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Month: May 2016

Let’s Get Naked

Let’s Get Naked

Today I have been thinking about writing…and about starting this blog…and about how terrifying that is.  Seriously, all of my insecurities, doubts, and frontal lobe rational thoughts start screaming at me when I even consider sharing my work with one person, let alone a blog open to the whole internet.  This leads to the question of why.  Why am I – along with many other authors – so reluctant to share my writing with others?  I’m not talking about first draft writing, nobody should have to see that stuff. I’m talking about, polished, edited, this is as good as I am currently capable of making this portion of writing right now, pieces of work.

I don’t think there is just one answer to this question, even for myself.  But, I think, in general, I hesitate to share my writing because of two broad factors.  The first is insecurities about my writing.  Man, do I have a lot of those, some of them justified, some of them all in my head.  I’m going to devote an entirely separate blog post to those, otherwise, you’d be reading this post all day. The second reason is what I want to focus on today, and that reason is nudity.

No, not literal nudity, but emotional nudity.  The stories that I write come from inside me.  They are my babies, nurtured in my mind and birthed onto the page.  Unveiling these inner workings of my soul to somebody, even a trusted friend, feels like literal nakedness.  Sometimes it is even worse because it is an inner nakedness, a vulnerability.  If someone reads my story and hates it, it is like they hate me as a person.  And it is hard, downright impossible, not to take that personally.  It’s ok if people think my writing is poor.  Writing is a technical skill that I am constantly growing and developing.  But if people read my story, see past the technique to the core, and still find it unworthy – that would hurt.

Sometimes this fear of having somebody see the real me, and disapprove of it, keeps me from sharing my stories with those closest to me.  My mom, my husband, and some of my closest friends have barely read a word of any of my novels.  Not because they didn’t want to, but because I was afraid of their judgment.  I was, and still am, terrified they will read the words and somehow think less of me.  I spent a long time, covering my writing body up with big sweatshirts and thick sweat pants, hiding it so that no one really knew what it looked like.  Until I found my writing buddy Kayla.

I like to think of Kayla as the gym, salon, and spa combo package that gets my writing body ready for bikini season.  I show up to her house naked (figuratively of course) and she has eyes to see the parts of my body that I can’t.  In a loving and gentle way she tells me, “you’re bum is a big saggy” (meaning your pacing here is a little slow), and “your arm pits are looking a little sasquachy” (aka you’ve lost the thread of your plot, are you going somewhere with this?) Then together with a yoga mat (high action adjectives) and a razor (delete button) we get my body of writing beach ready.  It is only because I trusted her with the nakedness of my raw story, that she can see its core value, and then help me improve both the story, and the writing supporting it.

She has to do a lot of work too.  It’s not enough for her to just point out the flaws, but she has to be able to provide suggestions to fix them.  I then get to take a look at her writing and return the favor.

I have seen huge results from this partnership.  Plot holes have been prevented, characters have been saved from the brink of bland, and scenes that I didn’t think I was capable of writing have been pushed through to completion.  And it all started with having the bravery to expose my writing.

Now, I am not recommending we start sharing our writing with everybody we can as soon as we draft something. That can create writer’s block from the anxiety of knowing what we write has to be good enough to share.  Rather, I believe as authors who do want to someday share our stories with the whole world we need to be brave enough to start by sharing with one person.

Just like our bodies, our writing, and our stories will never be perfect in everyone’s eyes.  There will be those who judge it unfairly and speak cruelly about it.  Having a supportive writing buddy helps keep me grounded and helps me distinguish constructive criticism, from hateful criticism.  That feeling of encouragement, support, and shared passion is why we started Silver Sky Press in the first place.

So what does it look like to be a good writing buddy, and to let your writing buddy do good work for you?

