On Finding Your Tribe

It’s always amazing to me how spending time with other writers, and learning more about writing, can leave me so incredibly invigorated.  This past weekend, I, along with some of the other borrowed solace editors, attended the Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference (PPWC).  The very first blog post that I wrote on this site was inspired by the first PPWC that I attended, so now, after my third conference, it all really seems to have come full circle.

The theme of this year’s PPWC was “It Takes a Tribe.”  At first, I honestly did not get where this theme came from.  It seemed very different from the types of themes that the other conferences I attended had, and it didn’t make sense to me.  I am more familiar, I suppose, with the saying “It Takes a Village,” and so I think I associated these two sayings in my mind.  The thing that made this even more troublesome was that I had only really ever heard “It Takes a Village” in reference to child-rearing.  The mashup of both of these phrases in my muddled mind did not leave me with a clear idea of what this conference was going to be about.

I quickly learned, though, almost as much through just physically being at the conference as through all the different programming and keynote talks, what this theme means.  I have my own tribe.  I don’t always thing of it that way, but some of my best friends and trusted confidants have come to me through writing.  There are still friends who I met in a writing group or class four or five years ago who I talk to or see on a regular basis.  And these are the friends who critique my work and help me along on my many writing endeavors.  They are the ones who will talk to me about character arc or how to get into freelance editing for hours on end, and then pick up the conversation in the exact same spot we left off the next time I see them.

The thing that stuck out to me the most about this past weekend was that every single speaker and New York Times best selling author (there were many of them in attendance) had their own tribe.  I don’t yet have a tribe or fellow best selling authors, or well known agents, or editors at one of the big five publishing houses, but when each one of these now wildly successful authors was starting out, their tribe wasn’t there yet either.  Regardless, though, the common thread through each of these author’s stories was that their tribe helped them arrive to that spot.

One of the things that stuck out to me the most was from John Gilstrap’s keynote address.  He, like many writers, ebbed and flowed in and out of the writing sphere.  Life ended up taking him to lots of non-writing careers and stops along the journey that caused him to give up or stall on writing.  I think any writer on the planet can relate to this.  There are times when sometimes you simply do not want to write (see my last blog post, if you’re wondering if that has happened for me).  But then he mentioned how someone from a previous writing group/class, a member of his writing tribe, met with him after several years and said ‘how dare you not write?’

If we as writers have stories to share, gifts to give, words to writer, how dare we stop?  We should be so impassioned about writing that we can’t stop because our story is not over yet.

So take this as encouragement from my tribe to yours – keep going.  Writing isn’t just solitary, and it isn’t just something to do when you have time and space for it.  It’s a calling of sorts, somewhere to belong.  Don’t give up on that belonging, and if you ever need inspiration, just reach out to your tribe (or make one, by going to writing groups, events, and conferences).

I know I have been more inspired to write than ever since the conference.  Sure, it’s only been a few days, but as I’m on this journey of finding myself and excavating my love of writing from the grave it’s been in for the past year, I’ve come to a new realization that I am going to stick to this.  Writing is something that I come back to again, and again, and again.  It’s where my people live, and if that’s the case, how dare I not pursue it?

On Workshopping

Hello blogosphere!  Sorry I have been MIA as of late – this semester has been kicking my but, for lack of a better phrase.  I have been writing and typing like mad lately, finishing stories for my classes and publishing articles for Odyssey, and have unfortunately neglected my own little corner of the Internet.  Never fear, though, I’m back – at least for now.

Given my aforementioned stories that have been written for my creative writing classes at school, I thought I would focus on something almost exclusively done in said classes: the creative writing workshop.  Workshopping is crucial to being a writer.  It’s a pretty widely accepted form of garnering critiques and is how most college level creative writing classes are taught but, as with almost anything, there are positives and negatives to this form.  Up until this semester, I would have to say that my workshopping experiences have been largely positive, aside from a few snafus where I put my foot in my mouth in front of the entire class, but I have had some interesting workshops this week in particular that have left me with a sense of fear at the mention of the word “workshop.”

I find that sometimes workshopping is a tedious balance between a love fest, or a bashing fest, on a writer’s work.  It can be hard to establish the sense of what is appropriate and useful and what is unhelpful and sometimes just rude.  Letting a large group, especially of college students, have almost free reign on a discussion of their peer’s work can be tricky.  Like I mentioned, I’ve never really had a negative connation with workshops, but this semester has gotten off to a rocky start in terms of my two creative writing classes.

