12/31/2013

Looking Back and Looking Forward

I hope you all had a blessed holiday season. If you're like me, you're probably holidayed-out by the time it all ends. My daughter-in-law was telling me, even on Christmas eve, that their family was already sugared-out


I'm always eager to start a new year. I keep a personal diary, which I like to read at the end of each year to see where I started, what happened, what I was feeling, and what I did. Feelings always lead to life-course corrections. Sometimes the spirit needs to prompt stubborn ole' me for a very long time, but eventually, I'm ready to let go of something and start down a better path.

There's peace after that happens, and an opening for new dreams or callings.

The biggest thing I let go of this year, regarding my writing, was the dream of being published in the Young Adult secular market. God had been showing me in numerous ways, for 18 months, that that wasn't where I should be. I finally let go in June. Yes, it was hard to let go of a manuscript I'd worked on (very part-time) for four years.

Should I have let it go, when I didn't even look for an agent to represent it?

I had sent it to several contests in June, and the judges' responses, in addition to several other industry professional responses (here's one of them) led me to believe that the story wouldn't sell. It wasn't because of my writing abilities, which is often a huge stumbling block for aspiring authors. More, it was the story concept itself. And if a concept won't sell, no matter how good the crafting, there's no point in working on it any longer.

I don't know how many people told me it read like Glee Fan Fiction. Ironically, I have never watched a single episode of Glee. The worst bad luck came when Glee did an entire season, apparently, on West Side Story, which played large in my book as well. I had my idea two years prior to Glee's West Side Story season, but in the scheme of things, that doesn't matter at all.

There were other reasons for moving away from YA, which I won't go into.

When I finally made peace with my decision to abandon the manuscript--and all the time and effort it would take to try to find an agent for a work that probably wouldn't sell in today's market--it opened time and space for me.

Time and space to work in a genre that, frankly, is better suited to my inclinations, knowledge and skills.

I switched to writing for the adult inspirational historical romance market, and between July 11 and now, I completed a 70,000 word manuscript. I am now in the early stages of revising it.


In 2013, after a lifetime of raising kids and working outside the home, I finally had the freedom to make writing my "full time job." I never keep hourly track, however I do spend as many hours at it each day as possible. I estimate that I spend about 20-30 hours each week on actual work on a manuscript.

If you asked my husband, he'd probably say it's all I ever do.

But he's wrong! ; )  There are always many other things that take up my time. The holidays are a recent example. Vacations are another. Or helping to move farm machinery. Or babysitting grandkids, which happens frequently. Or working to complete the (seemingly endless) list of home updates . . . Darned big things, not simple, daily housekeeping chores.

There are personal diversions as well, which are often necessary. In 2013, I needed to learn how to improve my (diabetic) health. I also spent quite a bit of time scrapbooking. It was wonderful to finally have that freedom!

With so much to do, I sometimes asked myself if I still wanted a writing career, after so many years of yearning for it. Wasn't that ironic? 

In the same way that I had resented how working full time at the library had kept me from working on my writing, the tables shifted. I discovered that I began resenting how working full time on my writing was keeping me from scrapbooking. Isn't that hilarious?

There was a difference, of course. No one was forcing me to write and not scrapbook. So when I was like an addict needing a scrapbooking fix, I took it.



There was a time during the year when my writing room was so full of notebooks and loose files and books, I felt overwhelmed, and like the walls were closing in on me. They probably were; the room was so full. I needed to remove at least half of what was in it, which I did, but have you ever had to deal with the sick feeling you get when everything you touch is laden with negative emotion? It wasn't like cleaning out a garage, or the kitchen, which is generally an emotionless process (for me).

I was removing boxes of books and putting them either in the storage-room library (adult fiction), or on the basement bookshelves (children's and YA fiction), or in boxes that would be donated to the library's book sale.

The storage room and basement shelves were also filled with books. Some, I had already read. Others, I still wanted to read, but realized, sadly, that I would probably never have the time to read most of them.

Unless I gave up my own writing dream, and opened space and time for it. 

Additionally, my writing room was filled with a closet full of notebooks that held my life's writing output. All the novels I've written, the journals I've kept, and all the information I've amassed. Physically, it was dozens of notebooks and reams of printed paper. None of that got tossed, but everything was so heavy when I moved it to another place.

"Is writing worth it?" I asked myself, with one of those ever-so-heavy notebooks in my hand.

Certainly, if I were doing it for the money, my time would be better spent working at a "real" job with a paycheck and benefits, which is what I had done for most of my life. Selling my time = paycheck.

But what was I getting now for selling my time?

Other than all the notebooks and several gigabites' worth of electronic files, there wasn't much, really, to show for it. 

Of course, if I want to make myself feel better, I can also realize that people who spend hours each day in front of the TV, or playing video games, or socializing on Facebook, or even reading fiction, have very little to show for their time, either. They are the consumers of life, certainly not the creators. Consumers are passive. Creators are active. Which one would you rather be?

Always, the writing calls me back.

It has helped me to better understand myself, other people, and my world.

Fiction is the platform where I can work with the same values and beliefs, and themes, that I might work with, were I to create a nonfiction website.

But writing fiction allows me to do it in an artful way. A way that goes deeper, by bypassing the rational mind and speaking directly to the heart.

And so I am beginning 2014 with the intent to keep writing fiction, at a rate of 20-30 hours each week. After I complete the revision of The Perfect Wife in (hopefully) two months, I'll enter it into ACFW's Genesis Contest (which requires a completed manuscript). Then I'll start a new one. I'll also start looking for an agent and/or editor for The Perfect Wife.

If the past 20 years of writing is an indication, I suspect that there will always be new ideas to explore, via the art form of fiction.

What about you? What did you learn about writing, or yourself, or (yourself + writing), in 2013? What is that leading you to pursue in 2014?

5 comments:

  1. Excellent post, Cathy. You really nail it on the head when you say consumers are passive/creators active, and that fiction allows us to do so in an artful way. It's why I keep returning to this field and I'm so glad it keeps calling you back, too. All the best in finding a home for The Perfect Wife. Happy 2014!

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  2. Thanks, Shaon. We'll pray for God's leading regarding both of our books. Happy New Year!

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  3. "the writing calls me back"--love the phrase. A reminder of what this writing life does to us :-) Seems like 2013 was a significant year for you in lots of ways. May 2014 bring you much success with your book, all your writing, and your health. Happy New Year!

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  4. Lovely post... I loved hearing about your writing journey this past year, as I anticipate similar changes and thought processes in 2014.

    Passions of writing and scrapbooking... and photography. Are you sure we aren't long lost sisters?!

    Happy... Happy... New Year!!

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  5. Enjoy those things that make
    you happy! Happiness drives a big part of our lives, so it is good
    when we find those things.

    Happy New Year!

    M : )

    ReplyDelete

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