Thursday, January 9, 2014
THE MINDSET OF WRITING: ARE YOU TOUGH ENOUGH? by CHERYL PIERSON
When I first began writing seriously, it never entered my mind that it would be a painful process. But it truly can be, and usually is.
From the very beginnings of our imaginings as writers, the first stirrings of creativity that we feel compelled to share with the world by transferring our thoughts to paper (or computer), we are "putting ourselves out there" for the world to look at--and judge. Self-doubt is inevitable.
When you wrote your first essay in grammar school--think back--"How I Spent My Summer Vacation"--that was the beginning. You most likely had to stand up and read it for the class, to be snickered at by your classmates if you hadn't had some kind of fantastic summer experience to write about--good or bad.
Your retelling of a wonderful vacation to Disneyland could be trumped by a classmate who’d visited relatives that lived near Billy Bob's Crocodile Farm. Never, never could we slip into mediocrity by writing about a boring summer of "just staying home."
My first "sold" story was to ADAMS MEDIA'S ROCKING CHAIR READER: MEMORIES FROM THE ATTIC.
Without our realizing it, this was the beginning of the rest of our lives as writers--and the judgment of the rest of the world. By what we wrote for those long-ago class assignments, we unwittingly took the first steps on our journeys into the world of writing successes
to come. How our classmates reacted, even at age eight or nine, would affect the rest of our lives in ways we didn't imagine then.
Think of it this way: Miss Smith's third grade class was our first experience with peers who critiqued our work. And some of those peers could be downright snide, despite Miss Smith's admonishments to mind their manners!
Kids are cruel, but so are adults. Our school years were the proving ground for obstacles we face in the adult world in many areas, but did you ever think of your third-grade classmates as your first panel of reviewers?
Just as we longed for acceptance then, we wish for it now. Those of us who are writers hope to be embraced by a fan base of some size--even if it's small.
Miss Smith was the next hurdle, representing an elevated level of criticism. She gave you "the grade" for your paper--evaluating not only the grammar and punctuation, but the content and creativity.
Dealing with teachers and curriculum in school is much like dealing with a literary agent and the governing “rules of writing” in our adult lives. The comparison is striking.
My first "sold" novel--FIRE EYES
We have to "make the grade" to land an agent. But, like teachers, not all agents are alike. Some tend to give more advice, push harder for the sale, or spend more time networking. Ultimately, your agent, if you have one, is your personal "gatekeeper," making the sale for your work--or not. Miss Smith in third grade, along with countless others like her, represent the first broker for your writing. Did you pass or fail? Were you creative? Did you meet your word count?
Much of the outcome depends on you. Have you been "tough enough" through the years? How do you handle the past rejection that comes as an inevitable, integral part of a writer's life? Have you ever thought that you might have started your adult writing career sooner had you had a bit of encouragement in those early years?
Realize that you are here, at last, and having made it this far, you are on the road to success. It might not come tomorrow, or next week, but it is out there, waiting. Much of our success as writers depends on luck, or "being in the right place at the right time." Having that teacher, mentor or friend at some point who gave us a small piece of encouragement is sometimes what can "make or break" us.
But learning to be tough and stay constant, to keep from being disillusioned and disheartened, and to be our own source of inner comfort and strength during this journey is the key to success.
Remember, even if you haven't sold anything yet, you've written it. And that's a success story in itself.
Completing a manuscript of any kind means you were tough enough to "tell it" and it's only a matter of time now until you sell it!
I'm giving away a signed copy of FIRE EYES to one lucky commenter today! Just leave a comment and check back after 7:00 tomorrow, Friday the 10th! Comment tomorrow for an added chance to win!