Salve for Souls

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

So, you wanna be a writer?

"I've been thinking of you," a woman I barely knew said when we crossed paths at the supermarket.
Her radiant smile told me she had wonderful news.
"I've decided that you can help me write my book!" she exclaimed.
As a newspaper correspondent, I should have known. This has happened before.
My response was probably too abrupt, but it was truthful.
"I'm sorry. I don't have the time."I neglected to say that my fourteen-hour workdays are crammed with rushing to meet writing deadlines, as well as cooking and cleaning for my family.
Her smile now faded, my acquaintance reeled backwards as if she'd been struck. I tried to offer a few pointers, but all she heard was that I could not help her.
It was clear she had no idea about the time-consuming work involved in writing a book, even a short story or a newspaper article.
Ecclesiastes 12:12 says it well. "Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body" (NIV).
Writing a book requires first drafts, second drafts, third drafts and more until we get it right. There is also research, re-writing and editing. The process can take years. Then, once the book is finished, there is no guarantee a publisher will pick it up.
But I can understand my acquaintance's dilemma because I was there myself.
When I asked an English professor to write my book, she offered sage advice.
"No one can put their passion and heart into your book like you can. Maybe it's your life's calling. Just take that first step; write that first word, then keep going, no matter how long it takes, or how many revisions it takes."
I took the good professor's advice, even though my journey to publication would take a dozenyears.
Here are some steps I took along that journey.

  • I attended writers' conferences. Yes, these can be expensive, but they are an investment. Knowledge is gained and valuable connections made.
  • I joined critique groups in which we evaluated each other's work. These are valuable because it is important to get input from those who will tell us what we need to hear, not what we want to hear. Our spouses and mothers can do that. Information about local critique groups and writers groups can be found at most public libraries, or online. Naturally, there are also online groups. Each has its own flavor and if one does not fit, keep trying.
  • You might want to enroll in a writing class. These are offered at many community colleges and online.                                                

And no matter what, never give up.
As we read in the "Come Away My Beloved" perpetual calendar by Frances J. Roberts.[1]
"Perseverance is to the human spirit what the rudder is to a ship. It will steer the ship dead ahead in spite of the contrary wind. You must have holy determination, pressing on in defiance of all odds."

My ship came into port and yours can too.
Meanwhile, please enjoy a scene from my favorite writing class as seen in "Throw Mama From the Train," with Billy Crystal and Danny Devito.

[1] See February 27 entry.                                         

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