Friday, February 22, 2008

Writing Freely

"Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it."
– C.S. Lewis

"Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self."
– Cyril Connolly

I like advice like the two quotes above, because creating without worry about who's going to read it makes writing fun, easy, and fresh. The moment I start considering the audience, the market, and the critics, my writing becomes difficult and in danger of sounding forced and contrived. Yet, if one doesn't consider the audience, the market, and the critic, the end result may never be published. So how does one balance the need to retain one's voice, satisfy one's muse, and follow the heart with the desire to be published?

I know of no easy answers, but I choose to write what I know, love, and believe in. Even if it's never read by anyone, I like to get my ideas and convictions on paper as they come to mind. 

As many accomplished authors tell us, writers must give themselves permission to write badly. Julia Cameron, in her book The Right to Write, says "Most of us try to write too carefully....We try to sound smart. We try. Period. Writing goes much better when we don't work at it so much."

William Zinsser in On Writing Well said, "You must write for yourself and not be gnawed by worry over whether the reader is tagging along."  He explains at least one problem that comes from writing with the audience in mind. "You will be impatient to find a 'style'—to embellish the plain words so that readers will recognize you as someone special. You will reach for gaudy similes and tinseled adjectives as if 'style' were something you could buy at the style store and drape onto your words in bright decorator colors.…This is the problem of writers who set out deliberately to garnish their prose. You lose whatever it is that makes you unique."

Anne Lamott tells us in her book, Bird by Bird that good writers write "shitty first drafts." She claims that "Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper."

There is plenty of time after you get it down to clean it up. Lamotte calls the first draft the "down draft" because you're getting it down. The second is the "up draft" because you are fixing it up. 

My advice: Write what you enjoy, enjoy what you write, and, as Shakespeare told us, "to thine own self be true."

I just finished, another "true fiction" novel. Through my character, a ten-year-old boy, the story reflects experiences, research, and what was in my  mind and heart as I wrote it. Will there be a market that will justify publication of "Kendall's Storm?" I don't know yet. I've just done the "down draft" and am working on the "up draft." I expect it to undergo many more drafts before it sees publication. 

Thursday, February 7, 2008

One day at a time

My husband, knowing how much I enjoy cryptograms, gave me Cryptogram-a-Day by Louise B. Moll for Christmas. Often the quote for the day is just the reminder I need. This is the case with today's quote by Thomas Carlyle. "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand."

Much of my time in the past month has been consumed with concern and planning for the future, striving to anticipate and control the outcome on several fronts, so that daily tasks have suffered, putting me farther behind than ever. Of course there is a difference between worrying about the future and planning for it. As a publisher, I must plan far in advance in order to have everything come together for the release of a new title. As an author/presenter, I must plan ahead to schedule events as well as to prepare for them. Proper planning prevents poor performance, as the saying goes. But that is very different from worry and anxiety about what might happen.

For more quotes on the subject of worry, I went to Here are a few of my favorites:

"Worry gives a small thing a big shadow." Swedish Poverb.

"Worry is interest paid by those who borrow trouble." George Washington Lyons

"It ain't no use putting up your umbrella 'til it rains." Alice Caldwell Rice

"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength." Corrie Ten Boom

My goal for today is to replace every inkling of a worry with gratitude, and I have much for which to be thankful. If a concern that requires an action comes to mind, then I will perform the action and then discard the worry.

Just one of the many things for which I'm thankful is the opportunity I had last weekend to go to Billings and meet with students and teachers at Lockwood Elementary school and later visit the Prairie Blossom Gift Shop as their featured artist for the Billings Art Walk. I loved speaking with the fifth-graders at Lockwood. They were attentive and had great questions.

The proprietors at Prairie Blossom are two lovely women who made me feel right at home and special at the same time. Among the many visitors who came into the gift shop, I met a talented artist named Rabbit Knows Gun and was able to sit and visit with him for a while. If all goes well, we may collaborate on a book. If nothing else, I've made another friend—several new friends, in fact, throughout the past two weekends. And every friend I meet is a priceless treasure.