Morning folks. I APOLOGIZE. I posted the weekly blog, though a quick one, to the new web page and completely forgot to mention it. PLEASE follow me to my website and check out the continuation of the Everything we needed to know series there.
HI FOLKS….just a heads up, that while for now I will continue to post the weekly blog here, it is going to be migrating and will be permanently housed on my website, abyrnemostyn.com. I will keep posting updates to remind everyone as the changeover occurs, but would appreciate all of those following to migrate with me as eventually this will be closed. Thank you all for the tremendous support so far…here’s to many many more years to come!
No, not time for the National Anthem or to play ball….but there are some valuable lessons here as we look to what we’ve known since we were small that enables us to be great writers. Let’s start with the anthem shall we?
The anthem was, and still is a rallying call to remember that we persevere through adversity (definitely a writing trait), but also the anthem was one of the first pieces that talked about the nation with a sense of oneness, of community. We became a “Land” of people and the “Home” of us all. Writing is that and more, a community. While writing is very much a solo endeavor at the writing stage, every last one of us is an individual practitioner in a community of writers…and what a community it is. Community and a sense of belonging is something that we learned in kindergarten too. The notion of where we fit and where our circle isn’t a life long learning curve, but the foundation was laid long ago as we learned our likes and dislikes. What a tremendous thing that as a writer we get the whole community, like them or not. *grins* Writing takes learning, and sometimes the best teacher is the one who stands in another circle normally, but is available to us through the writing community that is its own great big circle. The great thing I’ve found is that I haven’t met a writer yet who didn’t have something to offer if I was willing to hear…This willingness to be open or not brings us to another C – our Character.
Character is a compilation of several other traits together, also C words…confidence, care, and conceit. We want the first two but not the last. Confidence in our work is something that we need to have or find as we go from the writing to the networking and publishing part of our world. An editor, agent or publisher can give you a morale boost, but if you don’t have confidence in your writing or your ability to tell the story and sell it, you will be walking a long lonely road as that empty spot inside cannot be filled by others. Our friends and allies can help bolster us, but in the end we have to find the inner strength and fathom how to employ it to our purpose. Fake it til you make it, but make it.
Care is not only about our writing, but also about the writing community too. The people you meet and aid or enable in their work are the ones who are going to be there for you. The writing community is a giving community and the benefits are there for all to reap, but leave care at home when you come to the community and you will have to rebuild any ground you had gained as the community of nurturers will and do close ranks to aid those who are in need, but not those who prey upon others. Care is tantamount to success. You need to care about your work, your world, and the community at large. The urge to fan your feathers at the first great review is in us all and while being the proud parent of the work of wonder, we have to remember to reign back the conceit that can come. Pride is one thing, conceit is another, keep the difference clear in your mind and your heart as you go forward.
Last up today, we’re going back to baseball as the final “C” is a biggie and one we learn in sports, in kindergarten, in life. It is that as a writer we must be coachable. Participating in the community, giving care and encouragement to others, having confidence in our work and remembering to couch our pride before we get too big for our britches is all important, but we can lose it all if we fall short on this last big C.
We must learn to be coachable. Writing in some ways is a school of hard knocks. Ask any writer how many rejection slips they got before they were published and there’s sure to be a story there. Ask any writer how many revisions or edits had to be done before the work was final and publishable and again, you’ll get a tale. The point of having an editor, an agent, beta readers and ARC copies is to give you feedback on what’s working…and what’s not. It is what you do with the information about what isn’t working that will define your reputation in the writing world. People talk.
Sure, we all fell head over feet in love, lust, or hate with our latest and greatest and now someone wants us to change it. Before you have a tantrum and kick your feet on the floor remember a few things. One, we asked these people to give us feedback because??? We value their opinion and their place in the community. Why would we knee jerk to “no” if these are the people we are entrusting to get us, AND THEM, to the top with our story? They are not saboteurs, they are doing what we tasked them to do. Two, sometimes because of the labor intensity of the writing, we are too close to the story to be objective.
Passion is important, being able to moderate it to drive the passion so others can experience it too is the role of the coach. Choose your coach wisely and remember – they don’t send the star quarterback in against a defense carrying machete’s, they evaluate the situation, and call the play that is best for the situation to promote their team to a win. Likewise, you are not a lamb to slaughter and need to trust your coach to do their job as you do yours.
