Friday, April 29, 2011

High Wire Act

Whenever I'm strolling through an art show or immersed in the work of a debut novelist, I can't help but wonder, "How do so many people find time to create?"

Life isn't structured to allow time to follow one's muse. Whether you want to act on the stage or dip your hands into clay or scribble down your latest story idea, the tedium of everyday chores bogs you down. Family members conspire to take the weekend away. Employers gobble up far too many hours.

Somehow, artists continue to produce. In snatches on the lunch hour, late on Sunday night--artists make fire. And thank the heavens they do: the world would be a cold place without them.

I don't know if any young writers will ever stumble across my blog. In the off chance that, one day, they will, here are a few pointers from a seasoned artist on how to complete that beloved work you've been hiding from family and friends:

1. Turn Off Your Internal Editor. If you're sitting down late at night after slogging through the 9 to 5, forget about perfection. It's more important to get the first draft down on paper--the entire draft. Whether you're writing a short story or a novel, you can't reasonably edit until you've made a complete pass through your story idea.

2. Find Your Tribe. Your boyfriend won't understand why you're desperate to write. Your parents may subtly question why so many years of education are "wasted" pursuing nebulous dreams. Ignore them. Find other artists who are struggling to produce. They'll offer useful feedback as well as sympathy when the going gets tough.

3. Don't Rush into the Marketplace. Take time to polish your work. If you haven't yet joined a critique group ... do. The competition for a readership has always been tough. To survive--and grow a readership--you need to present your very best work to the world.

4. Let Your Elders Inspire You. Precious few artists make it overnight. Most spend years balancing on the high wire, trying to earn a living while finding the energy to follow a heart's desire. Personally, I've always been inspired by comedian Billy Crystal. One of his finest quotes? "It took me twenty years to become an overnight sensation."

Here's hoping you get there a whole lot sooner.

30 comments:

  1. Thanks for a lovely post. And all very valid points you raised.

    ReplyDelete
  2. my name is Josh. Thank you for your posts on the writing/editing world. I am from northeastern Ohio (go Browns!) and I'm writing a novel about a girl who sees the Blessed Mother in a city called Chesterton, Ohio. :) What's interesting is one of the main characters is adopted from the Philippines, just like me :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey, Josh! I'm guessing you're the young man I just met tonight at the Life-teen event at the church. Chesterton, eh? Sounds like a city we both know and love :-)

    ReplyDelete
  4. You only get one guess ;) There is a Liberty Township in Trumbull County--my sister lives near there.

    Ha. You're no dummy--I knew you'd pick up on the Chesterton reference. Good call.

    and yes, the story has The Leaf, a local weekly serving a region east of Cleveland

    as you well know, we writers tend to become absorbed in the settings/plots of our books...in some cases.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Joshua, if we're admitting to influences in our novels ... my Liberty series features a pink Victorian mansion off Main Street in mythical Liberty, Ohio. The next time you're in Chardon, check out the pink house on North Street. Nope, not a mansion, but that house DID kick-start my imagination.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great post, Christine! Agree on all counts! (Although I'm lucky - my parents are incredibly supportive and always have been.)

    ReplyDelete
  8. All good pieces of advice, though part of #2 is inapplicable to me -- I happen to be dating the person who *perfectly* understands why I want to write and has a far better creative mind than my own. It's proven very helpful. :)

    I also recommend watching lots of Joss Whedon, who will get you good at dialogue in a hurry. (Oh boy, will he.)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Wonderful suggestions. Like John, though, my spouse is my biggest cheerleader. It really helps when you have someone begging you to finish so they can read it.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Jennie, John, Karen and Virginia--thank you for reading along. John and Virginia, you are both blessed to have a significant other who "gets" why you're driven to write!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Love this. I wish I would have seen this post way back in 2011.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading along, Leslie. I suspect most of us are frazzled: publish! Faster! Faster! In truth, the best prose arises when we take our time, allow ideas, characters and plots germinate.

      Delete
  12. Find your Tribe! That's a perfect thought, every artist of any craft needs others of like mind to help them grow. This was a great post, simple and to the point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, E.M. Most artists work in isolation--understandably--but we all need encourage from other professionals who understand our craft.

      Delete
  13. My wife doesn't really get the book blogging thing, so I understand the tip about finding your tribe. Sharing this on Twitter. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thanks for your tips Christine. Do you have any advice on how/where to find critique groups? I am unpublished, trying to get an agent for my first completed novel. Many thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Emily, check if there's an RWA (Romance Writers of America) or MWA (Mystery Writers of America) chapter in your area. It's easy to find critique partners through those groups. I'm not a romance writer per se but I do hold an associate membership with RWA. I'm not sure how MWA works, but RWA will help you find an online critique group if there isn't a functioning chapter in your area.

      Agent search: AgentQuery.com is a great site.

      Happy writing and thanks for leaving a comment.

      Delete
  15. really great tips, christine. finding our tribe, getting the draft out without stopping/editing, learning from those who have gone before us. i need to practice these tips (and remind myself of them) again and again. thanks! jeff

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi Christine, thank you for a really interesting post. It resonated with me as I am getting ready to launch my debut novel. Through the process I've learned that the people closest to you don't always understand why you write, that building a platform is a great support and a way of meaning like-minded souls, and that if you have a need to write you'll find a way. Thanks for your ideas about finding a tribe and for reminding us to write without editing in the first instance. Thanks again, Fiona

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fiona, it's difficult for a significant other or family members to understand why we're driven to write. I hope you find a critique group filled with supported authors who will cheer you on every step of the way.

      Many thanks for reading along.

      Delete
  17. I have to take any time I can get. As I'm writing this I'm playing WoW (an online game) with my fiance and writing because otherwise I'd be writing in the evening when I want to sleep. And I always get the best ideas when there is no paper in sight or I'm obligated to social events. It's a balancing act and leads to headaches. :) Fortunately, I don't have any pressure to write since I'm not published. But that also leads people to not take it seriously when I do want to be alone because to them it's just a hobby. It gets complicated.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ignore the naysayers and write whenever you can! Have you thought about purchasing a small tape recorder to keep in your purse? A simple way to keep the ideas flowing even if there isn't pen and paper in sight.

      Many thanks for reading along.

      Delete
  18. Christine...Great advice to young and not-so-young writers alike. My biggest difficulty is finding that "tribe." Maybe I'm not looking in the right places? Thanks for the inspiration and validation:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kim, the tribe is waiting for you! Have you checked out online critique groups, Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America or writer's groups on FaceBook? A few FB groups I like: Author Central, Talking Fiction, The Indie Exchange (actually a group for writers and bloggers) Indie Writers Unite. You'll also make lifelong friends by engaging other writers on Twitter.

      Family and friends try to provide support ... but only other writers know exactly what you've been through, and will go through, before and after publication.

      Delete
  19. Had a great comment all thought out and typed in. Then my computer had a mini stroke and lost it. So I'll just say,

    Very useful post, Christine! Thank you for writing it. It has been very helpful in reminding me that I am doing things right, and that I'll be ok.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rose, if you continue to pursue your art with passion, you are doing things right. Too many incredibly talented people bail out at the first sign of rough seas. Learn from others whenever possible but hold fast to your singular vision. And good luck!

      Delete