healed? Can we still create to the same effectiveness that we once did?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. At church on Friday night I was challenged with this thought: I don’t want to be struggling with the same stuff this time next year. I need to change. My perceptions need to shift. But then I thought about letting go of what I am struggling with and I felt afraid.
You can get used to depression, anxiety, sadness. It’s known; it’s comforting. You know where to go in your mind with it. What you can draw out of it. It can start to define you. So the thought of that leaving can actually be quite difficult.
I love Rob Bell’s talk Drops Like Stars: where he discusses suffering and creativity. It’s an amazing thing that out of our pain, our suffering, we can create something beautiful.
But we can’t stay there. We shouldn’t have to.
There’s a line in Almost Famous that goes:
“Do you have to be depressed to write a sad song? Do you have to be in love to write a love song? Is a song better when it really happened to you?”
Writers are told to write what they know. Not the actual event but the emotions. Be genuine. But does that mean I need to hold on to those emotions to write my book? As you can probably tell I’m just thinking out loud here. Writing is emotional. I don’t think there’s a way around that. Especially not in this emo ocean book I’m writing. But I don’t think that means I need to be depressed. (I’m not by the way…incase you were worried.) Yes we suffer and sacrifice for our art. People liken a new creation to giving birth. Now I can over share that hurts like a so & so but I’m not still in pain.
I think we can feel hemmed in by the stereotypical creative person. The starving artist. And that, dare I say the word, happy people don’t create meaningful art. Now I’m not saying that happiness is the flip side to depression but I think that’s a talk for another time. I’m saying that I don’t want to live with what I don’t have to live with just so I feel validated as an artist. I am creative. Not my depression, angst is creative. Me: the person that fits around all that junk. So when all that stuff goes, cos I’m gonna kick it out, I will still be creative.
Originally posted March 18 2012
So, I’ve reached this spot in my WIP: some might call it the halfway point, I like to refer to it as the Chasm Of Doom or rather COD. Pretty much everything I’ve been building to has happened: midpoint disaster has struck, my MC has battled through and now she gets a happy reprieve before I force more disaster upon her.
That sounds all well and good, I hear you say. Well I thought so too but then my fingers turned to mush and everything I wrote was just blah blah ergh. I suddenly can’t see my way through. My characters are just standing around or sleeping. Wake up! Go outside! I yell at them.
So far I’ve been dealing with this problem by ignoring it. That’ll work right? Nope, turns out it won’t. Okay fair point, sometimes distancing yourself for a while does help. But I have distanced. I’ve caught up on Gossip Girl, TVD, Fringe, started Downton Abbey (which, dear goodness, what took me so long?) Then sat at my desk and watched nothing happen.
I’ve stood in the shower, aka the golden fountain of ideas, and small thoughts have started to sprout. But then I write them out and hit another wall.
You might think I’m about to tell you what I did that worked. How I cracked that coconut and now tadaar my book is done. Well no, no I’m not. Because I am writing this mid struggle. I’m sending you a note from the trenches. But I am going to tell you what I plan to do.
Firstly I am going to let myself write rubbish. You tend to hear this a lot. First drafts always suck, always. But it’s still hard to accept. I want my words to shine, my characters to soar, my readers to cry! But I need to let go. I will have time to polish this sucka up and it will sparkle dammit! But I need to finish it first. So, I need to let myself be terrible.
I’m going to whinge to my critique partner. And then I’m going to brain storm, sorry, thought shower, with her. Sometimes you need to say things out loud, get your ideas out of your tiny head. So many times I’ve been stuck and a few emails later solved!
Lastly dear reader, I am not going to give up. Because I love my characters, I love this story, I need to get it out there. So I’m going to stumble around in the dark for a while but I am confident I’ll find a light switch or someone will chuck me a torch, or a match and by dammit you get the metaphor.
originally posted: March 14 2012
Pieces of Sky
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