Thursday, January 7, 2010

Full of thoughts...

Feeling alone most of the time in my bubble of writing, I decided in order to release the pressure that seems to build, I'd blog about it--about all the struggles I experience, my insecurities, confusion, thoughts...basically anything that has to do with my measly writing career. I'll save the other stuff about my kids, etc., for my other blog--my other blog I rarely update. :/

The writing community is a big and scary world and I feel completely inadequate to take it on. However, I am bound and determined to follow the dream as long as my family life allows me to do so. That's the trick--not getting swallowed in it. There are so many times I have to audibly reaffirm to myself that "I am a mother and wife first, a writer second." Sometimes I blur the line, and it's that I'm desperately trying to work on.

It's hard when you have something brewing inside you, a story you have to release, and you feel like if you don't you might self-combust. As with any artist, writing is my outlet and I feel a thriving need to submerge myself in it daily or I'll lose myself, lose the flow. Sometimes I feel it a struggle to explain that to my loved ones, that they don't understand, but it's my "anti-depressant," as my best friend put it. :)

Chloe, my wonderful best friend of thirteen years, is also a writer--one of a couple select friends of mine who share that same passion--and though we don't talk nearly as often as we should, when we do I feel lifted that there IS in fact someone else out there who experiences the same things as me--so similar it's uncanny!

The way I was drowning in the unknown when writing my first book, unsure of its worth and second-guessing myself constantly, the way I went about things COMPLETELY the hard way--she experiences it, too. Everything I feel, the concern about what other people might think, especially loved ones, feeling as though at times it's all you want to do, getting so lost in a story and in the beloved characters you've created that it's all you can think about--I'm not alone! Even in my constant giving excuses I'd do when someone would ask to read it. Before I handed it off, I felt an annoying need to apologize ahead of time or explain myself for its imperfections and mediocrity.

Though I feel like I am the only one harboring this stuff, it helps immensely to know someone else, and someone I love, is experiencing them, too. Maybe that's why I wanted to blog. I love to talk about this stuff--need to, in fact--but feel as though it would be an enormous bore to most of my loved ones in my life, people that don't understand. This way, I get my feelings out there, exploit my struggles without bothering anyone who isn't interested.

An awesome story really quick about Chloe and I...

The first two years I wrote I kept it basically to myself, only told those closest to me. It all boiled down to embarrassment and inadequacy. It'd been something I'd never attempted, and have never even taken classes for, but it was something I'd longed to do for a while and decided to try it out. It felt safer not telling anyone. That way, if I really sucked, I didn't have to let anyone, including myself, down. :)

But turns out it was becoming a serious passion that I had no idea lived inside me. I learned and grew a lot as it progressed, but still held no mention of it, unless someone else mentioned it first. I'd talk to Chloe every few months (we haven't seen each other in years), but never mention it (I think my biggest fear was someone saying "Ooh, I want to read it!" and feeling too insecure in my work to let them). Then about four months ago or so, we talked for the first time in months, catching each other up on the latest news with our families, our high maintenance children who are all too similar, and I decided to mention it.

The funny thing is, a few days before that when I was thinking about Chloe, I imagined telling her and had this fairy-tale idea that it would be so crazy if she I found out she had been writing all these years, too. Neither of us had in the past, but we always seem to be on the same page with things in life, even though our lives are not connected by more than phone calls these years, that it seemed fitting. I laughed that off, and thought nothing of it.

But when I mentioned it to her, we were both surprised to learn we have BOTH been writing out first novels (mine was done at the time)! Almost everything in our situations is the same, except her knack is writing creative fantasy and mine is writing real life (sometimes I wish I had the creativity and imagination to write fantasy...).

Anyway, we talked again today, both feeling lifted by the end because it helps so much to share that with someone else that can relate. Our husbands that don't fully understand, even in their support, our families and friends whose opinions you value highly, but don't always turn out the way you wish.

I've written one novel, one short story, and am almost finished with my second novel, and it's all been a huge learning experience for me in finding my voice and the avenue of writing I want to follow. Now, in my second novel, I feel I've finally found it. I always felt insecure about my first one and even now when I look back at it I still do.

