Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Say Anything

Perhaps you are someone who has a story to share. Or one of many who say, “I’ve been told that I should write a book …” but have not. Yet.

My personal opinion is that everyone has a story to share. Some share with words, maybe prose, non-fiction, or poetry. Others paint, draw, sculpt. Gardening, cooking, sewing – to me it’s all an expression of how you see the world. In other words, it’s a reflection of your story. It’s your voice.

Over the years I'd made four attempts to tell an important story. Each was a different style, and finally, after eighteen years, I heard its voice. It began in a silly way. I’d heard a song on the radio and said to my son, “there’s a story behind that song.” Being twelve years old and not inclined to question me if he didn’t want me to go into further detail, he agreed.

As I pictured the sequences in the song, the characters in my first novel, “Talking to Strangers” materialized and began to walk around in my head. That’s when I believe the muse settled in with me, sensing that I was finally ready to commit. Two more songs struck my fancy and I was determined to figure out how they all related.

Around that time I also discovered “The Alchemist,” by Paolo Coelho, about the importance of pursuing a dream. Looking back, I’m thankful that I was open-minded enough to feel the significance of these separate events – the songs and the book – and to feel the urging of the muse. And when I say muse, I am referring to that part of the brain that creates. There are ideas that spring from the dust, from the air, from sorrow and joy – and if you acknowledge them and find a way to work them, much like the way a potter works with clay, these ideas will invite their friends.

I should mention that I’m a single mother of a teen-aged son. Working full-time, I also volunteer at school and with Boy Scouts. This last year I found time to train for and walk a half-marathon. It is not my intention to brag, but merely to show that with the 24 hours that we have all been given, it is possible to find time to write. I wrote “Talking to Strangers” by getting up thirty minutes earlier each morning. As the pages progressed, I found that I woke up before the alarm, my need to write as strong as my prior desire for sleep. Sometimes I went to sleep earlier, but many times not.

Over the last year I’ve sent dozens of agent queries, looking to find a literary agent willing and able to fall in love with my novel enough to sell it to an editor. I’ve been politely rejected dozens of times. That’s part of the process. Yes, it’s like someone telling me that they don’t like my child. But my desire to publish is still stronger than my bruised ego.

More importantly, I joined a writer’s critique group that meets weekly and offers feedback on my writing. My novel is now so much better than it was a year ago. The thought of reading my work aloud to a group of other writers was almost paralyzing. But again, my desire to publish overcame my ego.

In short, if you want to write, I offer the following advice.

1. Just Do It. It’s important to begin and not worry about perfection. Writing isn’t about how perfect it begins, but about opening the door to the words that want to flow from you.

2. Be a Pro. Commit to writing like a professional. If you treat it like a hobby or a passing interest, it’s not going to make it past all of the excuses you’ll find for why you can’t sit down and write.

3. Join a Writer’s Group. Yes, it’s like the dream where you wake up and you are on stage naked. But so what! You’re a pro, remember? You have a burning desire to write and you will overcome. Your pen is in charge – not your ego.

4. It’s Your Dream. Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. It’s your story. You are a writer.


chocoaddict said...

Nice post, Sharon. It's true that we all chose how to spend the time we have each day. Thanks for sharing your strategies.

Bronwyn Green said...

Excellent post, Sharon! Excellent advice and an empowering story! I'm so glad you decided to follow your muse. :)

Simone Anderson said...

Great advice and post Sharon. Sharing your work can be terrifying, but it helps to know that almost every writer out there has gone through that, and they aren't going to judge you. They are there for support, learning, encouragement and chocolate or other satisfactory dessert when the rejection letter comes back in. Yeah for following your muse and making it happen.