Follow by Email

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Safari of the Writer's Soul...or If the Shoe Fits

I've experienced a tremendous amount that has changed who I am, what I know, and what I write...and what I'm afraid to write. For instance, I was late getting downtown, Oklahoma City, April 19, 1995. Another five minutes and I'd have been too close to the explosion, not setting up the sheriffs' command post. The whole experience rocked my views on everything from God (your higher power might be Allah, Buddha, or George--they're all the same to me), to how I begin my day, to how I feel about capital punishment, to how I write. But it's taken me nearly twenty years to discover that before I shoot for something, it's better to have a target, even a moving one.

In the writing business, the target is generally in motion, shifting course. That's why I'm thrilled to be a part of my local chapter. The theme in 2012 for the Midwest Romance Writers is Finding Success in a Changing Industry. (Thank you, Leigh Stites for coming up with that one!) To embrace that theme, the philosophy that survival and success are achievable...that's a powerful aphrodisiac. How to do it is the trick.

Since my physical body has changed over the years, my extended trip to Australia must be a solid fit. In order to walk, climb, hike, I'm better prepared if I eat right, exercise, give up smoking (easier said than done), and know my targets. Attending wine country excursions, sure. Spending more than a couple days wandering the Outback? Not so much.

My targets involve touchstones. Feeding a kangaroo, holding a koala, watching whales breach foamy waters, viewing sites, tasting new foods (I'm even contemplating Vegemite...ugh). In keeping with my journey, I also know better than to wear a pair of heels to the Outback.

Over the years, my writing essence has altered as well. I'm not as interested in seeing my name on the spine of a book as much as I crave writing what's between the covers and stirring someone's soul with what I've written. First--I must stir my own. Therefore, my goals have changed, along with my touchstones. I'm still interested in making money, but my greater need is to make memories and to become absorbed in every day's writing..the actual meat to seat, thoughts from mind to fingertips action. I've donned my traveling shoes for a reason, because in order to become more adventurous and dig into the present, I need to shed my Ruby Slippers and be ready to move. Excavating my secret desires and why I'm leery of putting myself on the page emotionally is proving to be a dirty business.

How are your feet? Are you comfortable in the same writing shoes you've been wearing? Are they taking you Somewhere or Somewhere Specific? As one good friend told another lately when the woman was so negative: You can't change others all the time. Sometimes you need to change yourself. The same goes for situations--you can't always change circumstances, but you have the power to control your reactions.

How often do we sit at our computers dreading the blank page, or the edits, the art fact sheets, the rewrites, or the time involved? Not to get too metaphysical on you, but as Chevy Chase uttered in "Caddyshack" over thirty years ago: Be the ball. Dive in. Immerse yourself in your writing. Site the target and shoot. You'll land Somewhere anyway. Why not chart your course and better your odds of arriving Somewhere Specific--where you want to go?

If your grammar stinks, take a class. Poor use of language? Read, read, read, and "people watch"--listen to them. Observe how they interact. Too close to your project? You're not a tree. Move. Go outside, watch a movie, get on the Internet. Call someone. Volunteer at a womens shelter or pet sanctuary.

Have the opposite problem, need to focus or just write? Suck it up and get busy. Want more sales? Write better books. Quit being stubborn and clinging to old habits. Learn networking skills. If nothing changes...guess what? Nothing changes. YOU must change in order to secure a different outcome.

Thing is, life will go on with or without you, but this is YOUR life. Don't be a spectator, be a participant before you have no choice. If writing is your passion, feed it. If you lack a passion, find one. Discover what makes you tick, what thrills you, and you'll have fodder for volumes.

Interested in BDSM? Go for it. Your erotic romances will zing with authenticity if you know your subject. Have a penchant for Lady Windameer's Fan? Delve into histories, diaries, and maps of Regency England. Westerns more your style? Write a good cowboy romance.

The following is as I see it, not what works for everyone.

Goal #1 of your writer's journey is to find a starting point. What is your touchstone, your reason for writing? Are you prepared to do what it takes to reach your goal? For me, if I wish to stir others, I need to stir myself, to be adventurous in exploring my honesty and authenticity as a writer, to be unafraid to write about people, places, things that touch me. Nearly twenty years after the Oklahoma City Bombing, I have difficulty writing emotion, because while working eighteen hours, much of it in rain, I had to shut down emotionally in order to secure the site, turn a blind eye to body parts, debris, stench, screaming parents who wanted their babies, and firemen and policemen who would later commit suicide rather than deal with the trauma.

Goal #2...establish your rhythm. You'll work better if you adjust your writing to fit your life, not the other way around. Quakers have a unique philosophy. Everything moves in accordance to simple daily rituals. As Sarah Ban Breathnach points out, they have rhythm, reverence, and reflection. Apply those to your writing. in my case, with my medical issues, I know that mornings, getting out of bed are the hardest. For you, it might be working with or around insomnia. Maybe you can't concentrate if your house is dirty. Maybe you just need excuses. It's not that you have issues--we ALL do. It's how you cope that affects your life and your writing.

Goal #3 is to FEEL as you write. (It always comes back to emotion.) Allow yourself the gift of time to explore your own thoughts, processes, reactions. Check your pulse periodically to see if what you write moves you.One of my early critique partners whacked me with something unexpected. She said I had a lack of emotion as I wrote La Bella Luna. She said she could always tell when I came to a passage that unnerved me for whatever reason. Seems my character would smart off, pick a fight, or withdraw...because I did. Once Merry Stahel. pointed that out to me, I began using my weakness as a strength, to build tension then drop the bombshell of emotion. First, I had to be in tune with my character, with what was going on emotionally. The book was better for it, and I suspect I was, too.

Don't fret over rules and goals, though--you'll discover what works for you once you fire up your passion, take off on your writing expedition, and let your desires fuel your enthusiasm for the outcome. Truly, it's all about the journey. Or the shoes. Your choice. Remember that if you don't have a pair of shoes (we'll go with that analogy) in mind, you could wind up with a pair that either doesn't fit or is inappropriate. Editors have rejected manuscripts for eons because they didn't fit specific guidelines or lacked that certain spark of passion or authenticity. Find yours, and your writing will reward you.



  1. Nice new beginnings. Thanks for inviting me.

  2. Thank you, fellow writer, mon capitain, my critique partner and friend. You and I may be the only ones in here, at least at the beginning - lol. But...I had to start somewhere. Thank you for joining me.