Here’s my guest blog post on SheWrites.com’s Behind the Book.
The other day I autographed my novel, Warming Up, published by She Writes Press, for a friend of a friend who I was told was a writer herself. Since my novel is, in part, about talented artists who are unable, at the start of the book, to practice their art, I wrote, “because you have the courage to create.” In Warming Up,a chance encounter with a homeless boy changes how the main characters relate to their talents, and writing the inscription reminded me again that it does take courage to start, finish and then publish a novel, especially when one goes the independent route through a press like She Writes.
The courage to write. We all must have it, or we wouldn’t be doing this. Where does it come from? In my own case, about twenty years ago, I gave up the full time practice of law, which was very lucrative, to write novels, an enterprise which so far is running in the red, financially, but otherwise feeding a very hungry soul. There are a lot of precious sayings about why we write, about how we have to or we will die, and a lot of those are hogwash, at least in the physical sense, but in my case I can say simply that I knew that at the time, it was for me the—no pun intended—right thing for me to do. I was, luckily, able to afford not to work full time, and I knew that I would regret not trying to write a novel more than I would regret not billing a law client another hour. So, I started out, taking classes, joining workshops, writing daily, and have managed to keep writing—so far ten novels (two now independently published), one memoir, one produced musical (about golf, honesty and love) and a handful of short stories (two published).
Every so often I go through a rough patch when I question that original decision, especially when a manuscript seems a mess, when two rejections come on the same day, when a friend wins a prize I should have (!) (Hey, I know I sound a bit green, but I’m just trying to be honest with you. I’m sure that no matter how happy we are for our friends, we all have that moment of “why not me?”)
Looking back, I’m amazed that almost 20 years later, I’m still plugging away. Is that courage or foolhardiness? What gets me through?
I’m stubborn. That helps. I love where I am when I’m writing—and to remember that the rough places are because I miss that state, helps too. That other writers have been there is encouraging.
Writing is for me a spiritual exercise (not a religious one, mind you, but a soul-making one):
- it is humbling, requiring me to honestly face my imperfections and request and accept help;
- it focuses me on the things I can do (I can write and I can publish with She Writes, but I can’t make anyone read it or like it or make it a best seller), and
- it gives me great joy in the “now” moment of actually writing.
I have also become convinced that no problem is too big not to have a solution—even if ultimately the solution is acceptance that the problem can’t be solved, it presents an opportunity. Now that does sound like Pollyanna, but as a writer, the truth is, I’ve always gotten what I need when I’ve needed it. The critical scene in Warming Up came out of my experience, several years prior, of having been conned out of sixty bucks by a teenage boy whose mother supposedly had told him to look for someone with “kind eyes.” He got me, and a couple years later, I got a novel.
I quit the full time practice because I wanted to write, and writers write. They write while waiting for rejections, for reviews, for readings, for discovery by readers. I call that courage.
I’ve finished novels and worked with editors and declared them done, and now have published a couple and done the “author” thing, and it’s a bit like doing the right thing—there’s no gold medal, parade, or financial award for having done it. I do the write thing because it’s the right thing for me.