After experiencing an extremely disorganized workshop in which some student’s work received less attention than others, a workshop consisting of – there’s really no better way to say it – a big mouth who thinks they are better than everyone else, and a pretty brutal workshop in which both my story a classmate’s got picked apart by our vulturous peers, you could say that I am over workshopping altogether.  At least for this week!

All of this has made me realize the importance of establishing boundaries when it comes to workshops and the importance of carefully thinking through what you are going to say.  Sometimes things come across harsher than intended, and sometimes people don’t actually know what they are talking about (the constant “in my experience, life doesn’t happen this way” thing).  I’m not saying that I’m a perfect workshopper myself – I’m sure sometimes I come across in ways I don’t want to – but I always attempt to ruminate on my comments before saying them (if I can get a word in edgewise, that is).

I’m not quite sure what the purpose of this post was.  Perhaps a rant.  Perhaps a way for me to get over the bashing I went through earlier this evening.  Whatever it was, I hope it might inform some mysterious reader of how important thoughtfulness and balance is to having a beneficial workshop.  Without workshopping, writers cannot grow, but there must be guidelines to go by that allow for a pleasant and useful experience for everyone involved.

On Pretending

When I was younger, my sister and our friends would constantly play in a world of make believe.  We always had a flare for the dramatic, and liked to pretend we were orphans in the twentieth-century on a ship sailing to the untouched country of promise that was America.  If not orphans, than we were princesses.  Then we were spies, stealthily hiding clues across our backyard and trying to trick the other rival spy-team.  We went through a videography phase after I got my ‘new’ digital camera and learned how to use Windows Movie Maker and even made our own terribly cheesy action flick about a clumsy spy who ended up saving the world.  Although I’m sure if I saw it now it would seem awful, we were very dedicated and ended up with a thirty minute long mockumentary (before it was even a thing, I might add) including bloopers.  After we tired of spying, we moved on to being mermaids in the pool during the still heat of summer.  We were pretty imaginative little girls, and these bouts of pretending, and dolling up in the crazy costumes we made out of contents of the dress up bin, are some of my fondest memories.

Sometimes I feel like the job of a writer is to pretend.  I constantly feel like I am pretending to be “a real writer.”  The world of the writer seems to be one of make believe – where stories are published and paid for, where success is easily at hand, and where imaginary worlds become reality with only a few words.  Really, though, writing is tedious work with little reward, and I’ve realized that someone really can’t plan to become a writer unless they genuinely love their craft.  Just like my friends and I used to pretend when we were little, I have come to pretend in a new way as a grown up (take not that I use that term extremely loosely when referring to myself).  As adults, I think we all put on a facade and act like people we are not.  For different people that means different things.  For me this often means putting on a brave face and sending out stories that I have combed through a million times in hopes of getting a yes, or publishing my words on the internet pretending like I am confident in what I have written.  Oftentimes I feel a little shaky.  It’s tough reading the words of incredibly intelligent and talented individuals and then trying to live up to them.

I think that’s where I go wrong, though.  When I was little, I didn’t care if I was living up the expectations of others.  It didn’t matter that my friends and I weren’t putting on an Oscar-worthy performance in our spy themed short film.  It didn’t matter that our clothing when pretending to be orphans in the 1800s wasn’t historically accurate or even very orphan-like (I’m pretty sure old wedding gowns from garage sales weren’t the typical attire of orphans).  We created our own world, though, and we lived in it wholeheartedly.  That’s the key.  Whether I am a “real writer” or I’m pretending to be one, I need to just embrace the fact that I write.  It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not (hopefully it is), but I love writing.  I genuinely love crafting something out of nothing – taking a stark white page and filling it with someone, some place, and something.  My sincerest hope is that this something is actually worthwhile, but ultimately I’m the judge of that.  If I put all of my effort and time into creating a work of writing, then it is worthwhile.  Even if only to me.

Just like that spy movie was great to all of us while we were making it.  We must have watched it fifty times, just between the five of us who were in it.  We loved making that movie.  I love writing.  There’s success in that, even if it’s not the typical type.  Success is ultimately in doing what you love, and I’m certainly doing that.

Via Quotegram

On a;lskdjfoepc,eyxz

How about this title?  This is how I feel right now.  I am slightly (okay, maybe very) overwhelmed with life at the moment.  I like writing.  I love writing, but with the start of the semester I have been falling of the writing train as of late.  I keep getting textbooks in the mail, keep having meeting to go to because I am a teaching assistant this fall, and have been completely slammed at work (the weeks leading up to the start of the fall term are always absolutely insane in the financial aid office).

