It’s time for my final curtain, dear friends. This is my last official post for TKZ. It’s with a heavy heart that I write this, because I’ve had a blast with you the past several years.
TKZ was the first and only group blog for which I’ve written regularly, and I couldn’t have chosen a better one. I can’t think of a more experienced group of writers writing about writing on the Internet. While many other group blogs have become weighed down with self-promotion and infighting and prima donna grandstanding, TKZ has only gotten better with time.
You, dear readers, are our better halves. You’re talented and curious and smart. You make it a pleasure to show up–whether it’s to post or join in the comments. Please give yourselves a big round of applause.
It’s often a challenge for me to come up with blog topics about writing that I think will interest you. My interior life is chaotic, and writing fiction is still a mystery to me after three decades of writing. When I finish writing a book or story, the memory of how I did it dissolves with time like Kool Aid mix in water–and nearly as quickly. It’s tough to delineate a process that I can’t precisely recall. While I am a person of a certain age, it’s not that I’m going dotty. It’s just the way my ADHD brain works. I can hyperfocus on something so that it becomes a delicious experience that engages my senses so fully that I find it difficult to return to reality. It’s a dreamlike state, and, like a real dream, it dissipates and disappears. When things are going well, a dozen pages of writing is left behind. The challenge is dodging all the shiny objects that seem to throw themselves at me when I’m trying to get back to the dream again.
If it sounds like I’m telling you that writing is magic that can’t be taught, I promise I’m not. I attended writing classes and workshops during the first six or seven years I was writing. (And I have to tell you that if you pay attention to the craft and critique pages here, and you write regularly, and read, you will get a solid writing education without paying a dime. Just sayin’…) Writing is not magic. It’s a combination of art and craft.
So, I hope you’ll forgive me for all the posts I didn’t write about how to plot, or create a character, or remind you to number those pages. (Seriously, Manuscript Rule 1 is number your pages!) We all have different strengths, and different gifts.
You know I love a list. Here’s a list of a few thoughts about writing and the writing life I’d like to leave with you.
— Read indiscriminately. Read the stories that you know will please you, and read stories and writers that will challenge you. Read out of your preferred genre and your culture and your comfort zone. Good writing is everywhere. Learn from it.
— Write bravely. I won’t lie. Brave is hard. The more of yourself–your feelings, your experiences, your ideas, your imagination–you put in your work, the better it will be. It may seem that both publishers and our contemporary society are currently offering writers very narrow lanes in which to write. It’s tough to be brave when you’re feeling pressured and walled in. Be brave anyway. That’s where your best work lies: beyond the walls.
–Let yourself be envious, then let it go. Too much envy is poisonous, but it’s a totally normal feeling. If you feel it, that’s okay. Let it motivate you to write better, be better. But use it and let it go before it turns on you. The phrase love and light sounds like the stuff of an SNL skit, but it’s kind of useful. Pile coals of kindness on the heads of those who make you itch with irritation. Their journey is not your journey, so keep your eyes on your own paper and do your own work. (Did I get enough platitudes in that paragraph?)
–Don’t be a dick. If you achieve any kind of success–from being the first in your writing group to sell a story, to being the only one at a table full of established writers to have made the bestseller lists–don’t be arrogant. Retain (or cultivate) some humility, if only because you never know when you’ll get surpassed or taken down, or by whom. Otherwise, it’s just a good idea to be nice. Cheer others’ successes. It’s true that someone might forget that you offered them congratulations on their Facebook page, but they won’t ever forget if you only ever talk about yourself.
–Don’t bore your reader. If you’re writing and you find you’re getting bored, stop what you’re doing immediately and try something different. If you’re feeling bored, chances are your reader would already have wandered off.
–Publishing is a crapshoot, and there’s an element of luck involved. Raise your odds by submitting (to an agent or publisher or beta reader) your best writing, packaged as a clean manuscript, and ask for help, advice, or representation in the most polite and charming way possible. Keep in mind that there are a huge number of not-very-well-written books alongside terrific books released every week. Just because you get a rejection doesn’t mean your writing is bad.
–Write what brings you joy. Or scares your pants off. Or makes you cry in a good way. That way lies authenticity (always good) and personal fulfillment (even better).
That’s it. I’m done. In Frank’s immortal words: I did it my way. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your kind attention. Stay in touch. Write like the wind! xx Laura