But before I go into more of that, please join me in welcoming the glorious, smashing cover design for Moonlight and Oranges, designed for me by Isaiah Qualls. Isn’t it gorgeous???
If I could look back and say what were the five most important things I did to bring myself to this place, this oh-my-goodness-my-book-is-being-published place, I would start by saying that this was never all of my doing – God opened many doors for me and I was brave enough to walk through them. However, I can pick a list of five very important things that I recommend that to anyone (non-writers included) to do to hone their passion:
1. Do what you love on a regular basis. This means keeping the cogs oiled, the muscles in good lean condition. For me, this means having a scheduled regularity to practice as well as minimum measurement of quantity. That’s mandatory writing practice six days a week, one day to rest, and producing a minimum word count of 1000 words each time.
2. Immerse yourself in a community that supports you. When I finally got my own house and was able to host group events, I formed a writers’ group. We’ve now been meeting for almost two years. This group doesn’t just offer critiques of my writing, the real gem of it is the blooming of friendships we’ve grown, based on a common love. I can’t imagine writing in an isolated void like a mountain cabin or inner cave office. I know for a fact that my writing flourishes in the presence of others, and my writer friends tell me that being in the group spurs them on to create more new things. A small caveat: Although the creation of work is usually a private act, that work must be quickly shared and brought out a brief fresh air, or you risk letting it wither and die.
3. Courageously ask for what you want. Asking nicely for something that you want is easier than it seems. It’s also very scary. A shining example from my own life: I discovered a writers’ conference held in a nearby town and I tried to sign up, but found it had already filled to capacity. Early on the morning that the conference started, I showed up in person and asked at the registration desk if there had been any cancellations. I politely explained that I understood if there was still no room for me. You know what happened? The woman in charge took pity and offered me a registration form – something not usual to policy. That very same day, while at the conference, I approached the keynote speaker who was a very gifted instructor and author. In spite of my intense shyness, we struck up a conversation that evolved into e-mails and led to a friendship in which this author introduced me to his publisher that publisher asked to see my manuscript and a few months later that publisher expressed a desire to publish my novel. Remember – the writers’ conference staff had told me it was absolutely full. They said I couldn’t go. I asked nicely and I was astounded by what happened. Try it. You’ll be astonished by your results.
4. Feed your soul. It’s dangerous to get too serious.* Never forget the importance of play, laughter, vacation, theater, books that you read just for fun, spontaneous outings…you get what I mean. These are all part of taking care of yourself so that you can sustain your passion for the long-term. After finishing one of my drafts of Moonlight and Oranges, I felt painfully dry and tapped out. I couldn’t think of a single thing to write. I picked up a copy of The Artist’s Way and found three friends who were willing to walk through the 12-week course with me. That book taught me how to take myself on dates and do things that delighted me like going to museums solo, closing the curtains and choreographing my own dance, or learning the lyrics to a jazz song that I’d always thought was sexy but never had the time to memorize.
5. Say who you are and who you will be with confidence. This could be the bold statement of setting aside one evening a week as the uninterruptible time that you get to devote to your passion. It could mean printing yourself business cards so that you feel “legit.” The more you say it with your mouth, the more you and the rest of the world will see you as the real thing. If you have a day job and your passion is something you do in your spare time, refuse the bait to answer the “So, what do you do?” question literally. Don’t just say “I’m a nanny,” rather say, “I’m a nanny, but I write fiction in my spare time and I have a few short stories that I sent out to magazines last month.” This statement forces you to assess the amount of respect you give your passion. If you’re always trying to squeeze it in somewhere, it will become something you don’t want to do it all. You must treat it as a relationship that demands daily attention. You won’t always want to sit down and do it, but you do it anyway. It’s just that important.
*(I still struggle with this one, my friends.)
I’ve applied all of these things to my writing life, and they’ve all helped me immensely.
Where are you at in your path? Have any of these ideas given you food for thought? Have you already tried some and found them helpful?