(This, folks, is what happens when I leave the blog up when I'm away from the computer.)
Now, on to today's post...
I like to write. Writing is how I process life, think through things. It's also a way to dump garbage - get all the frustrations and icky feelings out when I'm in a dark hole. Writing is a way to remember, and to celebrate, and to say "Hello" to distant friends.
Yes, I love to write. Newspaper articles. Magazine articles. Blog posts. Letters. And recently, I've been working again on a much bigger writing project, my first fiction/novella.
I wrote the original draft of this story - practically vomited it into my computer - a couple of years ago. Then, I set it aside to incubate. When I came back to it after a year and looked at it with fresh eyes, I was appalled: while the story had good "bones," the story telling definitely needed a LOT of work!
Which brings me to today's post, finally. Over the past several months, I have been blessed to enjoy the friendship, counsel, and mentoring of a beautiful and talented woman who is also a writer, a writer whose work I enjoy and admire. She has given generously of herself and her experience. The process of rewriting, and working to develop a completed manuscript has been such a delight. What have I learned through the rewriting process?
First, per my sweet friend's instructions, just finish the manuscript. Get the story down on paper or in your computer. Don't worry about going back to rewrite your beginning or to tweak that emotional scene in chapter 3. After you've reached "The End," then you'll have plenty of time to go back and work on weak areas.
Speaking of time, this writing game is a business that operates in some kind of a time warp. Way back when I first typed up this story, I had it in my head that I would write it, send it out to an agent, have it published within a few months, and be doing interviews on the Oprah Winfrey show before before the end of the year. Thankfully, the book didn't get out of the chute! I've learned that, while bad writing can be churned out fairly quickly, good writing takes time. Write, incubate, rewrite, incubate some more. Whatever you produce on your first draft probably needs to sit on your shelf for a while to ripen before you even think about showing it to someone else. I read once that every book needs to be written at least three times - that is not going to happen in a flash. Speaking of rewriting, that brings me to...
Be open to constructive criticism. Although it may sometimes feel like it, your manuscript is NOT a baby or a deity. It will not kill you as a writer - or anyone else - if you go back and lop off a couple of arms. Or rearrange the face. Honestly, I was afraid that when someone finally said, "I really think you need to rework this section here..." that I would draw a complete blank. Suffer severe brain freeze. Amazing how constructive criticism and sincere encouragement make rewriting a delight and a challenge, instead of a battle.
Sincere encouragement - I have another friend who often says, "Encouragement is oxygen to the soul." (Hi, Liz!) This is true for writers, too. Nothing like a positive, upbeat email when you're sitting blank-faced in front of your computer to suddenly get the creative juices flowing and the motivation geared up a couple of notches. I can't tell you how encouraging and helpful it has been to me to have another writer cheering me through this process. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lisa. When I think of you, I think, "Man! God sure does give good gifts!" You are such a blessing.
I've also learned that writing begets writing. If I miss a couple of days of working at the keyboard, it is way too easy to just miss a couple more. Then, how on earth did that happen?, I've been away for a couple of weeks or even a month. But, if I hustle to produce an article for this week's paper, then take time to post at the blog, then research possible magazine articles, then work on the book, then write a letter to Tom...well, the more I write, the more I want to write. So, if you are a writer, too, WRITE! And if you miss a day or two because life gets crazy, jump back in at the first opportunity. Just keep writing!
Finally, I've said it before and I'll say it again - writing is so dang much fun. I sit here tappity-tapping, and it's like happy juices are splashing around inside all my veins. Even on "bad" writing days, when my brain is sparking like cold oatmeal, writing feels less like work and more like figuring out the gnarly parts of an interesting puzzle or game.
My oldest daughter once said, "Mom, concision is not your strong point." Obviously! So let's sum up:
- Finish the manuscript/article/blog post/whatever you are writing.
- Don't be in a hurry - good writing takes time. Don't be frustrated by the time warp.
- Seek out and learn from construction criticism. "My way or the highway" isn't good for your writing, isn't good for your readers, and doesn't work.
- Pray for a cheerleader, someone who can encourage you over the long haul. While you're at it, be a cheerleader for someone else.
- Write. Regularly. Just do it.
- Welcome to the party - NOW GO HAVE FUN!