But as I said it was my learning experience. I will always love the story, hold the characters near and dear to me, but I will be realistic is admitting it doesn't show the extent of what I feel my literary talent has developed into. It was my first, the roughest of drafts, and in learning the "way of the business," it helped me in more ways than I can count.

I was serious about getting it out there, not about to give up no matter what rejections I got, but 10 submissions and 8 rejections later I've moved on, given up on it going anywhere. Not given up in a quitters kind of way, just realized it's not marketable. I've used it as the lesson it was, gained what I needed from it, learned a LOT about what not to do, and have moved on.

I have SO appreciated everyone's help and feedback who've read it. I've gotten nothing but good comments (and great advice from a good friend, Steve, who is also brilliant in my opinion), but I always referred to it as "juvenile," for lack of a better term. Then in talking to Chloe today, she mentioned the word that I feel fits it perfectly: easy. It might appeal to many because the story is simple, and the writing easy to follow--even to those who've not had much experience reading. It's a cute story, but in reality not marketable.

I look back on it now and almost cringe. I feel as thought I have come leaps and bounds since then and have finally found the voice I desire to represent myself. Part of finding that was in writing my short story (really short story--under 2 pages). I was extremely proud of it, the writing on the page sounding just like I wanted it to--unlike Season of Change, my first novel, where I constantly second guessed myself, read it back and wondered if it really sounded the way I wanted.

And again, with the amazing help of my friend Steve, I was able to learn a lot more about writing just from that page and a half (I told Steve after that that I should pay him to be my English teacher to make up for not ever having one). However, though in literary terms I felt immense satisfaction, I realized not everyone will feel the same way. Others, especially those who don't make reading a passionate pastime, may not get the double ended meanings, the symbolism. Others may be bored, unable to break it down and see the writing the way I intended.

I realized that when Dave, my wonderful, supportive husband, read it and had absolutely no comment. It was hard not to laugh at myself, get discouraged, but I had to come to terms with the fact that Dave has no English or literary background whatsoever, and that avenue is not up his ally by any means.

I've even started reading him my new novel, feeling ten times more confident than when I read him my first, and oddly I've come to the sensation that he doesn't see it for what it's worth, that he actually enjoyed my first, less well-written novel more! I didn't understand and it made me start to second guess my gut that told me it was good. I started doubting myself, thinking it must be horrible, but again, in talking to Chloe today I realized that though he might be biggest supporter, it's just not his genre. Dave doesn't read much, has always hated literature, so I can see why this might be more boring to him.

I realized that there are ALWAYS going to be people that don't fit in the group that will love your work--even if they are your family. What I've learned (and not just from Chloe, but I also had a stimulating conversation with my sister, Heather, about this a few days ago) is that you can't appeal to every audience. You just can't. But there IS an audience out there that happen to love reading what you are writing and have been waiting for it.

Ultimately, my goal in writing what I love is to write something someone else will love--even if it isn't my family and friends. That's what it all comes down to. I've also learned that writing is the fun, easy part and after that's done, that's when the real work begins. At least I know what to expect now. For the most part.

Something else that has been weighing inside me lately (and this is the gist of what Heather and I talked about) is how to uphold to my standards as a member of the LDS church and still write what moves me. Now, I am not one for sexually graphic books. I find them extremely offensive and they just plain make me sick to my stomach. The few times I've got a novel, started reading it, and have found it actually a smutty romance novel, I've felt like I had to shower afterwards just from stumbling upon the words. It's extremely disappointing to be into a good story and have to stop it to preserve your sanity.

Anyway, so what I'm saying is I don't write that stuff, never will. I will also never use the "F" word or take the Lord's name in vain in a novel, because some things are going to far in my opinion. However, I feel as though I'd be cheating myself if I didn't hit on the realities of life--the sometimes dark and sinister, less clean ones. I haven't censored myself much in my new novel (besides those strict guidelines I mentioned earlier) and have been worried about how that might look to other people--I can think of a handful of family and friends who I worry might be "disappointed" that I've "let values slide," or not portrayed my faith in my writing.

Let me point out, because I'm sure I'm making it sound MUCH worse than it is, that to a normal person, what I write is perfectly normal and respectable. I know many people that have high standards as I do that read projects of equal content and enjoy them. My concern is that, will people hold me to a higher standard, knowing I'm a member of my church?

