Why some writers never become authors

Why some writers never become authors

running-uphill1A few months ago I decided I would become avid jogger. And notice I used the word, “avid” because this is exactly what I’d had in mind. Please know that I have never been a jogger, runner or trotter of any sort (although I can be seen taking the occasional brisk walk). It was on one such walk that I got this great idea to jog. As I am taking my old lady walk up the hill, a virile young jogger, drenched with perspiration whisks pass me. She is glowing and happy and doing it. She smiles and waves as she passes and I thought I want that.

Eventually, I began to notice others in my neighborhood; donned in their workout they were whizzing by, getting in their cardio as they should and making it look as breezy as those grinning actors do in those commercials for the exercise contraptions you see on T.V.

Then, I got myself together one morning, did some extensive stretching and braved the neighborhood. I hadn’t planned to jog for too long maybe a mile or so.

Do you realize how long a mile really is when you’re jogging?

When you’re driving, a mile is not even long enough to finish a Krispy Kreme donut or listen to a favorite song. When you’re walking, jogging or using your legs in any way to get there it is long enough to listen to several songs on your phone or iPod; it is long enough to envision yourself on a stretcher being taken away by EMS; it is certainly long enough to become so winded you are gasping for air and seriously considering calling the hubby at home to hitch a ride back.

About a third of the way my legs were giving and suddenly it seemed as though there was this massive gravitational pull and a threat from my body of actually going backwards even though I wasn’t on an incline.

So much for things being the way things seem.

It’s like that with writing too. Writers read books by their favorite authors who make writing seem as effortless and attractive as that devious jogger I bumped into did with jogging. Their words seem to pour out in one fell swoop as if in a dreamlike trance. And so you begin to write. Perhaps you dabble here and there when you get inspired. Maybe you pen a short story or two when the spirit hits you. But it’s once you commit that things change.

Writing isn’t always pretty and inspiration can quickly become a byword. It is in fact more difficult than rock climbing (I’m guessing of course). It is psychologically grueling and intensive. You’ll search for the words to describe a thing or a feeling and it’s as if every coherent thought gets up and leaves.

Oh so you think you can write?

Writing takes your confidence for a thrashing. Oh, I see, you think your words flows like the Nile. Wait until you have a deadline in which to edit a chapter or a portion of your masterpiece and suddenly your river of inspiration dries up like an Indian well. It is then you hear the voices that remind you that your sister is the creative one of the family. It is then you will hear laughter from within and that begging question: “Uh…again, who told you that you could write?” Or your Momma will call you out of the blue and ask did you remember to submit your resume to that place because she heard that they have great benefits and it can’t hurt to at least consider working a real job.

Learning the craft of writing is an endless process.

You must learn how to plot, when to outline or not, the 10 rules of editing and how to develop style and voice and theme. Your head is spinning and you wish you were back in first grade when writing was just cute and fun. And just when you think you’ve learned enough to actual do some damage to the literary world you find out you are doing it all wrong. Sigh…And you have to ask why many writers never become authors?

So why do we continue on?

We would do it for free if we had to. We love it just that much. We image someone getting lost in the pages of our book as we’ve done countless times with the books of others. And the thought of working a 9-5 for the rest of our lives with no creative outlet feels a little like drowning.

You have a story pinned up inside and you can’t rest until you’ve gotten it down on paper. The thought of sharing your stories with the world gives you this indescribable thrill and you image that’s what flying feels like. And because for so many of us, it is a gift from God and writing is like walking in purpose. And who doesn’t want to walk in purpose?

Write the stories you want to hear

Write the Stories that you want to hear

In response to the movie, The Butler, someone commented on a blog that he was sick and tired of always seeing African Americans portrayed in roles of servitude and more importantly being applauded and celebrated for these portrayals. He ranted that there were hundreds of stories to be told, and not one of them was about a Black man serving dinner and coffee to rich White folks while decked out in tie and tux. It seems we rest comfortably around the same ‘ole stories, this writer suggested.

I can’t argue that many stories seem duplicates of others. We go with what’s brewing in pop culture or continue on in the vein of what we already know works. But the thing is, stories are about empowerment. Fiction writing in particular allows us to create based on experiences and that which is a reflection of our beliefs, hopes or curiosity.  These stories satisfy that inner self.  And whether I’m telling my story about my abusive husband or a fantasy about the guy in 1B it is somehow all a part of me. Perhaps you can’t relate or don’t want to hear it, perhaps my story depresses you or you’re so over tales of domestic trysts. But it is my hope and that of all writers that our perspective will be fresh and inviting and that our spin on things will enlighten you further or inform you more.

