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Don’t Wait For Permission

When I was in my twenties, I was an insecure writer. Just starting to form my voice and style, I wasn’t sure people would get me. I wasted a lot of time wondering what people would say about my writing. Whether I was good enough.

The thing is, everyone around me was encouraging. My parents, my friends, and others were nothing but kind when I would mention that I wanted to write fiction. Still there was a voice in the back of my mind that kept telling me I wasn’t good enough. Instead of plowing ahead towards my goal of getting published. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote my stories. They were never finished.

I would go to work shops to get critiques and even there, with people saying I how talented I was, or how unique the story was, I still shied away from putting myself out there.

I was waiting for permission.

Permission to be a writer, even though I already was one.

I was waiting on the writing gods to bestow upon me some benevolent sign that I was ready to be published. I did submit here and there, but not with any gusto. Basically, I was sitting on the couch waiting for life to happen to me. I was waiting to be discovered, instead of trying to make my voice heard.

It took me a while to realize that I didn’t (and shouldn’t) need anyone to tell me that I was a writer. I had to get over the self-doubt, the fear, the anxiety, in order to get to the place I am now.

What’s the saying? Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Once I moved past the doubts and started to re-imagine myself as a writer, I realized I no longer needed anyone’s permission to be the person I wanted to be. I didn’t wait any longer for someone (like a famous writer) to put their arms around me and say, “Hey I think your talented. Let me show you the ropes.” I was too busy doing to wait for that conversation.

If you are someone who is waiting for that permission (whether you are a writer or not), I’m giving it to you now. Be that person you want to be. Go after that dream. It’s not silly. It’s not wasteful.

Do It.

Now.

I Did It! 30 Straight Days of Posting!

Hearts stand for the days I wrote.

Here we are at the end of the month. It was either March 30 or 31 when I decided to embark on this expirement. I figured I shouldn’t think about it too hard. I would go for it and see what happened.

For the first few days I didn’t even want to say publicly what I was doing. Many times I say I will do something and then life happens and I don’t get to it. So I thought I would post for a while and, if I made it to day ten, then I would say something. Not only did I make it to April 10, but all the way to day 30.

So what did learn by doing this?

First, as I said earlier, I do have the time to write. This month I had a birthday, worked full-time, had some personal and professional bad news, and had all the everyday pressures we all have. Also this month was arguably the biggest month for pop culture. Through all of this, I managed to post everyday. Sometimes it was late at night, but I posted.

Second, my fiction writing fell way behind. Although I wrote everyday, I didn’t write much fiction. Easter was the big fiction writing day, because that post was very short. I figured most people would be busy. This is partly why the posting will scale back to one a week. (I’m thinking Wednesday.) I want to keep up the daily habit, but apply it more to fiction.

I have a big goal this year to write 100K. Plus I want to fix this problem with my novel and finally finish it. Also, I have 5 more short stories to write this year. Clearly, I have no shortage of projects that need my attention.

Thanks to everyone who read and shared these posts. It was fun. Maybe I’ll do it every year in April.

And a big HELLO to all the new people who are following!

Some Thoughts on Craft Advice

Here on this blog, I try not to give too much craft advice. First, because I know I’m not the best when it comes to craft. I will never be known for my inventive sentences structure or harrowing prose. Second, because I truly believe that one fatal flaw for a writer is to forget to be a storyteller. As I was reminded on Saturday by author Mary Amato, writers get caught up in the writing of sentences, they forget to tell a story.

I would encourage writers to learn the basics of craft: dialogue, show don’t tell, building a character, etc. But then step back as ask yourself if you are telling a story. I’ve been guilty of this. I write something cool, but it’s not a story. There’s no tension. There’s no arc. And yes, you need to have these things. I think people get annoyed when nothing happens in the story. I do.

Also, aside from knowing the basics, I think writers should work on developing their own style. I call it your “creative expression.” This only comes from writing and figuring out what works best. Know the basics and then work on developing your own way of telling a story.

It’s not bad to see how other writers do things. In fact, it can be really helpful. But don’t rely on it. It’s almost better to know how you are supposed to do something (like dialogue) and see how the writer does follows the rules and how they break them. But don’t take it as gospel. It may make you seem like a lesser version of the author. Not good.

