Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Slippery, thorny or steep, it's all about the writing

I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately. Preparing for 2010, thinking about what I write, why I write and the competitive, tough, fast-changing market out there. It can be downright discouraging, enough to make a body quit. And I would, if I wasn't so darn stubborn and first and foremost a writer.

How do I know this? Because even when I experience huge doubt, my mind still churns out new plots. I can't write to the market. It was different in nonfiction when I wrote 1,000 to 5,000 word articles, but when authoring an 80,000 to 95,000 word book? To stay focused that long on a project, I have to love what I'm writing. Further, there's nothing like the satisfaction that comes with completing an entire novel.

What's more, every single thing I do revolves around writing. I love to write. And during the holidays when my family members were dreading going back to their day jobs and "real life," I couldn't wait to get back to my writing.

My husband bought me a digital camera last year and I've been learning how to use it. Funny, when I downloaded the pictures, I didn't see merely the images, I saw my writing career, the good times, the bad...all that I've accomplished and all that I've yet to.

My husband and I went to Tuscon where he ran his 11th marathon. Running is his passion, while writing is mine. We stopped to take pictures of the amazing acre upon acre of cactus growing in the state. Know what I thought about when I gazed up that prickly hill? I thought of the publishing world and how important it is to develop a tough hide. A cactus quill doesn't have anything on the editors or agents who pen those rejection letters. To reach a publisher's desk you have to tiptoe around an awful lot of thorns to get there.

In Manitou Springs pictured to the left, we have a rugged mile-high trail that travels skyward. Most people bring their ski poles with them to help them maintain their balance, it's that steep. Know what I thought of when I studied that picture? I saw my completed manuscripts and the one I've just started. I can't tell you how many times I had a full-blown panic attack and thought I'd never finish. The point is, I did. To a writer, completing a novel that holds up from start to finish is equally as rewarding as climbing a mountain.

Finally, here's a picture of the geese that love to inhabit the round-about across from my house. If you walk through the circle it's a shortcut and you can shave five minutes off your time. However, when the geese are there, that shortcut isn't necessarily appealing. Particularly when it's full of slimy goose @#$%, and if you do walk through there, you're likely to land on your keester. My feathered friends' yearly presence are reminders for me not to take shortcuts. That writing is a process, and sometimes the muse needs time to gel, or maybe I haven't researched a topic as thoroughly as I should or perhaps my chapters need further editing.

Yep, whether it's slippery, thorny or steep it's all about the writing for me. Maybe that's why I identify so much with Isaac Asimov's famous quote, "If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn't brood. I'd type a little faster."

So how about you? If you're a writer, does everything you do revolve around your love of writing?

Happy New Year all, and here's to our writing!


Vince said...

Hi Donnell:

I’m a little in your position. I’ve made a living by writing for decades. I wrote non-fiction: advertising, speeches, press releases, humor, manuals, and articles for trade journals.

Fiction is just totally different. If you put the time in writing non-fiction and do your research faithfully, you know you will have a useable product at the end. With fiction, you may have nothing. That’s hard to get used to. However, once you ‘get it’, it seems you can write one novel after another to meet the deadlines of your multi-book contract. I think you just have to keep the faith long enough.

BTW, did you go to the Desert Museum when you were in Tucson? I love that one and the one in Carlsbad.


Karin Huxman - Romance Author said...

Well said, Donnell. Every word. Thanks for putting this perspective on it.

Donnell said...

Ah, Vince, Happy New Year, and you nailed it, sir. When you write nonfiction, particularly when you're gainfully employed, you know you will see your hard efforts come to fruition. When you write fiction, you better love what you're writing or be ready for a long prison sentence ;) Again, on "getting it," that appears to be true. Once authors make that leap from unpublished to published you will have those deadlines. I plan on keeping the faith, how about you, Vince?

Donnell said...

Vince, I didn't answer your question. No, I didn't make the Desert Museum this trip, but we did go through Las Cruces. The entire drive was fascinating. And I've been to Carlsbad Caverns but that was a long time ago.

Donnell said...

Thanks, Karin, I hope 2010's off to a phenomenal start!

Audra Harders said...

Great analogies, Donnell! I can especially relate to the whole goose dropping...

I think we as writers get too hard on ourselves. Trust me, not everyone can see the beauty in a sunset or desert floor just as many haven't a clue how to take a nugget of curiosity and turn it into 100,000 words of inspiration.

Thanks for sharing the pictures! I've got to get back to Manitou Springs sometime : )

Donnell said...

Audra, we'll grab our ski poles and do it together, pant! pant! I agree, amazing that our books start with an idea and then a concept and involve into characters, conflict and pages oh my! :)

Theresa said...

Donnell, I have to say . . . writing doesn't consume me as much as most authors and I certainly have spent my time angsting over this, worrying that I'm not a "real" writer 'cause I'm not compelled to write and as driven as most others. I have lots of interests driving me, however . . . my writing has brought me some of my closets and best friends and consistent fun times.

I love to write, love fellow writers, submitting and getting feedback, conference--pretty much everything about it. And after 12 years, I've finally pretty much come to peace with the idea that SO much of the getting published is out of my control--the subjectivity, the demands of each publishing house ie what types of stories they already have on their lists, the moods of agents and editors--and the list goes on, that I HAVE to love the process, otherwise there's no point.

So I've come to the conclusion that even if it's not the smartest or best thing for my career to write in different genres, I have to write the story that enchants me, 'cause as you say, it take me a year to write and polish a book, so I have to LOVE the story or I'll never make it to the end.

Here's to a FUN year or writing and getting better at our craft!

Donnell said...

T. Exactly. I couldn't have said it better myself. As for not being totally driven, I don't agree. (sorry). I've seen your creativity at work. It may be at recess when you design your cakes, or do your artwork or landscaping, but the muse is whispering sweet nothings in your ear. You're just preoccupied ;)

Donnell said...

From my friend Mary Jo who has Blogger difficulties :(

Donnell, Such a great post that I decided once again to try to post to this site. Hopefully, I'll be successful this time. Slippery, thorny or steep implies a bit of danger in our setting and psyche--at least for me. Writing certainly can do that and push us into that adrenalin rush that happens to those in extreme sports or dangerous occupations. It gives us the spark to keep our plots interesting and our words unique. Hope you have a great year and enjoy the best of slippery, thorny or steep.

Donnell said... posting every Sunday
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Mary Jo, thank you! Must be the suspense author in you that makes you think danger. I guess I did to a point, I was merely caught up in the uphill road to publishing. Even when you arrive, you can slip into quicksand. Now great!!! I have to add slippery to the mix.

Thanks for stopping by and trying so many times to post!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Donnell -

I popped over here from Facebook. Beautiful blog! I've signed up as a Follower. :)

Hope you'll check out my blog.