I know I’ve written almost this same thing in the past, but it is something I struggle with.  Finding time to write is hard, and trying to not beat myself about it is harder.  I know that I am busy – I work, go to school, am a teaching assistant, and am the president of a club at my university – but I’m not the only busy person in the world.   In fact, busy people are able to churn out books at an alarming rate sometimes.  Heck, even published and successful authors are insanely busy and still manage to write.

I think, though, that I am starting to learn to not listen to and compare myself to others.  I know I’ve written about this before, too, but it’s important.  Right now, getting my degree and being a successful and involved student on campus is of the utmost importance to me.  I hate to say this, but I will have time to write my book later.  I will also have time to resume writing my book once the semester has started.  I can write for small little chunks of time whenever I can.  I will still write, it may not be as much as I would like but I will write.

I will get there.  It’s alright if it just takes me a bit longer than I anticipated.

On Procrastination

This post might as well be called “The Story of My Life.”  As I type this (something that I have put off for several days now) I am putting off writing the book as well as writing an essay for my one summer class.  Isn’t that just great?  

For most of my life I have been a procrastinator.  It’s a tricky trap, the trap of procrastination, and once you fall in it’s virtually impossible to escape.  Procrastination has worked for me so far.  I have gotten through school with good grades.  I’m an English Major who writes her papers the day before they are due, and that has worked for me, but I don’t think that will work with the book I’m trying to write.

I’ve put off writing the book for a while.  It’s kind of strange, really, because I’m not sure why I keep putting it off.  It’s immensely exciting to think about the prospect of writing the book and actually having something so wonderful and complete.  It’s even more exciting to think about having something to send off to publishers and literary agents.  This is what I want to do with my life – to write.  So why do I keep putting it off?

I think that ultimately my procrastination stems from fear.  I’m afraid to put so much of myself into something and then have it be a flop.  Even if it’s somehow some huge success, that’s kind of terrifying.  I don’t know how to navigate the world I am trying to become a part of.  I really don’t know what I’m doing, and that’s kind of scary.

Procrastination is something that has never negatively effected me in the past, put I can’t put off writing this thing that I am so invested in any longer.  I’m excited.  Genuinely excited to write – but it’s hard to actually get to the writing at times.  I need to let go of my fear and let my old habits die hard (at least when it comes to the book) and actually do it.  I am writing, don’t get me wrong, but it is begrudgingly and at the last minute every evening.  I am going to (try) to forget the fear and just write.  I want this book to be magnificent – but the fear that it won’t be is not going to stop me any longer!

On Motivation

I’ve been trying to develop a plan of some sort for writing my novel since school got out.  I was feeling so extremely motivated to get this thing truly started, and subsequently finished, after attending the Pike’s Peak Writers Conference (PPWC) but after the spring semester ended I was truly on my own, and my motivation wavered.  Since the middle of May I’ve been in a slump, I guess you could say.  I’ve been writing – here and for Odyssey – but that was all.  I have a short story that I have been working on for almost a year at this point that I vowed to finish this summer, but it’s on a somewhat tricky topic and I may not end up finishing it ever…  But I was using finishing that story as an excuse to put of writing the novel.  That was a stupid idea, as I have come to realize in the past couple of days.

During the school year I am surrounded by people who inspire me to write more.  I am in classes where writing is the main goal and I’m involved in the writing club where virtually all we do is talk about writing.  I think I have taken this for granted, but now I realize the value of having a group of people to go to with any and all writing concerns.

I didn’t realize how significant this was, or how much of a slump I was in, until a couple of days ago.  I was on Facebook  and saw one of the members of said writing club posting an update on their novel’s progress.  They are doing extraordinarily well in getting to their goal of 120,000 words, and their post maid me realize that I am not doing so well.  It reminded me to reach out to everyone in the club about getting together over the summer, and also started some conversations about writing that proved very beneficial to me.  It’s motivating to see others that you know doing well in their writing endeavors, and really makes me want to have some progress to show for myself as well.  Talking to others who reside within the writing community is so incredibly helpful.  It’s inspiring.  It’s motivating.  It gave me the kick in the butt I need to really get going on my novel.

I can say, too, that as of today I seem to be crawling out of the slump.  It may be a bit soon to know for sure, but I’m already gaining more ground in the last couple of days than I have in the last couple of months.  I’m starting to put that “90 Days to a Novel” seminar that I went to at PPWC to use, and so far it’s working.  I have a synopsis for the book almost completely finished and an even better idea of what will happen throughout the novel, which is much more than could have been said for me a couple of weeks ago.  I guess the ultimate point of this post is to say that if you’re stuck, find someone to talk to.  Call up that friend you met at a conference or an old professor who always helped you out and talk about what they are writing.  Hearing what others are doing may just help you, and hopefully one day when they call you up the progress you are making will inspire them.  It’s all about finding motivation – so go out and find it!

