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…