Wednesday, November 23, 2016

I Don't Want a Pickle

By Laura Mahal

Yesterday, during a productive meeting of our critique group, one of my band-mates – I mean – fellow writers, broke into a spot-on rendition of Arlo Guthrie.

For the first time in weeks, an honest, joyous laughter filled the room. Thank goodness for lyricists, musicians, painters, poets and artists of all stripe and denomination.

Can I get a shout-out for writers? Go ahead. I’m listening.

Writing is purportedly a rough business to break into… as for me, I’ve been following the baby-steps prescription that was recently offered at a one-day genre fest, co-sponsored by the Colorado Writing School and Lighthouse Writers Workshop. Courtesy of their bright minds, I offer you a complete wheel of writerly success.

It looks something like this (minus the snack table in the back of the room):

1.) Finish a novel. Or a memoir. Or a picture book. 

Whether you do this via a National Novel Writing Month frenzy, or a measured multiple-year approach, Just Do It. Hire people to nag you until you triumph. You can do this. I know you can.

2.) Don't Twiddle Your Thumbs. 

While you are waiting for the first of many literary agents to recognize your brilliance, actively submit essays, short stories, and flash fiction. (Comic strips, op-eds, and online recipes work, too.) Some writers aim for a rejection goal. Fill a trash can. Paper a bathroom. Submit-a-lot, Publish-a-lot.

3.) Learn to separate yourself emotionally from your art. 

Pour the purity of your heart into any new creations. (Our world needs soul food. Do remember to feed your dog and your fish, however. They need physical food.) Recognize that any work you are submitting now resides in the business world. A pass from an agency isn’t a sign that your life goals are awry. It’s simply a “not now,” “not for us” communication. Translation? Keep at it. Don’t allow yourself to despair.

4.) Continue to dream up new projects. 

Write another book. (Bigger and better than the last.) A steady output of material means you are honing your craft – putting in the necessary hours to become a professional artist. You are building the neuroplasticity needed to improve. 

5.) Actively participate in a writing community. 

(Might I suggest Northern Colorado Writers?) Find a critique group that is willing to build you up as a person while tearing down your work, serving cashew-based vegan dips and singing Arlo Guthrie songs.

6.) Grow in your writing. 

Last but probably most important, focus every fiber of your being (or as many threads as you can spare) on your craft. Set your sights on creating the most beautiful piece you’ve ever written. Write like your life depends on it. Or your community is sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting to read it.

Don’t stop if someone tells you “you can’t” or “you aren’t good enough” or “who are you trying to

Believe, because “anything can happen, if you let it.” (Thank you, MaryPoppins the Musical.) “Stretch your mind beyond fantastic. Dreams are made of strong elastic.”

A little further inspiration: How Creative Writers Will Savethe World.

The world will thank you for your efforts and the fruits of your labor. And someday, somebody somewhere will sing your praises.

Let’s all fight the good fight, and Write On.


Louise Frager said...

Lots of good ideas.

shenke said...

Great giblets of wisdom here!

Ronda Simmons said...

Great, solid advice and just what I needed to hear. I think that it is especially important to keep trying new things, and never pass up an opportunity to submit. Now I want a pickle....

Laura Mahal said...

Thank you, Louise, Sheala, and Ronda. Some people aren't overly fond of giblets (even "giblets of wisdom.") But most people agree, they do make a mean gravy. And culinary studies have proven that pickles are good for us. :-)

I really do believe that we can all "get there" = fabulously successful in our writing careers. But much more important, loving every single day we have the opportunity to sit in a chair and write.

I was recently interviewed for winning a regional flash fiction award. The fact that I set aside my writing while my kids were little was a choice I do not regret. As I see it, my various life experiences and travels have enriched the bucket of "material" I can draw from...

Thanks for reading! And by all means, Write On.

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