Yes, it’s true that the market can seem saturated with the same stories. I mean how many stories about failing sports teams pushing past adversity can one person see without their eyes rolling back in their heads? Remember the Titans, is a football team rising above racial segregation and discrimination; We are the Marshalls is a team triumphing in the wake of tragic death of a group of their teammates; Friday Night Lights documents a small Texas town’s obsession with their teams and the game of football. Yes, each story is about football. But each story is about more than football. And there you have the uniqueness of each tale and more than likely the reason the storyteller decided it was important to tell it.  All the stories highlight different themes, times and places in history and all are relevant. The passion of the writer, director and producer thought that their movie story hadn’t quite been told (O.K., money was kinda important but still…).

And more importantly most often we tell the stories of which we are passionate about. We tell OUR stories. We may draw from those around us or from something that was simply peddling around in our imagination. And if you change your story to tell one that will tickle the fancy of a critic, your creativity and imagination and the passion that drives you are all in some way undermined.

I’ll often have a friend or acquaintance, say to me, “boy do I have a story for you.” Most often it is not the story for me; it may be intriguing or begging to be written, but fiction and even non-fiction is unlike journalism it that the writer has to feel a need or an urge to write it. In other words, we need to care about it. Stephen King gets to choose his subjects, Gayle King doesn’t; she tells the stories given to her.

The thing is to let the story drive you, move you and motivate you. And for those of you who haven’t seen or heard the story that you want to hear, do as Terry McMillan did and write it or collaborate with someone who can write it for you. But dog nab it whatever you do don’t complain because someone else is telling theirs. Go on…write it…we are waiting. We would love to hear what you have to say.

What do you think? I would love to hear from you.

Be Heard, Be Seen, but Be Effective

It seems in this day of instant celebrity status being seen and heard is really all that we are after. It reminds me of those people that stand in the street behind the beat reporter waving their hands and smiling into the camera so they can tell their friends they were on T.V, even if the reporter was talking about an armed robbery.

We all want our 15 minutes. We want people to see and celebrate us, hear what we are saying, praise what we are doing.

I won’t lie, when I first started writing my novel I had hopes of sitting behind a table at the local Borders Bookstore with freshly printed copies of my book stacked on both sides and a long line of fans waiting to get their signed copies. They would smile and compliment me on my awesomeness and at the end of the signing I’d be gleefully spent.

Yep we all want our 15 minutes; we want our time to show off, shine and say to the world, “Look at me.” Lately I’ve been watching the train wrecks in the media. Superstars who are superstars because…well…they just are. When pressed for substance we’re disappointed but somehow drawn to them like the train wreck they are. It’s kinda like the kid who raises his hand in class, waving it like a maniac and when called he just smiles and giggles and can’t for the life remember what he was going to say (or so he says). But all eyes are on him anyway; he’s gotten what he was after.

After I finished my novel I took a long hard look at it and had to evaluate it for substance to make sure I was true to what was inside of me. I had to make sure that it didn’t just contain a couple of thrilling scenes, hot, steamy sex, knowing that at the end the reader would be peeved because they’d wasted their time and money in search of a good story and found nothing.  I had to stop focusing on me and work the story. And yes, for the record there are lots of books out there that are just for thrills. Cool. Fine. My thing is, if that’s all there is, the reader needs to know upfront. I want to be authentic and open to myself and my reader. Most of all I want to say what I came to say. And when that is over, the reader can close the book.

I am convinced that those of us who have a calling or an innate need to give something of ourselves on a large scale should be prepared when it is our time. Our gift or calling should be honed, practiced and evaluated. When we share it, it should have been perfected with purpose and intent. Whether what we do is serious or funny, simple or complex our work shouldn’t leave people befuddled or bored or frustrated. It should incite, anger, sadden; it should make things plain, make folks happy and provoke thought. But whatever the case, they shouldn’t be irked that you said you would and didn’t.

Fifteen minutes. For some of us that’s all we ask for. But if you are effective I guarantee your reader will ask you to stay around just a little while longer. That is my hope. That is my prayer.