Friday, November 6, 2015

Finding Your Voice

Find your voice. This is something writers hear often. And I thought I knew what it meant. I've always considered myself pretty clear headed about what I believe. But not until this last year did I realize knowing my beliefs and being willing to voice them are two different things. Truth be known, I was hiding some of them. And this, in turn, was watering down my voice.

We hide our beliefs for different reasons, acceptance probably being key. As humans, we need connection. But we need to connect with ourselves first and foremost  - with what we believe - then we can connect authentically with others. If there's shame blocking us from saying what we really think, then we remain blocked as writers. For example, I grew up in a loving home yet was taught being gay is wrong. I haven't believed it's wrong for a very long time, and I've supported it politically, but this is the first time I've written about it in a public forum. Why's that?

Well, for starters, people who go around grandstanding what they believe all the time are annoying. But it's more than that.

I was programmed to believe certain ways, and it took awhile to figure out the ideas I believe versus what I'd been taught. And longer still to not be afraid to voice them because I love the people in my life, even if we disagree.

But here's the thing: we shouldn't have to lose people we care about just because we disagree. We all view life through our own looking glass. What's the point of having our own minds if we aren't free to use them? As long as we're respecting our neighbors and showing kindness, that is.

I'd rather connect authentically than pretend to be someone I'm not. And when we give ourselves permission to embrace who we truly are, we can deliver a stronger voice in our work, whether it be non-fiction or fiction.

So be brave. Be you. And I'll continue to do my best at it too.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Intuition to Help Guide Our Careers

Last night I needed a walk. I hesitated briefly, the clouds were threatening to explode with moisture any moment. But by judging them, I decided I had time to make it to the half way point, to a cabana mid-trail, if it started to rain. The sky boomed electric cracks of thunder, and I felt energy around me everywhere, in the moving sky, the branches swaying in the wind, the birds fluttering toward shelter. It felt so good, so centering, to be part of the energy surrounding me.

I paused at the creek and listened to the water rushing, always therapeutic to my mind, and when the sky cracked once more, this time large splotchy raindrops began to fall. They hit the paved trail, they hit me, and I began to run toward the cabana, making it just as the rain began to fall in sheets. It was beautiful, to sit under the safety of the open cabana and watch the rain pour every direction around me, falling on fields, the trees, into the creek. It only lasted a few minutes and let up again. I had a decision to make, hurry and finish the walk or wait. Gray-blue clouds threatened on the horizon and there was still a good chance of being caught in a storm. Again, I judged the clouds and decided I had just enough time to make it back.

I hurried, but still allowed myself to absorb the new after-rain scents around me. It wasn't a clean ozone clearing smell but dense earthwormy, muddy scents of life surrounding the creek. The smells were completely new, a different experience than just moments earlier, and as I kept a good pace, I couldn't help but correlate this walk with life.

Taking risks in our careers, whatever it is we do, is a lot like venturing out on the walk. Knowing there will be storms but not knowing when or how tough. Yet, still taking the walk because being engaged in life is what invigorates us, keeps us going. And using our intuition - when to go, when to stay, what to pursue, what to leave alone, are all important aspects of guiding our careers.

Intuition. Trusting we have the answers when we need them. I made it home, opened the door - and honestly, this was just as the storm began to beat and hail against the house. I was fine. And even if I'd been caught in the storm, I would have found a way to be okay. But I'm glad I didn't pass up the walk. I came home feeling more alive than ever.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Finish Line!

This past week I finished my novel, Mizerably Happy. Five years in the making. It started as something completely different, thus part of the reason completion took so long. But writing is a journey, not a destination, right? To a degree, yes.

The destination part kicks in now. I want to find the right agent for me. I've spent the last two weeks working on the grueling query letter and revising the synopsis, all the while thinking some reward for finishing! And when I had to actually paste the first five pages of my MS into an email, pages I've spent so much sweat and tears on, it almost felt sacrilege to see such an informal format.

But yes, this remains a journey, too.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Critique until you can critique no more

Today I purged my closet and came upon pages and pages of writing that had been critiqued by my invaluable writing group. The stack was so thick it seemed almost a crime to have killed all those trees! As I sat there, cross-legged on the floor, contemplating how many hours were spent writing and critiquing the work in my lap, I realized that enough is enough. For now, I'm not in need of anymore comments or critiques. I'm in need of a good space of time and the boldness to finish.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Protagonist vs. Author

     My favorite novels have always involved characters with real struggles, in real life, making their lives better somehow by the end. In my earlier days, I was an aspiring songwriter, and I have stacks of journals from the age of 7. Perhaps that is why in this novel my protagonist, Livy, is similar to me in a lot of ways: a middle-aged woman, (or from the Middle Ages, as my seven year old likes to say) married with kids, in suburbia, trying to make peace with her life. I like characters I can relate to. Here's the thing, though: recently I've run into a problem of not being able to let Livy really "do" anything in the climax of the story. I've had to break apart from Livy and realize several things: first, this is a novel and if she doesn't do drastic, memorable things, it won't be interesting. Second, I can't worry about anyone judging me as the author. Just because Livy may make choices people may not agree with, it doesn't mean I would make those same choices. Her struggle is real but it is not my struggle. My struggle is in getting her struggle on the page.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Character Development

     I can't tell you how much my novel has changed along the way. I am always learning something new. For example, I've learned it's important to know who your character is not only in the beginning but also by the end. Usually, this person has changed for better or worse. Developing character arc is like planning a route on the map. You want to get from here to there. Internally and externally, what needs to happen to the character along the way to get them to end of the novel? Just like people, their change must be gradual and plausible. The events that happen to them along the way shape this absolute and irreversible change.