There is so much about writing that is simple if we are willing to look at it with fresh eyes and the wonder of our first day of school. So far we covered A, B & C and found some pretty simple but significant things that we have in our arsenal that have been there since we were learning the alphabet. I wonder what we’ll find next. Til then…
For some of us the notion of sitting at a keyboard or with pad and paper, pecking out or scribbling out a tale is the most daunting, ominous, overwhelming task imaginable. I am here to tell you that is poppycock. Everything you ever needed to know to do it and do it well you knew before you were ten, and much of it was learned in kindergarten. Don’t believe me? We’re going to begin at the beginning and I’m going to show you.
In kindergarten we learned many many things and over the next few months we’re going to pull that treasure trove of knowledge out and plumb the depths of memory for the things that we have known all along and forgot how to apply. Starting here and now today, with “A”.
Many of us knew the alphabet before kindergarten, and those who didn’t, had a wall of magic symbols displayed when we walked into the room each day to help us on the journey to this knowledge. “A” is significant in many ways, but for today it is the most important letter because it signifies the beginning…the only place to start. Julie Andrews spoke to the musical beginnings of do, re, mi….and compared them to A, B, C. Whether by rote memory or impassioned effort we learned that you always begin the alphabet at A and end at Z. Writing is no different. You begin at the beginning, be it an idea, an image, or a dream. Without the beginning the tale is lost and wandering as we all would be if we had to recite the alphabet from M out…it is a far more difficult task. Not impossible, but much more complicated and who needs that?
In kindergarten we learned another important “A”, accountability. Sharing, shame, homework, or shoe tying we became responsible for our spot on the rug and the things we were tasked with. We became the center of a microcosm where the world revolved around us, but we in turn revolved around others and had influence. We could bring joy or tears and at the end of it all when it was time to take out our towel and nap, we were responsible for doing it right then too. Little things became big things, but not all at once, instead step by step as we learned cause and effect of our actions or inactions. The unquestioned affection of our parents took a backseat for a time as we learned to play with others and exist in a world where our parents weren’t. These are all important beginnings and all translate into writing.
Accountability, Action, Affection, and the Alphabet. These four “A” words have tremendous impact on how we are as storytellers. Our action or lack of action will be the driving force behind the tale we tell or keep to ourselves and the accountability to finish the task will in fact determine if the tale, though perhaps written, ever sees the light of day. Affection for our work and the work of others as we learn that writing is a solo act in a community of others committing solo acts will influence the scope of our voice in the larger dynamic. Will we have a best seller? Will our story teach, or deter? What it will be is determined by the affection we have to grow it to its potential beyond the begining, but just like “A” is where the alphabet starts, so must we.
So, with our beginning and the big “A” words, pick up your pencil and begin. Any beginning is a good beginning. Any beginning is a place to jump into the magical symbols and create something bigger than ourselves. Will the world revolve around you when you are through? If you never begin the answer is a resounding “no”. But, if you begin, and remember that we crawl before we walk before we run, the cheer of the crowd and the tape across the finish line is one step closer than if you never do. It’s up to you. Find “A”.
How was the holiday? Did you get what you wanted? Did you get anything you liked at all? I and my family do not exchange, haven’t for many years, it’s about being together for us…so imagine my surprise at a card from my oldest. I share this with you because I have immense pride in my children, and something like this is vindication of sorts that on days when I’m not sure they get it….they do. A hand-made card that said everything that we as parents hope to hear. I hope your holiday was as special…
“Blessed Yule Mom & Papa
I know I say,
‘Don’t be mad’,
‘Let me tell you the WHOLE story first’, and
‘I can’t tell you’ alot.
I know you say,
‘Knock it off’,
‘Straighten up’, and
‘You’re better than this’ alot too.
For all of these, and the skinned knees, and the early morning drives to the poolhouse, the trouble with boys, the broken hearts, and the breaking up fights with my sister, Thank you. Thank you for unconditional love and for believing in me when I mess up. I know you have my back and love me no matter what. Because of you I know I can do anything.”
Yupp. I’m teary all over again transcribing it. I hope you all know and realize that everything we do or don’t do has an impact. Mostly, I hope you know that the most important THINGS, aren’t things….they are gifts beyond measure.
I hope your holiday was amazing and your New Year is doubly that.