I shouldn't worry so much, but I can't help it when I think of certain people reading my book and coming across an occasional cuss word, or less respectable thoughts of the characters.

We are all human, all have flaws, and in my writing I enjoy that I can expand on that. It's real life and that's my liberation as a writer--to write what moves me. As Heather so brilliantly put it, I am not writing to represent the Faith I am a part of, but I am an INDIVIDUAL who is writing about life, who just so happens to be a member of the church I am.

I always got annoyed with people when I was younger who would appreciate something less "worthy" because it was "art," but now I can say I understand (to a certain degree, of course...let's not get extreme). I love to appreciate literature for its brilliant writing quality, despite the fact that some of its content might be hard to stomach (besides the written pornography I mentioned earlier, of course). Good writing is good writing and should be appreciated.

Where am I really going with this? Haha...I'm not so sure. I kind of went off on a rant. But I guess that's what the point of this blog is, right?

Anyway, even before I started writing, I always thought that if I did become a writer, I'd want to keep my religion separate. Writing about things and relating them to gospel principals scares me, frankly. The last think I want to do is write something and have our religion--the thing I hold most near and dear to me--judged or taken out of context because I inappropriately represented it. I think it's great that people can write good, LDS related stories and I commend them for that. I just don't feel I'm up to the task, and honestly a part of me doesn't want myself to show through my writing. My writing is something I've created, not me in any personal way.

Anyway, that being said, I am a devoted member of my church and know it to be true with all my heart, and therefore intend on keeping my stories at a level where I won't "compromise" mine or any of my readers values, regardless of some of the raw material in my projects.

Being the peacemaker and pleaser I am, I felt the need, though probably unnecessary, to put that disclaimer. :) I know this post probably beats most in longest blog post of the century, but now that it's started, I'm sure shorter posts are to follow--little blurbs and vents about my thoughts here and there. And thanks to anyone, if there is anyone out there, who has the patience to read it. :)

5 comments:

Christa Johnson said...

it feels like I just cracked your head open and looked inside it. It was pleasant to read and I don't mind reading any and all of your rants about writing. I agree with you on so many points, the thing I struggle with the most is "letting myself write", which means stepping away from the laundry, dishes, etc. and letting myself bask in the creativity of writing for a bit. I think we all owe that to ourselves and I commend you in your endevours.

Travis'wife said...

Have you read Ender's game? It's written by Orson Scott Card, an LDS member & he had a ton of cuss words. You've got to take a book for what it's meaning, representing, not judge by the author sometimes. Although I don't like hypocritical authors either. I don't know. Good luck.

Coltharp Golden Years! said...

Thanks for giving me a look inside of YOU. I love that you have let us in and are not ashamed to express what you are feeling and thinking. As your mom, I wish you every success in life. Everything you do, whether it is "successful" or "acceptable" to others makes you who you are, for the journey is much more than the end result. Your journey will take you in many different directions. I believe that one of your greatest gifts, Jennie, is your ability to express your innermost feelings and to reach within yourself for expression and fulfillment as a daughter of God. Creativity is one of the most precious gifts God has given us, and it comes in many forms. It is part of our divine heritage. So take your paths and reach for the stars...everything that is noble is within your grasp. You'll figure it all out. Enjoy it and embrace it! I love you!

dmaismith said...

Writing is so personal--even a work of fiction can be a glimpse into the writer's inner self and it is scary to let others see that. And we all want to be taken seriously and unless a person is a "successful" writer I think it may be hard for some to say, "Yeah, I'm a writer--so what if I'm not published--yet!" I like to hear that you acknowledge that part of you. And, like, you I have many friends who are writer's who don't want anyone to read what they write--Russ let me read the novel he started for National Novel Writing Month--and I am honored since he won't let me read his first one. One thing I enjoy about my career is I get to meet a lot of authors and hear them speak about how they broke into the business. It is a ton of work and rejection--they usually have a few novels written before they are published. You should see about attending a writer's conference. There are many in the Provo area that aren't terribly expensive and you have family there to stay--plus, they bring in some really well-known authors who offer great tips.

Kadie said...

Wow. I totally feel a lot of the same way you do. Except that I'm still trying to finish my first novel. :) I've always had a burning desire to write, although I don't think it's as potent as yours. But I love it. And I hope someday I'll get to read some of your stuff. Miss you tons!