Thursday, May 6, 2010

Who to Believe

Note: I have no idea why this is double spaced. And no idea how to fix it. me

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."
Richard Bach

I've been told time and again that to be a "real" writer one has to practice the fine art of re-writing. The first time around, the whole exercise is to get one's thoughts out of the head and on to paper (or the computer as the case may be.) When my muse strikes, I'm a whiz. My fingers fly across the keys. I entertain myself by envisioning myself accepting a Pulitzer Prize or maybe just sitting next to Oprah smiling as she hands out copies of my book to everyone in her audience.

I come back to reality real quick when I start the process of tweaking and re-tweaking my glorious first draft. That's when I get stuck. That's where I am now.

My writing coach has challenged everyone in the group to move up a step and begin submitting our stories for publication. She has actually been suggesting this all year, but now that it is getting close to our summertime break, she is putting the pressure on to "get 'er done." I've noticed that the more she tells us we can do it, the more I tell myself there is no way. In essence I freeze.

A week or so ago, I started writing something here on my blog and it turned into a three day ordeal that I never finished. I wrote and deleted until, when all was said and done, there wasn't much of anything left. I started with one idea that evolved into something different all together. Trouble is, the new idea didn't go anywhere either. Okay, I told myself, don't be a quitter, try rewriting something you've already done.

Sweetie and I had a discussion lately, he reminded me that I had stated, "I'm a starter, not a finisher." Does it come as any real surprise to you that I don't even remember saying something so wise? Yet it is true. I'm great at getting all enthusiastic, going pedal to the metal (think garden in the back yard or Peace quilt). If a project is too big to finish quickly, or is interrupted too many times, it gets put away (or left on the dining room table, much to Sweetie's dismay). It's probably a cross between Type A personality and laissze faire.

My group met yesterday. In an effort to look like I had tried even though I knew I hadn't I wrote an email explaining why I wouldn't have anything to critique this week or perhaps ever. Here's what it said:

Oh God, and I thought the pressure was on before.
What if I break my arm? No that won't work, Amy can only type 9 words a minute and she gets her stories done.
What if I say my dog ate it? Actually this could be true. Except not my dog, my sister's, who doesn't live with us any more but comes to visit every day and steals something from Sweetie's room to munch on while he isn't looking. Maybe I could leave my unrevised stories in the basket with the driftwood and see what happens.
What if I say, my Dad was driving me crazy? Nope. Tim would probably hand me a prescription, or suggest therapy with Marilyn.

Dang, I'm running low on excuses! It must be pretty clear to every one that I'm not much of a re-writer. I have developed a terrible combo case of writer's block, panic, and "you'll never be a writer so who are you trying to kid just give it up". Even I know the best fix for that is to sit at the computer and write!

Okay, I'm convinced, but I still don't have anything to share tomorrow. My cat threw up on it!

Well, at the meeting, one of the ladies kept saying she wanted to read something and have us decide whether the author could be considered a "writer." She mentioned it several times, but the leader was on her own roll and didn't want to let things get past her. Finally she gave Marilyn the go-ahead nod. And Marilyn began to read - MY E-MAIL. Yikes! I seriously considered crawling under the table.

I put my head in my hands. Clearly embarrassed, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. But here's what I learned from others and, get this, from myself. My circle of writing buddies, like my circle of blog buddies, lifted me up with kind and generous affirmations. I don't believe they were blowing smoke up my hiney. I believe they see the finished product, that I don't see while in the middle of the writing process. I really can't believe that Ernest Hemingway, or Jane Austin, or Dr. Seuss could have been as obsessive about writing as I get. But then, maybe that's why Hemingway drank so much!

I felt really loved. I trusted them way more than I trust myself. And in the back of my mind, as woman after woman told me to give up my self-defeating censor and just WRITE, I heard Dani's voice. Dani wasn't there, or course, nor was I tuning compliments out. I was remembering back in March when Romeo and Juliet had just been kicked out of the Capulet castle and my friends were circling the wagons around me so I didn't fall off the edge of the world (is that a mixed metaphor asked the Grammar Queen). After a lengthy conversation, Dani told me if I couldn't believe myself then believe "the circle". And using that logic she went one step further. If I didn't believe what each person was saying to me, then in essence I was calling them all liars. How can I call such smart, caring, loving women liars? Maybe a little off base but not liars!

I looked around the table of my peers, each woman (Tim wasn't there) and began to believe them because none of them are liars. How cool is that? Not just the affirmation, but me seeing it. I think even if I never write another word, I will have learned a powerful lesson.

I like defining myself as a writer. But the truth of the matter is writers are supposed to write. Telling "my" story is more than just putting words together. It is an art that needs to be crafted and perfected just like painting, or quilting, or cooking. Today, I jumped right into some revisions. We'll see how it turns out. Maybe I won't have to make up an excuse for not turning something in next week.

Now about publishing? That's a different subject.

Wishing for you, the ability to see yourself as others see you ... good enough,
Merry ME

P.S. Note to self: Work on trust issues


terri st. cloud said...

way beyond good enough, woman....
and a writer i love to read!

Molly said...


Pamela Jones said...

You go, lady! And they're right...the stream of consciousness in the email is the kind of thing a character would think/say/email. You've got it, USE it!

Unknown said...

I just read your post, and you touched my heart again. God gave you a gift, in your writing and in the person you are. Keep on expressing your gift.

Fire Byrd said...

I understand this only too well, cause I'm a starter too. You only have to look at the chapters of my therapy book. I leapt into writing it went like the clappers for months and slowed down to a trickle and now a complete stop. I don't know if I'll ever be bothered to rewrite them. Which means I'll never earn my fortune.
So what did I learn in wrting those 20,000 words plus. And the many thousands I write her. Well I can string a sentence together, I can make people laugh and cry. And I need a ghost writer to fincsh the project!!!!
Good luck I can't think of anything worse than trying to find the energy to rewrite.

AkasaWolfSong said...

Oh Mary...I see this write in and of itself as a chapter in your book! I'm not kidding! Each entry you post on your blog is a chapter in the day and life of Mary and one I love to read! Perhaps you aren't writing about this stuff but whatever you write will be very welcomed to those who love to read you. What is interesting to me is that we all have our favorite authors and well, you'd be one of mine. :)

Keep on rockin' woman...wrap your arms around the Treaty Tree and ask for some help from the Old One! Her roots grow deep and yours will it, grow with it and realize your dream!

Love and Gentle Blessings...

Laura Paine Carr said...

As one of your fans (and I do not know the plural of Iris; I made it up) I am so with you on this. Thank you for sticking with this post to the end of the page (not the end of the story yet!!!).

All writers go through this, though that doesn't really help, does it. Yes, many writers have drugged and drank themselves into oblivion. Some go so far as to claim that being nuts is part of being an artist/writer. There is a place within each of us that knows we must do the work, or go crazy.

My writers group has met for about 12+ years. We created our group after a writing class ended, and we have gone on and on. We just wrote and read to each other for years! Then, one by one, we started the process about which you have written today. Revision is very similar to root canals at first.

After quite a few workshops like the one you describe, it started making sense to me. After working with members of our group over the years, we are able to critique and rewrite like pros! Most of us have also began to submit our writing.

Seriously, we have to push the envelope to get anywhere, and we also need to respect and honor the process as well.

And, just for the record, I agree with every single comment! Wise women hang out at your blog!