Friday, October 03, 2008

Come As You Are

Wednesday Night, I had a first speaking engagement as a writer.  No, I'm not published, yet.  No, I'm not even remotely famous—or infamous—yet.  And quite frankly, there is no real reason anyone should care what I have to say about anything.  But I am a writer.  

Yep, there it is.  I AM A WRITER.  

It began with an unexpected phone call from a new acquaintance who is certainly now a friend—for a host of reasons.  She has a book club comprised of a variety of women, most of whom are mothers in their 30s.  Many of them are artists.  All of them are book lovers.  So, they had decided that instead of choosing a book for the group to read, each member would bring her favorite children's book and share why they love it so much.  But there was a bonus—at least that's how my friend saw it, and to my surprise, so did the ladies of the book club.  I was the bonus.  A real, live writer.  

My assignment:  talk about my life as a writer.  That's it!  They don't care that I'm not published, yet.  

So what did I have to say to these intelligent, thoughtful, accomplished women?  More than I expected.  It started with a brief description of how I began, but it quickly evolved into some bits of advice for claiming your dream.  Here are the basics:

  • Own Your Passion — Write because you simply can't not do it and never make excuses or apologies.  When someone asks you what you do, say "I'm a writer" and mean it.  Don't look away, launch a nervous giggle, and meekly offer, "Well, I'm trying to be a writer." Does an athlete say, "I'm trying to exercise?"  Just because you're not published yet does not mean you're a hack or a fake.  Just because a runner hasn't won the Boston marathon yet, does that mean he's not an athlete?  By the way, no one ever asks you if you are a good writer or a bad one...well, almost never!

  • Claim Your Space — This can be a tough one.  I know I'm not alone as a reigning queen of the clutter zone.  Yes, my space is in the playroom, surrounded by piles of toys and discarded art projects, and far too often, noisy kids.  But it is my space.  There is an invisible force field around my desk, and the kids know that penetrating that barrier carries serious jail time.  And now that they are both in school all day (2 sighs here, one of relief and one of wistful longing), my space is peaceful, momentarily less cluttered, and all mine.  

  • Make Time for Your Craft — No matter how hectic it gets, with lacrosse practice, doctor's appointments, the dentist, the vet—the 1001 things we always have going on—carve out time for your work, even if it's only 20 minutes a week.  You'll find that once you actually give yourself even the tiniest window of time, you'll guard it ferociously and crave more.  Let your hubby handle dinner or run the schpunts to sports practice or heaven-forbid clean the house!  And when necessary, take yourself to the cafe or the bookstore, where you can choose which voice bounces around in your head.  

  • Take Yourself Seriously — If you don't, nobody will.  

  • Find a Community — Writing is a very solitary pursuit, as is most creative activity.  Maybe that's why so many creative geniuses are stark raving mad—too much isolation!  This is one advantage to the technological explosion of the modern age.  You can find supportive cyber communities many places.  One of my favorites, of course, is Verla Kay's fabulous message board. The SCBWI also has a discussion board for its registered members. And there are others for more precise niches, like YA Fiction.   There are many more, and you can often find critique groups or just a whole new set of friends who "get" you.  

  • Feed Your Writer's Soul — As a writer, I have a million ideas flying around my brain and all kinds of theories as to the best way to splatter them onto paper.  But you know what they say about theories.  Allow yourself to attend a conference or workshop from time to time.  Not only do you get some surprising illumination about the craft of writing (despite the fact that you know it all already) and the business side of things, but you meet more people like you, and you network and make contacts that could potentially lead you to that next goal, whether it's publication or a critique group or a new knitting circle!  

  • And finally, Come As You Are — You carry within you entire worlds.  You see with eyes that no one else can look through unless you bring them behind the curtain.  It's not the package they will want to see.  Sure, it's nice when its pretty and tied up with a fabulous glittery bow.  But folks, writing ain't pretty!  Don't be afraid to open that package and see the bare naked truth.  All those little worries and insecurities and failures make a promise to the writer that you will become.  And need to make a promise to the writer you are.  Just come as you are and pour yourself into a pot of ink and spill it all over.  Dance in.  Make a mess.  Love it.  You are a writer. 
Okay, so that's the gist of my little chat.  Oh, I shared some tidbits of my books, which will be published any day now (wink), and my WIP and other elements of my journey, too.  And I got to recommend a host of kids books, some written by people I know, to all these eager readers.  It was amazing to see all those faces looking at me as if I actually know something exceedingly cool.  

...hey, I guess I really do.


  1. Great advice and how wonderful that you were invited as the "writer-in-residence" to talk about writing. Good for you!

  2. Congrats! How wonderful for you to share and for your friends to learn about your expertise!
    FABULOUS post!
    Thank you for the encouragement, too. I have not (yet!) published a book, and I am one to shy away from calling myself a writer.

  3. Well, you DO know something. In fact, I say you know more than you realize about writing and the whole writing process. Bravo to you! I wish I'd been there to hear you speak.

  4. Way to go. Kudos on being brought into the group as a guest speaker. Now to get you published so they can discuss your books. You will get there. I'm doing a virtual classroom visit via online and it's fun talking about my writing and writing along with the kids during their writing time. I've been posting the updates and offering challenges (the same ones we are doing in class) to my readers. So if you feel you need a little inspiration or more ideas - lol - stop by my blog at and join in the fun and follow me on my pre-blog book tour with my virtual classroom visits. See you in the postings - E :)

    PS - you can have some fun for one of you postings because I am tagging you with a Halloween tag. Stop by my blog and read the tag and play if you want - E :)


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