Maybe I’m Writing; Maybe I’m Not

Success as a writer depends on many things. When I started writing fiction I didn’t think much about being successful. I just wrote. I wanted to create an interesting story in an imaginary setting. It took me years, but I completed that story, then revised it several times. In some ways it was a waste of time.

Despite all the revising, I knew it wasn’t a good story. It had fatal construction flaws. During those years I also began exploring authors’ blogs and writing sites. That’s when I realized I didn’t know how to write a novel, so I backed off the writing and began reading how-to books.

Since then I’ve written more novels. I’ve even sent off occasional queries and submissions, investigating the possibility of agent representation and publication. But I haven’t persevered. The reasons are vague — partly lack of confidence in the quality of my work, partly reluctance to share with a public audience what seems like a very private part of me.

To be a good writer I truly believe one has to be honest — willing to do what K.M. Weiland so aptly describes in her recent blog post:

“Creating is about sticking your fist down deep in your soul, ruthlessly clawing at whatever you can find, and then dragging it out to be shared in the shocking light of day.”

In the novels I’ve written, I haven’t been digging down far enough. I know I’m a private person, and that has me wondering if I can ever find what it will take to write with complete abandon and honesty.

Does that mean I’m thinking about quitting? No, I love writing too much; but my goals may be changing. Instead of writing fiction, I’ve been inserting other tasks into my free time, feeling the push to complete projects that have been sitting in a corner (literally) for years. One involves gathering bits and pieces of our family history together to finally create our family tree. I’m sure my advancing years play a part in this (I’m appalled at how quickly time passes!) but a dose of reality is redirecting my focus.

I’m interested in your feedback. If you’re a writer, has your writing journey moved ahead without interruptions? Has it ever changed directions? Am I wrong in taking my current approach?

~  ~  ~


10 thoughts on “Maybe I’m Writing; Maybe I’m Not

  1. pastordt says:

    I hear you, Carol. Three years ago, just before my foot surgery, I was invited to submit a proposal for a book about this long journey with my mom. I did it, I enjoyed it, she said not yet. And there it sits. I realized during my recovery time that I really cannot write that story until my mom is gone from this plane. Maybe I’ll return to it, maybe not. I think you’re idea about writing your family story is a great one — and maybe trying to write your own personal story will knock down some of those barriers of privacy that you carry, who knows??

    • Carol says:

      The story of your mother’s life will be bittersweet. So much love, so much regret and probably a little anger thrown in, too. But there will be many people who could benefit from reading your unique processing of the situation.

      My genealogy efforts may not expand much beyond creating the basic family tree, but it’s going to take some time to sort it all out. I’m enjoying the research. 🙂

  2. Helga Bolleter says:

    I can so relate to this post, Carol. Haven’t we all been there, done that? There have been too many interruptions to my writing life to keep count. And yes, they have changed my directions. Family history, and autobiography disguised in a work of fiction is one such change. Fictionalizing makes it easier to write truthfully, at least for me. Best of luck with your family tree project.

    • Carol says:

      Wherever the new direction is taking you, at least you’re still writing! I can understand what you mean about fictionalizing making it easier, but even my fiction needs me to dig deeper…my characters keep too much back. LOL.

  3. Darlene says:

    Everyone’s writer’s journey is different and has a life of its own. I think writing your family history is a great idea and from it, you may be inspired to write more fiction. They say truth is often more interesting than fiction anyway.

    • Carol says:

      I’ve written anecdotal pieces about family and situations, but I haven’t taken that beyond something meant only for my family. I don’t really want to write a ‘family history’ per se, just get all the generations sorted out and into some kind of organized document/family tree. Then again, maybe once I’ve completed that part I might be drawn into recording more of the stories I’ve found. Who knows? My hope is that I’ll be granted enough years to get it all done!

  4. Jenn Hubbard says:

    Are you happy with what you’ve written? If so, that’s what matters.

    If you ever decide you want to push yourself to write material like what Weiland describes, you can always write it first and then decide later whether to share it with anyone. You can procrastinate about facing the inhibitions!

    But there are so many kinds of writing. Not everyone needs to wrestle inner demons to the ground and pin them to the page. It depends on what you really feel called to write.

    As for me–plenty of interruptions and changes of direction. And a few years where I didn’t write much at all because I was going to school, studying science. I initially wrote literary short stories and took a turn in my path when I started writing young-adult novels. Lately I’ve been writing more short pieces again, and exploring nonfiction.

    • Carol says:

      There’s wisdom in your words, Jenn! Maybe convincing myself before I start writing that it’s just for me would let me write with more freedom. It’s not so much that I need to reveal personal things, but that I need to feel the emotion my characters are supposed to be experiencing in order to give depth and realism to them. When I read back, right now they seem too much like cardboard figures!

      I’m glad you’re exploring different genre. I hope you have more novels in the works, of course, but I think it’s enriching to try other kinds of writing.

  5. So many changes have taken place since I began my journey. I began in hopes of keeping my dad’s memory alive. Who knew where that simple childlike obsession would lead me. Well, it led me to you. And that’s a wonderful thing. I don’t believe writers should analyze their gift as much as we do. It’s like planting flowers, or creating a beautiful dress, or collecting items to turn a drab room into something beautiful. Trust your instincts. Get quiet and listen to what that inner voice is asking? Everything begins with a question. What matters to you, Carol? Why do you need to write about fictional characters? Listen to the answer sneaking up on you. I agree, writing doesn’t require wrestling or yanking or anything else that resembles violence or a struggle. Writing is letting your inner spirit connect to your fingertips. Another reason why quiet and free-writing work so well together. Happy writing, dear friend.

  6. Carol says:

    Your journey started slowly and seems to have taken you places you never expected to go. I’m glad you followed your instincts. I like the analogy, especially about planting flowers. Writing is certainly a growing experience; at least for me it is. I’ve learned a lot already and am sure there’s a lot more learning yet to come. I think there needs to be more struggle to produce the kind of writing I want to do, but maybe you’re right and I just need to free-write more.

    BTW, congrats on the release of BROKEN BUT NOT DEAD in eBook form next month. I heard from Dancing Lemur Press that it will soon be available. Now…are you working on something else??? 😉

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