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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

IWSG October 2014. The Truth of it



This is my October post for Alex Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group and guess what?  Amazing Alex and his minion of helpers will be publishing a free eBook to benefit all writers - The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond and it will include posts from this month.  The eBook will be free and available for all eReaders by early December.

Five years ago, corporate America and family occupied most of my time.  When the grind of the day job got to me, like millions of people, I’d muse, Gee, wouldn’t it be cool to write a novel?  I imagined myself working in a café part-time, so I had time to write the book, which was kind of like thinking it would be cool to win the lottery. And, well,  I don’t play the lottery.

Then, in a workforce-reduction, expense management strategy, corporate-downsizing or whatever buzz-phrase suits your mood, my employer dropped-kicked me across the parking lot, and within twenty-four hours of that pink-slip event, I started writing.  Not a novel. Nothing like a little layoff to call that bluff. No, I wrote personal essaysunemployment therapy I suppose, but so much more.  I wrote blog post after blog post having recognized within hours of my job elimination whatever I did next in life had to involve writing and the only way to get better at writing was to write.

It wasn’t fiction though.

Curiously, during those first butt-in-chair years, I did stumble into a part-time job in a café.  Well, not a café, but pretty close.  A gourmet food and cheese shop selling prepared items and made-to-order sandwiches.  And on the days I wasn't standing on a cement floor preparing panini's, serving up carrot hummus, or lugging cast iron pans to the sink, I planted myself in front of my computer and wrote.
 
But still.  The idea of fiction drifted out there, mist at dawn—until an acquaintance recommended Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST’S WAY, a book of twelve week-long lessons subtitled A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity.  Don’t worry.  “Spirit” is subjective, and if mine happened to be the ceramic vase sitting on my window shelf, it would have worked in context of this book.
  
As I plowed through the program, each chapter forced me to confront my creative future, to challenge myself to make my dreams happen.  THE ARTIST'S WAY works for anyone, but in my case, each lesson said, you want to write fiction?  You are the only one stopping yourself.  Before I’d finished the exercises in THE ARTIST’S WAY, I began writing a novel, to see if I could get to the end, which happened, though the result was so awful it was impossible to fix. So, more butt-in-chair.  Plus, I read writers on writing.  I gave myself timed writing exercises and scene-stormed.  I wrote a second book and submitted it to agents and received a request for one full manuscript that went nowhere, form rejections and lots of cold silence. I took a Grub Street novel-in- progress course.  And then another.
  
I know.  We’re well into this piece and you expect to read I’ve got a novel coming out. Nope. Not yet.  Lovely word, “yet.” We needed better insurance, so I’m back working in an office, almost full time.  I get up early every morning to write.  If I can, I write after work too.  I’m getting ready to submit my third novel to agents with this perspective. There’s no winning the lottery to it. Standing up in a café all day is brutal work, and writing a good novel is even more difficult.  But thanks to Julia Cameron, I get it.  The only person who can give up on me, is me. 

So, butt-in-chair.

21 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yet is the key word! It's all in the timing, and your time will come. You did the research and you're doing the work - keep at it and it will happen.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Such a good post, and a wonderful reminder to keep going for our dreams. If those dreams are truly important to us, we will find a way. :)

Madeline @ The Shellshank Redemption

mshatch said...

This writing thing is a long road sometimes. Really long. But what else are we going to do? Not write? Not a chance.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Your journey is a lesson in persistence and drive. Thanks for sharing it.

S. L. Hennessy said...

The only person who can give up on me, is me. Wow. I want to write that on a sticky note and put it over my desk. That's wonderful.

Robin said...

I don't know if this is the first you've written of it (or I just missed it), but I didn't realize you were no longer at the cheese shop.

The world sucker punched you five years ago. Or it gave you the opportunity to do what you always wanted. Just depends on how you look at it.

So, you got a job that worked well around your writing until it didn't work so well.

By that time, you KNEW you wanted to write and continued to pursue it with this job. Much harder.

I read this and thought, "Isn't it wonderful she could work at the cheese place AND write?" If you'd gone straight into the job you have now... you probably would have been too tired. Burnt out.

You know what they say about that third time...

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Excellent post!

I often remind myself of a similar thing when bemoaning the state of whatever WIP I'm working on: The only thing that can stop this from becoming an awesome story is me.

Ava Quinn said...

"Lovely word, yet" Yes it is!! Keep on plugging along like you are!

Lisa said...

I started with the same book, that one and Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird. Both of those started me on my path and though I've gone through many changes both work and personally, I'm still following it,fifteen years later. There are so many "writing" books out there, that finding ones that actually speak to you and put you to the test is hard sometimes. I've just finished my sixth novel and am ready to work on the second draft of my seventh. Keep going Liza! It's a crazy world!

Cherie Colyer said...

It's great you found your inspiration and something that helps you write. And, as others have pointed out, yet is a lovely world. Thanks for sharing your story.

Daisy said...

You are a great example of determination and persistence, Liza. I really like this post!

Jayne Martin said...

I don't think I have the patience to tackle a novel. Short fiction seems to be my calling. Though, I still struggle to put the butt in the chair. Good piece, Liza.

Michael Di Gesu said...

Hi, Liza,

I'm right there with you... I wrote something similar today... it is all about TIMING... YET IS the word for sure!

All the best with your querying! I need to start back up myself... it's been a couple of months since I last sent out queries...too long.

Laurel Garver said...

"The only one who can give up on me is me." So true. Thanks for this inspiring story about persistence.

emaginette said...

That mantra will take you places. :-)

Anna from Shout with Emaginette

Joanne said...

great perspective. Indeed with confidence comes a great product and then timing, people, connections, etc all mingle to make the right combination to publish. You have to have fun with it and go with the flow. Keep plugging and it will work out.

Tammy Theriault said...

don't give up! butt in chair now!! :D

Juneta Key said...

Great post, so true. It begins and ends with us. That is a lot of responsibility and it is also freeing in a lot of ways. Thank you for sharing.

Juneta at Writer's Gambit

JJ said...

Every writer has those feelings and writers are never happy with their products. I used to feel like giving up because I equated writing with good financial returns. Then, I read a biography of Herman Melville. He sold only 300 copies of Moby Dick in his lifetime and died thinking he was a failure. That realization allowed me to write for the sake of writing, and only then did I enjoy success. Never give up!

Empty Nest Insider said...

I can't possibly give you better words of encouragement than JJ! However, I can tell you that based on the passion you put into your poetry, your next project is destined for success! I admire your perseverance, and believe it will pay off, Liza.

Julie

Pixel Peeper said...

I really can relate to your story...canned by a big corporation two years ago, I ended up working part-time and got a chance to pursue some health goals and my hobby (photography). Back at a corporate, full-time job now (gotta eat and save for retirement, gotta work), but very careful to carve out time for a balanced life.

My fingers are crossed for you. Love the word "yet." What's your novel about?