And don’t forget to tell a story! You want the reader to turn the page, to follow the reader, and make a connection. That’s what you’re aiming for.

We’re almost at the end of the month! Can you believe it! One more post to go.

 

DC Author Festival 2019

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the DC Author Festival. This event was free and open to the public at the Library of Congress. There, I met a few fellow writers, saw some former classmates of mine, and listened to some great advice.

A few days ago I talked about being a good literary citizen. Whether you are a reader or a writer or both, these kinds of festivals are fun and energizing. I learned some great tips about writing and publishing. My friends and I both agreed that this event was well worth it and even better than some of the other conferences we paid for in the past.

Got to see my friend Jennifer Ryan on her panel about publishing and marketing. (She’s on the far right.) So great to see her giving out advice about her experiences in the publishing world. The best advice comes from those who are living the life. Jennifer is a full-time fiction writer, who is a fellow JHU alum, and has a new book out in June. (Check out her website.) I found her a fellow panelist Susan Shand offered great advice to those embarking on the road to publishing their books.

Next month there are a few other events I want to attend. Definitely looking forward to that!

The Benefits of Writing Groups

I got my MA in May 2015. In one of my last classes, my professor said, “In three years sixty to seventy percent of you won’t be writing.” He went on to say that while you’re in school, it’s easy to write. You have assignments and people directing you to write. Once you graduate, you’re on your own.

If you are a freelance writer, or a tech writer as a profession, it may be easier. However, you’re writing for your job and these topics may not be what you really want to write. You get busy with work, life, family, etc. While the first few months can be filled with excitement and lots of good writing, after a while it might get hard.

How do you stay the course?

For me, a writing group saves the day. Even last year, when I was dealing with all the stress, I still managed to write something. Going to regular meetings says that I am making writing a priority. I’m carving out time every month to meet with other writers and discuss our work (and let’s be honest life stuff too). It’s a great supportive system that can motivate you to keep working and submitting. All our wins are celebrated and you have people who understand when you have set backs.

A writing group has kept me working, when it was very easy to stop. Every year has it own challenges. Whether it was moving, getting out of debt, dealing with health stuff, you name it the world has thrown it all at me (and keeps chucking more my way). It is very easy to say, “Writing can wait, I have more pressing things to do.” Having a group keeps me motivated. And I’m sure everyone else in my group feels the same way.

The best way to find a group is to go to places where writers congregate. Check out local community writing centers, writing societies, and on-line groups (I like Facebook groups.) to find people. Most likely, someone is looking for you too. It only takes two to start the group.

Be a Good Literary Citizen

Spring time signals the start of literary festivals. This weekend a lot is going on in the DC area. I will be at one of them (I’ll post pics on Sunday.) and I’m going not just to support my friends who will be on various panels, but also to surround myself with like-minded people.

The old saying goes, “Tell me the 5 people you spend the most time with and I will tell you who you are.”

Literary festivals are great for supporting authors, introducing you to new ones, and getting a free tote bag. (Those bags are everywhere! Snag one!) They are also great for inspiring you as a writer. Maybe you are feeling burnout? Or maybe you are tired of staring at the wall as you look for inspiration? I’m as introverted as the next writer, but there is something nice about surrounding yourself with other readers and writers. It’s your tribe.

My Stuff From AWP 2017.

Most of the time I go to them expecting to hear the nuggets of info about the writing life. You can find basic information about writing and publishing from books and blog posts. But the small, everyday stuff, I only hear about it when the writers are in front of people and the casually mention their inspiration or strange writing quirk. Those are the moments I live for. Often they are relatable and kinda funny.

Usually there are panels about publishing too. Again not new info, however sometimes I need to hear it again. I always bring a notebook, so I can jot down a piece of advice here and there. I find them good for getting me in the right frame of mind.

If you don’t find many free festivals around you and you are short on funds to attend, you can always volunteer. You won’t get to every panel, but you can see a few and maybe meet one of your favorite authors.

One of my goals this year was to attend more writing events and be a better literary citizen. I wanted to support more writers, festivals, and literary journals and magazines. I think this is a good start.