Buddies:

  • Look for positives as well as negatives: pointing out the good things along with the bad helps to build a writer’s confidence, and keeps them from getting caught up in their flaws
  • Supply solutions to a story’s problems: sometimes knowing what to fix isn’t enough, writers can get stuck and need help figuring out how to fix their errors
  • Be gentle but thorough: you are handling someone’s baby, but only giving compliments won’t help a writer to grow either.  Find a balance

Writers:

  • Don’t get defensive: your buddy is only trying to help, and yes it is possible for you to be wrong, hear them out before you decide they are in error
  • Be brave: big risks can lead to big rewards learning to be brave with one person can help you be brave with many
  • Be open about your insecurities: caution your buddy to avoid poking at areas you are self-conscious about, or better yet use their insights to help strengthen those weaknesses

These interactions happen between a writer and their trusted partner, but this also happens whenever an author publishes a book.  As a reader who also writes, I am making it my goal to see books through the lens of a writing buddy.  Instead of pointing out all the flaws, and why I hated the story I want to figure out what could have been done to strengthen the weakest parts.  I think this helps me as a writer, and it just might help out the other author as well. Let’s build a community, and a world where authors can share freely, readers critique graciously, and everyone’s stories are better for it!

Do you have a writing buddy?  If you do awesome!  Tell us what you love about them in the comments below.  If you don’t here’s a Facebook group – created by an awesome blogger – where you could meet your next writing soul mate.

Stay amazing my friends!

 

 

Getting your Literary Ambitions out of the Closet

Getting your Literary Ambitions out of the Closet

Have you ever been daunted by your dreams, or worse…ashamed?

I’ve been there and I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned since coming out of the closet. No, I don’t mean the conventional gay closet. I’m talking about the dream closet.

The dream closet is where all your ‘somedays,’ ‘maybes,’ and ‘if onlys’ are locked away never to become ‘todays,’ ‘will dos.’ and ‘absolutelys’. It’s where your hopes are held ransom by fear, and it’s where the greatest and most beautiful of dreams go to suffocate and die.

In the TEDxBoulder Talk We’re all hiding something. Let’s find the courage to open up,” Ash Beckaham defines the proverbial ‘closet’ as a universal experience and offers inspiration for getting out. But why? Why does every human being have a closet? Why would anyone force their dreams – the most precious, magical parts of their  soul – to live in a closet; in a place with no air, no light, no space, and no friends?

Everyone has a different excuse, but all of them boil down to one thing: Fear. We stay in the closet because we’re afraid.

Writer’s know this fear all too well. It’s the fear of the blank page. It’s the fear of perfection, of disappointment, of failure. And perhaps the worst fear of all: What will my parent/significant other/third grade teacher/complete stranger think if I come out of the closet and announce that I want to (gulp) write stories?!?

Such fears, however ridiculous, might as well be unbreakable chains of Gleipnir when you’re in the closet. I know, because not too long ago I was in the closet.

Like many of you, I wanted to be a novelist. But my dreams were in the closet and I was ashamed. Who was I to dream something so grand, so arrogant, so frivolous?

I wish I could tell you that I found the strength to face my closet door with bravery, but that’s not my story. I was like an out of control hoarder and I would have kept stuffing indefinitely, but only so much can fit into a closet.

As Freud will tell you, what is repressed eventually explodes. And that’s exactly what happened to me. My closet door buckled under the excessive internal pressure and I had two choices. One, cling to the door and die in the imminent explosion. Or two, open the door, woman up, and deal with the mess. It was tough but I choose option two, and this is what I discovered:

  1. Opening the door is hard. If it were easy everyone would do it. If your dreams never get out of the closet than you never have to try. You never have to risk failing. You never have to do anything.
  2. Ditching the haters is harder. Those who judge your dreams are doing so as a defense mechanism. They don’t want to confront their own closets and their own fears. Don’t let them get to you. Haters are gonna hate and Mark Twain sums it up best: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small People always do that, but the truly great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
  3. It’s worth it. The most powerful thing you will ever do is dare to pursue your dreams. It’s hard, but so what? Life is hard inside or outside the closet, so why not live the life of your dreams?

I’ve been out of the closet for a while now. Everyone who knows me knows about my literary ambitions, and I mean everyone – my parents, my boss, my friends, random people I meet in cafes…

I haven’t achieved literary greatness but the simple freedom of admitting to the world that I wish to write, that in fact I am in the process of crafting a novel of my very own, has transformed my life, and I wouldn’t give up that freedom for anything. When you let your dreams out of the closet you are choosing a hard road but one that makes life worth living. I hope all of you get out of the closet, keep writing or start writing, and never ever let your fears decide your fate.