It has been four months since I touched my novel manuscript. It is the only novel that I completed. I’m actually in the third draft, after having received input from friends and acquaintances who read the second draft. (Or maybe it’s the fourth draft after having people read the third draft?) In any case, I got that far, and stopped.
I’ve pined in my mind about not having enough time to work on it and assumed that was the problem. It was nothing but an issue of time. After all, a lot has been going on these past months.
But today I opened my “fiction books” folder in my computer, looked at the title of the document, and cringed inwardly. I got what I can only describe as cold feet.
I’m afraid of doing my very best with the book, putting my heart and soul and best grammar and most awesome similes into it … and getting rejected. I’m afraid of getting a stock letter back from an agent or publisher, saying it’s not what they’re looking for. I’m afraid of publishing it and not a single person showing an interest in it. I’m afraid of selling only two copies.
My mom often says, “Well begun is half done.” I know I’m over halfway there.
It is also said that, “He who hesitates is lost.” And I think if I keep on hesitating, I’m going to lose something. Maybe an opportunity. Or maybe just that sense of courage and tenacity that pushes through whether I get a rejection … or fifty of them.
Now that I’ve realized what’s stopping me, at least in part, I don’t want to hesitate any more. Even if none of my books are ever best-sellers, that’s not the be-all and end-all of writing. I need to finish what I’ve started and get it out there, for whatever it’s worth.
Whether the story is worth it to one person or ten thousand, it should be enough for me.
Because I’ve been called to write. It’s what I love to do. And writing, just like life, is not solely about the destination … but the journey.
I began working from home as a freelance writer and editor in May of 2010. In the three and a half years since then, it has been an interesting journey. This week, I completed my hundredth writing/editing project!
Every writing and editing project has been a learning experience. I’ve enjoyed getting to know many wonderful writers and I feel blessed to play a part in so many inspired and life-changing projects.
I’m grateful to each of my clients over the past few years and am looking forward to many more years of writing, editing and whatever else God has in store!
When I pick up my two older kids from school, they’re often bubbling over with everything that happened that day. Each one likes to be the first to tell me their stories. When the youngest is in the car with me, he likes to pipe in with everything he did as well. It’s stereo sound — with each speaker tuned in to a different station. Usually before I get to the first traffic signal, I have to tell them, “Okay, guys, I want to hear about your day, but if you all tell me at the same time, I’m not going to catch anything at all.”
It’s somewhat similar with the stories in my head. One more came to mind during the drive from California to Colorado for a recent writer’s conference. Another one yesterday, from a friend’s comment about a blog post I wrote, bringing the total number of outlines for novels in my mind to 45.
For a while, I wrote only under inspiration. Isn’t that how a writer should do it? Won’t everything be garbage that isn’t written during a time of perfect inspiration? That’s what I had thought, which meant that one day I would write a thousand words in one novel. The following week, I would write a few hundred words in a different novel. The next day a great scene for another novel would pop into my mind and I would be too busy to write it, so I would take a few notes and stash it away, promising to come back to it later. The result? Not much, actually, except a nagging thought that perhaps I didn’t really have what it took to write a complete novel.
I moaned to my husband that I had too many ideas and because I didn’t know where to start, I wasn’t getting anywhere.
“Choose one book and stick to it until it’s finished,” he told me.
What a novel idea! (Pun fully intended.) And yes, others had counseled me to do that very thing, but this time I knew I just had to discipline myself to do it. Like the kids in the car all telling me their stories, and me not managing to grasp any one story, I wasn’t getting anywhere trying to write 40+ novels at one time.
“But which story?” I was stuck again. My husband suggested one, a storyline I had told him about last year, so I went with it. (Okay, I’ll admit I had a second novel I was working on as well, in case the dreaded writer’s block came in the one novel … I could just switch to the other one.)
I began to write. Some days I was not inspired. Some days it felt forced. And some days I completely ignored it, not so happy with how it was coming together.
I also prayed, and asked as many friends and family as seemed remotely interested to pray for me as well. I printed out a prayer list for my daughter, and one for my son. And when I saw them sitting together on the top bunk one evening, taking tuns praying for my writing, I knew I had to finish strong.
My deadline was a month before the writer’s conference so I could get some critiques from friends and readers. And I met the deadline with a 77,777-word novel.
