Tag Archives: writing

My Cloak Of Invisibility

I’m at the final stage of editing my children’s novel. I should have been done long ago, but I’m a recovering perfectionist and I saw how rejection killed my spirit at a conference in New York City last January. I’m also a wife, a mom, a semi-regular columnist and a woman who’s trying to do way too much. Like many writers, I’ve come to realize that the long sought dream of shutting myself in an office to write doesn’t materialize as often as one might think. I hear there’s an invisibility cloak in the making, like the one from Harry Potter, and I’d like to order one.

In addition to writing my first novel, I’m trying to keep track of a dog, a rabbit, a houseful of painters working on three floors of our home, groceries, dry cleaning, music lessons for three kids, my own exercise and sleep, critique group meetings (missing those far too often), staying in touch with friends (and often doing a lousy job of it) and family (not successful there either, I’m afraid).

The worst part is, Halloween‘s approaching. I’ve been hiding costume catalogs from my kids because I just can’t take one more thing right now.

I’ve thought many times that I might have ADD. If I had the time, I’d get diagnosed.

Yesterday, I was so proud of myself for heading to a quiet office to edit for several hours. As I drove to this little beacon of solitude, I felt guilty leaving my husband and kids on a gorgeous Saturday. What a perfect day for the beach. Skipping a day of Indian Summer in Chicago is as wrong as ordering a pulled-pork sandwich on a cell-phone during a bar mitzvah.

What I’ve learned is that writing a novel you care about (is there any other type?) takes longer than you’ll ever imagine. You live and breathe your characters. You look at the world through their eyes. When you love your characters, you know never to force their words or actions, lest they appear on the page as anything less than authentic. As a reader, you want the author to stay out of the way so the characters and setting and plot and movement all work in tandem to transport you into another world.  The ironic challenge as a writer is to inhabit your work so completely that you actually make yourself completely invisible.

I’m riding the waves of this journey. The trough I’m in right now feels so deep and dark. The revision and editing process is “the best part” for some, but not for me. It’s hard. It’s cumbersome. It’s tedious.

It’s also necessary.

I’m declaring now to anyone reading this: the revisions will be complete by the end of this month and the manuscript will be in the hands (or on the screens) of multiple agents before Halloween. This might mean my kids’ will be mummies wrapped in toilet paper this year.

I hope someday they’ll forgive me.

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For Kids (And Adults) Who Love To Write

Thank goodness you’re here, because I know you’ll understand what I’m about to say.

I’ve wanted to write since I was little. I know you have, too.

If I ever see a scrap of paper, I get excited. You know the feeling.

A blank Word document on a monitor feels like a gift.

My hands usually to catch up with all the thoughts in my head. I love the feel of a keyboard under my fingertips or a pen in my hand.

I used to be a kid who loved to write. I’m 43 years old now, and I officially began my “writing career” when I was 40. I still have so much catching up to do, but one of the things I promised myself is to share whatever I learn, especially to kids who were just like me.

So, here’s an open letter to any kids (or the adults they’ve become) who love to write and who want to do it as much as possible:

Dear Writer Friend,

You realize how good we’ve got it, right? Our love of writing opens worlds beyond description, and not just on the page. Writing things down is just part of the wonderful world we’re part of. Talking about writing, sharing our writing, and reading others’ work adds so many layers to our own writing satisfaction.

There are lots of people who write, but true writers share a language of understanding with one another that is like no other.

Those of us who love to write are so fortunate. Ask anyone who loves to write and they’ll tell you it’s just something deep inside that needs expressing, and the options available to express that need are limitless. Journals, essays, poems, novels, blogs, short stories and letters are only a few of our choices.

True writers cross-train when they’re “stuck”. A novelist can take a break from her conflicted characters and write a magazine article for other writers about conflicted characters. A magazine writer can stretch her writing skills by outlining a picture book. A picture book author can sign up for a conference on eBook writing to learn how to share her work with more readers. The options keep going.

