2010, writing at home
I hope sharing some of my personal story helps you. The first several years of our writing (for most of us, and for me it was my first decade of writing) — we fall in love with subjects we want to write about. We are compelled to get it down on paper and then we fall in love with our words and stories… we see before us our life and ideas on the page. We have made a new world!! Our love is intense, driven, …passionate, lusty, like all young love. It is also blind.
Our beginnings are always romantic, intense, meaningful, and,….. presumptious. Grandiose. As they should be.
I sent out my novel synopsis and first pages several dozen times over the past 10 years. I was certain it was ready. I was so enamored with my story. It was a miracle that I could get any story down on the page at all and I was WHOLLY IN LOVE with every word, every scene and every character.
But it was crap.
The story was good, but the writing and meaning that was “in my head” had a long way to go before it translated on the page to be a meaningful and well-written story for the reader. BUT LOVE and Passion makes us anxious and arrogant (as it should!). Well, it makes me more arrogant anyway. I am now at the end of my 2nd decade of attempting fiction and I won’t send out anything around my novel until this draft is complete and my writing partner gives me the “go” sign. She told me just last year: “Don’t send this out anymore. It’s not ready.” My love for my story and words made me blind to the fact that I had a lot of work and writing to do before it was reader ready.
It took a good decade to get my first non-fiction written and published. I sent out crap with that too but an editor said the topic was great and she helped me hone my skills. Also, I had put together a masterful book proposal. (This was in 1989 and the publishing world was, well, different). I have always taken in editor’s critiques as the golden goose of lessons. Every editor has helped me to improve my writing. And they love me (a few are still good friends), because I don’t get all defensive and upset when they “correct” me, or point out my weaknesses. I work with them. Now, I am a confident (and skillful) non-fiction writer.
And, my editors are still pointing out issues in my nonfiction writing. (I repeat myself a lot — that’s because, duh!, I love what I have to say).
I started out being sent to the Writing Lab
at the UW-Madison as an undergrad
1988, writing outdoors
(back in 1973). I couldn’t write a paper (or proper) sentence even if my life (or vocation) depended upon it. So I dug in and learned first to be a good student and then over the years, I learned how to write essays and other non-fiction. I now teach nonfiction writing at the UW, Continuing Studies in Madison! My dream and intention (probably before I could form words) was to write. But this passion alone did not result in anything worth reading. (I got a C on my first paper in college ONLY because the professor said my idea was brilliant. . .but my writing was crap. He was the one who sent me to the Writing Lab).
When we fall in love, we are wide-open, vulnerable and in a free-fall. We feel the hard hit to the ground (at least for me) when someone says, “no, this isn’t ready. Go back to the writing lab.”
But I know, if I stick with the writing long enough something will come of my efforts. Like love, the intense romance (and arrogance in my case) may wear off but the efforts of creating a marriage can result in long-lasting gifts and rewards. Rewriting to me is the marriage of writing — what comes after the romance and “I do.” When I hang in there, sometimes miracles happen, sometimes I turn frogs into princes. Sometimes I still write crap. Crap goes into the compost pile and I sit down until something wonderful happens.
And it always does.