Is it complete? Not at all. It’s in the fourth draft, and I’m planning to do a fifth after a few more people critique it. But it is possible … to silence the other voices and to write. Just write.
Everyone has a story to tell. And if it’s time to get your story out, you’ll know … because it won’t let go of you. So if you have an idea for a book (or 10 or 20 or 50) and it won’t leave you alone, choose one and just write. Write a little every day. And keep writing.
And when you’re done, turn to the next kid (sorry, I mean story) and give that one a turn. You might be surprised at what you learn as you listen … and write.
Often you’ll find that what you “just had to write,” someone else needed to read. And that is one of the greatest joys of writing: touching another heart by opening your own.
Because like child, like novel … everyone has a story to tell.
If you write or edit, it probably won’t be long before you hear something mentioned about a writer’s “voice.”
I just finished reading Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass. He says your voice is “not only a unique way of putting words together, but a unique sensibility, a distinct way of looking at the world.”
Each one of us, when hearing a story – whether a true story or one made up – will filter that story through our own experiences and memories, morals and opinions, beliefs and perceptions about life.
If we were to relate that story to someone, it would most likely bear signs of our own opinions and thoughts in the telling.
That is, in a way, your voice. Not just the word choice or sentence structure, but the value you bring to the story. Value? you might ask. What value? Often, we don’t recognize our own value. Not just that we have something to say, but that we have something to say that someone else needs to hear. Do you? How can you know?
I just read about a popular place to die.
Yes, to die. It is a forest in Japan where people travel to commit suicide. Hundreds of people kill themselves there every year. Someone wrote a book on suicide – sadly, it turned into a bestseller – and recommended that forest as a good place to do so. Copies of the book have been found in the forest, among the final belongings of people who have hanged themselves there.
Imagine for a moment that you were there, in the forest. It is eerily quiet. They say it’s rare to hear even a bird singing. Now imagine you see someone, a young woman. She is in tears, holding a rope in her hand, ready to throw it over a tree and end her own life by hanging herself.
Assuming there is no language barrier, what would you tell her? What would you say to help lead her out of the dark forest surrounding her soul and into the light?
That she is loved? That there is hope? That her life has a purpose? How would you say it?
What’s keeping you from saying it now? No, you might not be in the forest. No one around you might seem to be either. But every heart, even the ones that appear happiest or most at peace, have their own set of struggles and the darkness that threatens to cast a shadow upon their soul.
Donald Maass also said, “To set your voice free, set your words free. Set your characters free. Most important, set your heart free. It is from the unknowable shadows of your subconscious that your stories will find their drive and from which they will draw their meaning.”
We are each given a voice, a unique one, for a reason. And that reason is to communicate. Whether your voice is used more in writing, in speaking, or in some other form of communication, don’t be afraid to let your voice be heard.
Someone needs the love and hope that your voice can give them. Maybe it will be just what gives them strength to leave the dark forest behind and discover the Light.
Why do I want to write?
Why do I find such joy in doing so?
Is it just my way to express myself, my ideas, my individuality? Is it cathartic for me in some way?
Is it about me?
I pray not.
For if that were the reason, I would be compelled to set aside my pen and paper.
But what is it?
And why do I feel not only a joy in writing, but a compulsion to do so?
As if something would be lost if I did not write?
Would there be?
And the ideas. Where do they come from?
Some from dreams, some from conversations, some from things I read or watch. They grow and develop and suddenly, they are a creation. But not mine. I couldn’t take credit as the ideas just come to me.
At the same time, I know I must build, develop and expound.
Writing is a crazy thing.
The call to write, even more so.
Yet there are few things more wonderful than to write and post or publish, and someone says, “That’s what I’ve always thought, or felt,” or, “It answered a question I’ve always had,” or, “How did you do that? It made me cry, or laugh, or decide to dream again.”
Writing is more than just self-expression. It’s making your heart, your very soul, available for all to see.
Why would anyone choose such vulnerability?
Perhaps it’s a hope that someone will find, within the words, a reflection of their own soul.
Their own questions and fears, hopes and dreams, passions and wishes.
And maybe then have the courage to likewise reach out to see their dreams realized or to overcome their fears, and find faith. Hope. Love.
This is why I write.