Monday, September 16, 2013

Sometimes You Just Need a Marriage Counselor



"We are like a married couple who has been through the gauntlet and need to return to simpler times to fall back in love. That's us with writing. We must fall back in love. We were in love before for a reason....let's find it again." (an email from Brit Lary)


Brit was one of the first writers I ever "met." She was in an online writing group I joined right after I began writing in earnest, and I knew right away she had a gift far above the average level of talent in that group. We eventually broke off and created our own group with a few other fabulous writers we met online, and have been together as both writers and friends through the last six years.

Those six years have brought a lot of changes in our lives. Our writing has ebbed and flowed, other pressing needs have crowded in, personal tragedy and huge life challenges have carved new paths for both of us, but we have remained steady friends. 

And this week, when I was struggling with writing and melancholy and the ever-cliched writer's block, Brit was there to listen. When I wrote to her and said, "I don't know if I can keep doing this... Maybe this has just been a hobby all along," she reminded me that writing is suppose to be a love affair. That I need to stop listening to the voices in my head telling me to do it this way or do it that way, that the market is looking for one thing and publishers are demanding another. Just... fall back in love with writing the way it was when we both started.

I have been considering "stripping" my writing....instead of worrying about what sales, what doesn't, who are less talented and successful ... and just write. Strip the rest away. 

Get our groove back. Don't study statistics, or the latest trends, or the Amazon rankings or NY Bestselling list......just write what you love to write. You, and I, will find ourselves happier...looser.....relaxed.....and that is when the best stuff happens.  

She isn't the first to tell me that. It probably isn't even the first time she's told me that. But it was what I needed to hear at exactly the time I needed to hear it.  

And she is right. I've been "married" to writing for a long time now, and I've lost that loving feeling. I've gotten tangled up in the hows and whys and technicalities of it, and I've forgotten how to just "be" with it.

She offered me a challenge - a 30-day, write-and-read-a-thon for both of us, to find our love with writing again. To write without thinking about how awful or cliched or crappy or hackneyed the writing is. To write without wondering if it will sell or how it will be critiqued. Just to fall back in love with writing.

Both of us writing, reading, keeping each other accountable day after day.

2 pages a day until the end of October (we revised it to a 51-day challenge), 20 minutes of reading a day (the kind that's just for fun), and - as an extra incentive to our mental-health - a bit of exercise thrown in for good measure.

Phew!!

I'm excited, actually. It all feels possible again. Write the words. All of them. Make them better later.

I am so incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by so many great people - friends and readers and fellow writers. I have a gigantic support group if I'd reach out and ask, and I am so grateful for that. Yesterday, it was Brit who was the one who saved me, who brought me from the brink of giving up, who has, as she always has, believed in my writing, believed I should not give up. She is like my writing marriage counselor. :)

You know how Wikipedia defines challenge? A thing that is "imbued with a sense of difficulty and victory."  I love that! 

What are you challenged by these days? And are you seeing how victory is there waiting for you at the end?

 

17 comments:

  1. I love what she said to you. It's a great analogy to marriage, you will have ebbs and flows through your marriage as well as your writing and both take a lot of hard work.

    I recently did that too. Started a new book where I just free write, I don't care about editing, cliches, punctuation. I just write about whatever comes into my head. It's been helpful.

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    1. Brit is such a good friend. It's why it's so important for us to surround ourselves with people who understand. The same way we need moms in the same season of life with us. :)

      I think the fact that I am on the 8th or 9th revision of this novel makes me think it has to be perfect. But I am rewriting it - completely new material, so of course it won't be!

      I think our worst enemy is the voice in our heads!

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  2. Isn't she smart?! Take her advice - she knows what she's talking about.

    I'm kind of afraid of my novel right now. It's waiting for me. When I crack into it, I'm tangled up and confused but I can't stop thinking about it. So I guess I'm in the "bad boyfriend" stage of the marriage analogy with it.

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    1. I know the fear feeling. Sometimes it's like looking at the pool the first day of summer - knowing it's going to hurt like the dickens jumping into that icy water... but once you are there, you never want to get out.

      I am just full of analogies today. :) I hope you get over the feeling soon! I know you need that writing the way the writing world needs you!

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  3. Wise words.

    My challenge: learning about self-publishing. I've just found an editor, am playing around with cover ideas, and need to research how to start a LLC, formatting, etc.. And then there's the marketing to consider. Lots to do, but I'm game. ;-)

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    1. Learning about self-publishing and how to do it well is like an entirely other full-time job! It can be daunting, since there are so many different views on it, and it is changing so rapidly! Good for you for taking it in hand and doing it well!! Good luck!

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  4. It sounds like an interesting series. I will check it out

    fiction marketing

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  5. It's awesome that you have a friend like this.

    I never worry if what I'm writing is marketable. Not because of some zen-like focus, but more because I realize my biggest problem is finishing stuff. I can't market something that will never be completed.

    Paul

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    1. That is exactly where I've realized I am... why worry about how good the writing is if I can't ever finish it?? :)

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  6. When you're trying to break into publishing, it's so easy to get completely consumed by what's selling and trends and all of that other stuff. But Brit is right - if you don't write the story you love, the story YOU want to write, you won't be happy, and it will show in your writing.

    I have to fall back in love with writing on a regular basis - about every 3-4 months I just get fed up with what I perceive to be my sub-par writing skills and how hard it is to plot and blah, blah, blah. Always, always, I must come back to WHY I started writing in the first place - because I love it. And in the end, that's really all that matters.

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    1. I'm the same way, Melissa! It's so easy for me to get wrapped up in the publishing track and forget how fun it is to just write. I think my favorite time ever of writing was the first book, when I wasn't even thinking about publishing, I just wanted to be able to say I'd written a book.

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  7. Don't feel about having writer's block. It happens all the time. Even though writing is another form of release, it can tire our minds down, especially when they're always pushed to work out. Good thing is that you can bring your writing muse back again.

    Anyway, when that condition occurs again, don't fret. Just breathe in a fresh air, go outside, and observe. It's like starting back at one. You can find inspiration by doing that.

    KenosisCenter.com

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    1. Exercise is part of the plan for just that very reason! Thanks for weighing in!

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  8. I like the challenge you've set up for yourselves.

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    1. Thank you, Roxanne! I find I'm better accomplishing things when I have a daily goal - and someone to keep me accountable. :)

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  9. Wow, Heidi! Your post totally speaks to me. I’ve been really unbalanced in my writing work lately, focusing solely on my commercial writing projects and allowing no time for my beloved fiction work--and no time to read just for pleasure.

    That all changed this week when I began incorporating time for my novel back into my daily round, and it just feels SO good!

    We writers are always seeking more knowledge and training on how to write better and more effectively, which is good. But it does add to the conflicting voices in our head, doesn’t it? Your friend Brit sounds very wise! I’m taking her (and your!) advice to heart as well.

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