The writing community is like a family. We’ve got the crazy uncles we’re a little embarrassed by, the gentle, grandmotherly types who remind us we’re the very best in the whole wide world, the bossy sisters who try to outdo us, the cousins we see only once a year and wish it could be more often. We’ve got younger siblings who look up to us, and older, wiser siblings who take risks and show us the way. The family of writers is full of opportunities to learn from others and, most importantly, about our own talents and interests.

Keep writing, even when you’re tired. Keep writing, even when you wouldn’t share your work with your worst enemy. Keep writing until you feel written out…then write some more. As a writer, the best part of you is your deepest, most honest core. That’s where your voice is. That’s where your strength is found. That’s the place you’ll want to write from. You won’t always reach it, but it’ll never, ever go away.

Sincerely,

Your Fellow Writer

P.S. If you’re a kid who can’t wait to be published, look into places like these to practice your skills.  Most of all, have FUN, and check out these great websites for inspiration:

Amazing Kids Magazine:  Here are the submissions guidelines

Click here for Websites for Young Writers.

Resources on Kids Learn To Blog

Genna’s World, endorsed by the Newberry Award Committee.

KidPub: Books and stories by kids, for kids.

Aaron Shepard’s Young Authors page.

The Young Voices Foundation, mentoring young writers.

The Betty Award writing contest.

Poetry and Essay contests: Creative Communication

Creative Kids magazine (and writers’ guidelines)

Launch Pad magazine

Stone Soup

Magic Dragons

Motivating Other Kids To Blog

Where else can kids hone their writing skills?

Writing Is My Exercise

Mike crosses the finish line -- 2004 Chicago Marathon

When my husband was training for the Chicago Marathon, he’d get “squirrelly” when he didn’t get his scheduled training runs in.  I learned that it was easier to move my schedule to accommodate these 1 or 2 hours of training to keep peace alive in our home.

I’ve come to realize that writing is MY exercise.

I’ve heard that writing is often compared to an “extreme sport”, and I felt the power of that label yesterday.  I didn’t get a chance to write because of a number of unplanned things, including an impromptu trip to the endodontist’s office and a cable/internet snafu that unplugged me from the world.  The internet is back up and running, and I’m feeling better, albeit bitter:  I never had a chance to sit down and work on my novel.

Clearly, this is not the end of the world; there are far greater things to be edgy over than a message on a computer screen saying “unable to connect to server.”  However, I’m still edgy.

I’ve come to realize that I have a physical and emotional need to write.  It helps me focus.  Writing grounds me.  The act of sitting down and consciously channeling thoughts from brain to fingertips to keyboard is, well…let’s just say my endorphins kick in.  I feel refreshed after I write.  I feel whole.

I’ve noticed, too, that I learn something every time I write.  Sometimes I learn new and interesting things about the characters I’m creating.  Sometimes I learn that I have a loooooooong way to go in my writing skills.  But every time I write, there’s a discovery.  And that feels like progress in itself.

I’ll try my best not to skip my daily exercise of writing…even if it’s just a mini-session.  As Suzanne Harrison recommends in  “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Authors”:

Write every day

Joyce Carol Oates said that she would write, even when her soul felt as thin as a playing card, because somehow the act of writing would set it aright. There are going to be times when you just “don’t feel like it”, but like any other job or activity that is important to you, you must still, somehow, sit down every day and write. It has been said that it is by sitting down every day to write that one becomes a writer. Stephen King writes every day, including Christmas Day. Whether you are working on a book, story, article or nothing, still sit down and write something every single day. Even if you only write one page every day, that’s 365 pages in a year and that’s a whole book, isn’t it? When you are a writer, you cannot not write, and writing is like breathing. You have an urge to put things down in print, so to keep that fresh and alive, you need to turn that tap on every day. It’s more than practice. It’s life.

Write every day

It may not always be easy.  It may not always be pretty.  It may feel like slogging (for me, it often does).  But it will come together, and the finish line will be crossed.