On Planning

Finals week is quickly approaching, and I am so ready to be done with this semester.  This semester has been one of the hardest semesters I have had so far for many reasons.  This whole academic year, actually, has just been hard.  It’s always interesting to look back on the year, though, because more often then not, lots of wonderful things can come from a bad year.  That is most certainly the case for me this year.  Is the year really a ‘bad’ year then?

Regardless of the year’s merit, I am glad to almost have my junior year behind me and to move on to the summer.  I will be taking summer classes, which I am not particularly looking forward to (but they are necessary in order for me to graduate in a year, so there’s that) but something I am looking forward to is writing more.  A break from academic writing means more creative writing, which I am very excited about!

Because of the impending break from school and the upcoming opportunity to write more, I have been focusing a lot of my energy on planning the book.  Yes, it has been started, but I’m kind of thinking about scrapping what I have thus far and starting over.  That is the greatest temptation in a writer’s life, I feel – to scrap everything and begin again.  Actually, it pains me thinking about it, but at the same time it’s refreshing.  A new beginning for the books means, in a sense, a new beginning for me. There are many reasons I want to start over with what I have, and they mostly have to do with all of this planning I mentioned.

It all started in my American Literature class.  I know I just said that I am ready to be done with the semester, but one of the good things about being an English Literature student is the fact that my classes can inform my writing.  In this case, my class did just that.  We have been studying Sister Carrie, a novel by Theodore Dreiser from the late 19th century.  Although the book has not grabbed my interest, to say the least, it has given me some inspiration.  The book is a naturalist book, which essentially has to do with the way the characters are shaped by outside forces.  Sometimes these forces have to do with nature itself, and somethings they are more abstract.  For the main character in the book, Carrie, the forces are more abstract – the big city, money, power, and fame.  For Cassie (the main character in my book and coincidentally very similar in name to the main character in Dreiser’s), these forces are going to be abstract as well.  Some of them will be the same (money and power) some of them will be different (heritage, family, and legacy).  Having fleshed out some of these forces and the role that they will be playing in my story, I can then figure out the way that Cassie will be influenced by these forces and the way that she will, at least in some cases, overcome these forces.

I guess this was a really long way of saying that I am very excited to have finally begun coming up with some concrete details about my story.  Unfortunately, they don’t quite  fit with the voice and feel that I have going on in the book right now, so I am most likely going to start over.  It’s really only logical, since I began this book almost two years ago and have learned a lot about writing since then.  Cassie needs to grow up, just like my own writing has.  That is why I will be starting over.

And I couldn’t be happier about it.

On Writing

Sometimes I feel like a failure.  Last week would be one of those weeks.   Not only did I fail on the new blog venture, but I failed at some other things. Like going to scheduled meetings, turning in assignments on time, and this little thing called writing.  I came back from the Pikes Peak Writers Conference (post to come) feeling uber motivated and excited to start writing more – here, there, and everywhere – and then proceeded to to write nowhere.  It’s been a crazy few weeks and lots has happened, but this doesn’t mean that I should stop writing.  I must keep the motivation going so that I can really get somewhere with my first novel!

There’s so much to juggle right now with the end of the semester finally approaching (hallelujah) and the realization that I will be graduating sooner than anticipated (again, hallelujah but also complete terror) that it’s tempting to put writing on the back burner.  I need to be conscious, though, of the fact that this is not actually going to help anything.  If I want to become a writer, I need to write.  I need to put everything else aside and get some words on the page because a writer is nothing without words.

So for now, I will get the words out into the world here on this dinky little blog.  In the future, I’ll get the words out in a published book (fingers crossed).

 

Here We Go…

And so it begins.  This journey that I’m starting on will be bumpy I’m sure, crazy at times for certain, and hopefully one for the books.  I want to be a writer, and have goals of having a published novel one day.  For now, it’s a seemingly never ending process.  One that I am just now beginning, but that I am working to succeed at.  I hope that whoever you are, dear reader, you will come along with me on this journey.  The process is half the fun, after all.

Writing takes practice and practice takes time. So this is my practice.  My online journal, my collection of ramblings, and my digital records book. I’m in it for the long haul, and I hope you will be with me. There’s a saying that to be a true writer (pick me, pick me!) one must write a million words. So here’s 163 more to add to my count, and I’ll be back for more soon!

 

image