HHello, my fellow Writerly Women. Today we're welcoming Skeli and Cathy who chimed in with the rest of us this week with their comments. And speaking of comments, I LOVE that you're responding to each other and offering encouragement. That's the mark of a true community, and I couldn't have created that by waving a wand. You did it.
I think I just threw in that thing about the wand so it would look like I had a reason for using this picture of me as the acting headmistress of Hogwarts, Tennessee Satellite Campus. Seriously, is that not an amazing costume my daughter made for me for my granddaughter's Harry Potter Experience birthday party? It screamed for a British accent (all that watching of Father Brown and Call the Midwife paid off), which I spoke in all day as I was sorting children into houses and keeping the magical creatures at bay.
All right, then, back to the topic at hand. You are a wonderful body of talented women, and I'm blessed to be in your company. The other thing I love about your comments was that in genuinely trying to answer last week's question, you came up with even more questions. That is the creative process. For instance:
After receiving two rejections almost at once, PAM wants to know why we keep doing this to ourselves.
COLLEEN is surprised by both her new genre and her new process (less planning) and seems to be struggling with: Is this okay? Is this what I should be doing?
JENNIFER is still asking, Who the Sam Hill IS my audience? Christians already know Jesus is the real hero, not us, and non-Christians don't want to hear that. (MY question is "Lamentations, Jennifer? Really? You're a braver woman than I am!")
NATASHA's query: Why can't I write the book I really have a passion for? Why do I want to write the fun thing that doesn't actually matter maybe?
CATHY, our former writing teacher, besides asking Where DOES the comma go this week? is dealing with how to write without rules when she's been The Enforcer for so many years.
SKELI had an answer that I don't think she realized addresses just about everybody's question. She recommended a story to Jennifer, saying it might help her see how she can pull off what she wants to do. Thanks for that, Skel'. It's been my experience that:
* For every writing wrestling match you're engaged in, some other author has been in that ring before you.
Rosamunde Pilcher, marvelous English author of Winter Solstice
and other amazing novels, had her agent in for dinner one night (before she became hugely successful). He was talking about several of his authors doing book tours and making t.v. appearances, and Rosamunde's grown children said, "Why doesn't our mum get that?" He said, essentially, "When she writes a book worthy of that kind of attention, she'll get it." At age 60, instead of being offended, she took it as a challenge. The rest of her novels have been smashing hits, beloved by millions of us, myself included. My point is that if we're experiencing rejection or lack of support from our agents and publishers, we might well use that as impetus to go bigger, go deeper, go farther -- and not settle.
Flannery O'Connor (who I have to admit I can't read, though I respect her talent) had a deep passion for revealing God in the underbelly of life -- in dark, crazy places most of us don't like to think about. I don't know that she defined her audience as I've suggested we do, but she knew they were out there, so she just wrote the dang books and stories and let them fall where they would. I'm not sure there has been anyone writing like her before or since.
Janet Evanovich, famous for her Stephanie Plum series (the last 17 of which debuted at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list), started off writing short contemporary romance novels under the pen name Steffie Hall. She was making a decent living, but when she realized she was having to put her current protagonist's name on a sticky note on her computer screen so she could remember it, she knew she was bored. So she came up with a totally fun, over the top concept: Stephanie Plum, a former lingerie buyer from Trenton, becomes a bounty hunter to make ends meet after losing her job. Her books are hilarious. (My husband read several of them and guffawed out loud all the way through.) Now and then it MATTERS that we have something fall-on-the-floor-laughing funny to remove us from all that nastiness we can't do anything about. Give me some Christopher Moore on a bad day and I'm good to go.
In Dar Williams' song, "What Do You Hear In These Sounds?", she sings about her positive experience working with a therapist. My favorite line is: "When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent." It comes to mind now because, again, it's been my experience that when we can't get the answer to that writing question, we usually need to ask a different question. Maybe it could go something like this:
JENNIFER: Are there Christians who don't get that Jesus is the hero? That God is doing a fantastic job so we don't have to?
COLLEEN: Who are the non-fiction writers I love the most? What's their process?
NATASHA: What am I learning as I write this simply fun piece of pure joy? Could it be that I'll use those skills later on, when I get back to Passion Book?
CATHY: What's my favorite part of writing? Just because I'm good at grammar, does that mean I have to focus on it? What would happen if I made some really brazen mechanical errors?
Me? I was struggling with the spiritual aspect of my novel, which is, actually, the heart and soul of the thing in a largely unspoken way. What if I turn off my loyal Christian readers? What if my more conservative friends think I've become so open-minded my brains are going to fall out? My question became a prayer, which led to more questions that in my soul I think came from God:
Is it Christian readers you want to reach?
Is it time for you to express how faith has come to you -- which is not the traditional pray-the-sinners-prayer route?
If you're not going to be authentic, what on earth is the point?
Sometimes I guess the new questions ARE the answers: No. Yes. Yes. There isn't one.
So maybe this week, you could do these two things:
1. Ask a new question related to your struggle.
2. See if the question itself becomes your answer.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't WAIT to hear what happens. Thank you for being here, my friends.