September 27, 2008

Guest Post: On Writing

Guest post! Everyone, meet Anna. Anna, meet everyone. You can read Anna's regular thoughts on reading, writing, and knitting on her blog, Diary of an Eccentric.

I’ve been a writer since I learned to string a few words together to form a sentence. I remember clearly that the first poem I wrote was about cats, and I proudly gave it to my fifth grade teacher on a drawing I made as a gift to her. (I still remember the poem, though it’s not written down anywhere. I won’t repeat it here, but trust me, it’s embarrassing!) A couple of decades later, I’m still writing.

I’ve always been shy when it comes to sharing my poetry, and I’m very secretive when it comes to the novel I’ve been writing off and on for the past few years. Even my husband is left out of the loop, and a close friend who edits for me here and there is the only one who knows the story. I feel as though talking about my characters (who are very real to me) and the plot will make the magic disappear (or make it sound like a lost cause and prevent me from finishing). I haven’t published any of my poems, partly because I think most of them need a lot of work and partly because they’re like my children and I’m not ready to pack them up and send them off into the real world. But in the past year or so, I’ve come to realize that fear has a lot to do with my hesitation.

It might be fear of rejection. Obviously, no one wants to receive rejection slips, but that’s part of a writer’s life—there’s no getting around it. (I read somewhere that even James Patterson and J.K. Rowling had trouble finding someone to take a chance on their first books, and look where they are today.) But I think it’s more than that.

Writing, to me, is baring my soul on paper (or the computer screen). It’s a very intimate process. I get inside the minds, bodies, and souls of these people I’ve created and pour their lives out onto the page. Sometimes I feel as though I know them better than I know myself. I don’t know about you, but standing naked before a group of strangers doesn’t sound appealing. But that’s what you do as a writer.

This fear is what prompted me to create a blog. I needed to set aside time for writing—writing about anything, just so I’d be writing. The fear had taken hold of me, and for a long time, I wasn’t writing at all. And to be honest with you and myself, I was miserable. When I’m not writing, my nose is in a book, so I figured blogging about what I read made a lot of sense. You have to write what you know, and I know that when I reach the final page in a book, the thoughts and feelings inside my head are close to overflowing. It doesn’t matter if I spend one day or one month reading the book, I’ve forged a bond with the characters, and I know it’s a good book if I have a hard time letting go. Sometimes my book reviews are a farewell to the “friends” I made while reading or a way to express the hurt or frustration I feel when things don’t turn out the way I want. Regardless, I’m writing and that was my goal all along.

Blogging is a baby step for me. There’s still some fear involved. What if the author takes what I’ve said the wrong way? What if I’ve offended someone? What if no one cares what I have to say? But then I tell myself it doesn’t matter. If I can look back and be happy with what I’ve written, that’s what matters. And if I get the creative juices flowing by jotting down my feelings about what I’ve read and allow them to jump into the notebook where my precious characters reside, that’s even better.

Diary of an Eccentric is the home of my book reviews, discussions about writing and motherhood, and my knitting projects (when I actually have time for another hobby). I hope you will pop in to express your opinions about the books I’ve read, offer some reading recommendations, or simply say hello. I’d love to hear what you have to say!

11 comments:

http://athomewithbooks.blogspot.com/ said...

I don't write poetry, but other than that you have articulated exactly how I feel about writing. I worked on a novel for a couple of years (before scrapping it - the idea is still there, but it needs work) and my husband was offended because I didn't show it to him. I told him it wasn't anything personal, I just wasn't ready for anyone to see it, also he was an English major in college, so he would know it wasn't great writing.

I feel the same way about talking about the characters too! I had a great idea for a new story the other day and my husband talked me into telling him about it, and suddenly the characters seemed flat and uninteresting. I think this is partly because I am not good at describing things in speech; I find that organizing my thoughts on paper is much easier.

I enjoyed your guest post, and have added "Diary of an Eccentric" to my reader!

http://diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com/ said...

Glad to know I'm not alone in being secretive. I also think it's because I'm not good at expressing myself verbally--I've always been that way. I hated public speaking class! Thanks for adding me to your reader! I follow your blog as well.

Thanks, Christine, for allowing my to hijack your blog for the day! :)

Shana @ Literarily said...

Anna, I for one cannot wait to read that novel you're working on! This is a great post. I think there is a lot of wisdom in what you say about writing for ourselves, so we can feel good about the quality of what we put out there, or the creative outlet is has provided us and not being so concerned with how it will be received by others.

http://savvyverseandwit.blogspot.com/ said...

I've already read this great post as her copyeditor! LOL She is secretive, but I think most writers are except for me. Hence why I can never find a writing group! LOL

http://peekingbetweenthepages.blogspot.com/ said...

Great guest post Anna, very interesting. I'm with Shana-I'd love to read anything you've written. Keep it up, I enjoy your blog. I'm the same with mine, I worry whether someone will be offended by what I've written but you know what-I like it and that's all that matters-much the same as what you said.

http://diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com/ said...

You are all too kind! If I ever finish that novel, I'll let you all know. Your kind words really are an encouragement to me!

Thanks, Serena, for being my copyeditor. You know I appreciate your help!!

I think it's important for us to just enjoy writing, enjoy blogging. We should be mindful of what we say, but at the same time, we should be honest. I enjoy all of your blogs, as well, so keep up what you're doing!!

http://beherewhenican.blogspot.com/ said...

Thanks you, Christine, for having Anna as your guest on your blog.

Anna- when you are ready, I have no doubt that an eagerly awaiting audience will be there to read your writing. It is obvious by your blog that you have a deep passion and love for writing. You are intelligent and witty and since getting to know you better, I've discovered that you have a kind and gentle soul. This I have no doubt must have come through in your poems and in your novel.

cari said...

Great post. I think secrecy can be an important part of the writing process. My first novel was my MFA thesis, and so it was heavily workshopped before it even had an ending. Before I knew, truly, what the book was about, I had all these other voices TELLING me what it was about. Ultimately, the book suffered from this.

I learned from this, and didn't show a word of my second novel to anyone--not my husband, not my trusted draft readers, not my agent--until I had a finished second draft. It's been a much more comfortable, much for productive process that way, and resulted in a stronger book, I think.

http://shereadsandreads.blogspot.com/ said...

Great post, Anna! I know what you mean about not letting others read your writing, although I belong to a women's writers' group and I've started to get braver about sharing what I've written. However, I'm not (at the moment) looking to publish anything I've written, so it's a bit different. (I think if I was really working on something, I'd be less likely to share.) Don't know if this makes any sense, but anyway wanted to say I relate!

http://diaryofaneccentric.blogspot.com/ said...

Jeannie: Thanks so much for your kind words. Your support means so much to me. You are a wonderful friend!

Cari: I've been following your blog and your journey with your first and second books. I've seen a change in the tone of your posts since you've finished the second books. You seem happier and more at peace. I wish you the best!

Avisannschild: I've thought about joining a writer's group. I've belonged to a few, and while I'd share some poems, I never felt comfortable sharing my stories or portions of my novel. I was kicked out of a writer's group, but that's a whole different story!! (Trust me, though, I didn't say or do anything bad. Some people ask for constructive criticism and then don't take it well.) Wish you the best with your group! I think the key to sharing in such a setting is finding a group of people you trust. The group I was unofficially kicked out of was a group of strangers, so I wasn't comfortable there at all!

Thanks again Christine for welcoming me on your blog. I've enjoyed the discussion here so far!

Christine said...

Anna -- you're very welcome! I was glad to have you post -- and I have definitely enjoyed the discussion as well :)