Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sticking With It

It's funny, I have several posts already written but a comment to my last post, as well as a beautiful post by C.J. Duggan, got me thinking. I've had a topic rolling around in my head for some time--process, my process, writing techniques, blah blah blah. It was just a muddle of tangents. But this morning I read C.J. (dude, I swear you're in my brain) followed by a comment by Rosanne Dingli on my blog, and a post just started to flow.

Enthusiasm. Respect. Sticking with it.

While I was mulling my review for the indie author, I found an example of a newbie writer making self-published authors look bad. Big Al posted a solid, positive review and the author went nuts. The post received over 300 remarks before Big Al closed comments. Some people took great delight in the melt-down of the author. Admittedly, for about 50 comments, so did I. But after a while it just became frustrating to me. Big Al was professional in his review. There was nothing wrong with what he said, and yet the author screamed for a private conversation. I was deeply annoyed because if you put your work out to be read by the populace, that includes public reviews.

Bring in C.J. She posted a tender exposition about herself but at the core of it was her enthusiasm for writing. It's part of what I love about her blog: her genuine enthusiasm that spills over into everything and makes me enthusiastic, too.

Enthusiasm is a great asset in an author. It can be detrimental in a newbie.

Bring in Rosanne's comment. An author should respect their readers by producing quality work. I agree and I think it goes deeper. A writer should have so much enthusiasm for her work that it goes beyond getting published, and demands getting it right.

I have been working on my current novel for, gulp .... do I dare admit it? For over ten years. Yes, folks. I'm slow.

Seriously, though. I was an English major with my emphasis in creative writing and I had NO IDEA how to do this. SO I simply started. I'd written short stories, received a special rejection letter, published a poem, and yet, I felt like a fraud. I had to finish my novel in order to prove I was a writer. For years that was my motivation: finish to prove.

Whenever I got stuck in my story, I researched the submission procedures. Talk about getting the cart before the horse! My reasoning was, when I'm ready, I don't want to have to wait to get published because I don't know how to submit my work. Um, yeah. Not that the research wasn't helpful and necessary, but I really was paddling with one paddle and wondering why I was in the same place.

To keep the fire burning, and because my passion was genuine even if I was a bit unfocused, I began classes at a university in the northeast. I wanted to get my Masters in Creative Writing. I took my preliminaries first, applied to the program and was rejected. I kept taking classes and eventually took a few novel writing courses. I proudly brought before my peers the opening to my novel--my gem, my star, my best worked portion. They gleefully shredded it like the stepsisters in Cinderella. Clutching my tattered manuscript to me, I made changes to suit my reviewers.

Finally, I finished just to be finished. I didn't recognize my novel. I don't even recall the original ending it was such a cluster f#*^. I submitted it to one publishing house and two agents, received my rejections, and put the novel in a drawer. Life handed me a few trials about that time, and I hid away from writing. But my novel, and a few other stories were always present in my mind constantly being mulled.

I picked up the effort once again after a year or so because I needed to write; I needed to tell my characters' story, but my efforts came in spurts: write for a four hours one week, take two months off.

I had barely dusted off my manuscript when a fire shattered the sliding glass doors from the outside and swallowed my living room and kitchen as I struggled to wake up and find my glasses. I had to have my glasses to see if what I heard was real; to know I wasn't dreaming as the bright orange heat growled like a ferocious demon blasting me with hot death. My then husband and I searched for our two cats before he dragged me from the apartment. I don't remember. I was told later that when we opened the door, the flames blew out the top of the door as if to grab us and drag us back in. The door was heavy and set to swing shut under normal conditions. It slammed closed behind us and the window next to it exploded.

I stood on the sidewalk in my pajamas and bare feet whispering fire! I was so embarrassed to awaken my neighbors to such a disaster; to destroy their night's sleep and make a spectacle of myself.  I wrung my hands and felt so much guilt. But there it was erupting from my roof summoning four fire engines to our complex. fire!

We lost nearly everything. I mourned a great many things--some more than others. One loss was my novel. My laptop was fused shut, my papers burned. But my prepared techie ex-husband had a backup off-site. All was not lost as far as my writing.

It took another two years to really start writing again. It was in that time that I found my process. No longer did I want to finish so I could say I did it. I wanted to finish because I'm a writer. What does that mean? It doesn't translate into income or insurance. It doesn't have a tax basis or take ten minute coffee breaks. Writing is more than a career. It's a passion. It's a passion to respect my readers by giving them more than just a story, but a story that will mean something. I want to touch people's hearts. I want to move them, make them laugh, and let them know that they're not alone. I have an inner muse that makes writing as important as food, sleep, breathing.

If we publish too quickly, if we don't respect our readers, it demonstrates the weakness of our enthusiasm. Many writers won't take ten years to finish their (first) manuscript, but rushing to the finish line just to say "I did it!"...that's easy. It's sticking with it through the rejections, the set-backs, the life interruptions, searching, seeking the best of ourselves, and never giving up...that's what it takes to write.