Tagged! Writing advice...
From this site.
The amazing Delia tagged me to write out three pieces of writing advice that I would like to share with others. It’s interesting. I have wanted to do a post like this for a while, but have always hesitated. Why? I don’t know…didn’t think I had the authority to give advice, needing so much of it myself? I guess I wanted to wait until I felt like I had THE answer—the perfect pieces of advice that would enable anyone (or, OK, me) to get off their excuses and start writing prolifically.
Sadly, this has not quite happened. But, upon reflection, I do think I have things to share—things that have helped me start, and continue, and start again.
Treat your material kindly: The writing books expound often on writing what you know, and that’s not what I mean here. I am talking about those moments when you feel gripped by a topic, or a theme, or a type of character. Sometimes I am dismayed by how much my stories tend to resemble each other, and I am embarrassed by how small they feel. I start to want to write about BIG subjects—war, or terrorism, or global warming.
And then I block.
Because, see, I am pulled towards the stories I tell. I want to write about those who feel like literature is what happened to other people. I want to leave a record of the heroism in these lives, even if the inhabitants themselves can’t see it. Because I can.
So I will continue to crawl over every inch of my material, like an ant who wants to see the whole world. I will continue to write about what calls me. After all, there are lots of people to write the tales of Big History. I’ll be here writing about the bodega owners who live above the store and Minerva the Cat Lady, who likes to drive with them tucked in a basket in her front seat, with access to the window.
Find your community—in people and in books: When I became a mother, I felt like I had already fallen behind. Because with the birth of my Madam, I also gave birth to a surprisingly fierce ambition. I had always wanted to write and had even made some serious attempts at it while I lived in Chicago. But something about holding my daughter in my arms, staring into her dizzying little face, made me long to BE something for her. To show her something in me that, prior to her existence, I wasn’t sure I had. I wanted her to be proud of me.
So I went online, found all of you, not all mothers (not even all women!) but all committed to your creativity and your passions.
And then I started to read books on motherhood and creativity. I needed to believe that it was possible, and the books told me, over and over, yes it is. I return to certain favorite essays often—Anne Tyler’s patient voice has pushed me back towards the keyboard on many days when I couldn’t see past my own irritation and exhaustion. I clutch Judith Cofer Ortiz’s stories about waking up at 5am when her children were small with gratitude (even if I haven’t been able to do that yet). And on days when I just cannot do ANYTHING, I remember that Patry Francis said that she didn’t manage any serious writing when her children were under six.
That seemed to work out well for her. And it gives me hope.
So find those books, those blogs, those people who make it all seem possible and use them to buoy you up when your own life preserver starts to, well, sink. To mix metaphors, if you put on your own mask first (like they say on the plane) you’ll be able to help someone else.
Show others what you can do: This was a tough one for me; still is. I went years without showing my writing to anyone outside of a writing class. It didn’t read like “real writing,” or else it was “too small,” or “not ready.”
Nothing has helped my writing more, and nothing keeps me writing like posting on this blog. Yes, the pieces are rough, unpolished, occasionally awkward. I am definitely experimenting. But your feedback, your questions and enthusiasms help me see my own work as something outside of myself. And that helps me to make it better.
It’s scary to put yourself out there, even in a safe place like a blog. It stings when people don’t seem to respond to a piece I think works. But…it’s good to see that.
And when you like something and tell me that it moves you, well, NOTHING motivates me quite as quickly. It makes it all feel real, and possible. Because it’s not theoretical anymore. Once you put a piece of fiction out, it’s an admission that it matters to you. You are not thinking about writing, you are writing.
So thank you for that.
As far as who I will tag for my three….so many great bloggers have been tagged already! But I don’t think I have seen responses from Amber, Jessie, and Deirdre, so those are my three.