Weekend Edition: More than a Story, Pressure, Superheroes Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

What if writing is about more than the story?

heart book pagesEarlier this week I published a post called Your Author Brand Needs to Answer One Question. Though the title might make it sound like a piece that’s very focused on the marketing side of your writing life, it’s actually about something much more personal than that. Thinking about it now, perhaps making your marketing personal is the point.

In the post, I write about the importance of really knowing your audience – not just demographics, but psychographics. It’s infinitely more important to know what makes a reader tick from the inside out than it is to know how old she is, where she lives, or what her household income is. I also wrote about the importance of writing for yourself first and then letting what you write guide you to your “tribe,” as Seth Godin calls the group of people who share your values, interests, and inclinations. This will always lead to more enduring work than trying to “write for the market.”

Phil (aka “philosophermouseofthehedge”) and another reader whom I know only as FairytaleFeminista struck up a great conversation in the comments. I was particularly struck by these additions to the topic:

cmnt fairytalefem bubble

cmnt phil true

They got me thinking.

What is a story isn’t just a story? What if it’s a beacon to help us find our “tribe” in the great, wide world? What if it’s another whole language that lets us communicate with our tribe once we find them – a secret language that only we can understand? Or, perhaps I’m just stating the obvious? Maybe you have already figured this out and I’m just finally figuring it out?

Though I haven’t yet finished it, I am fascinated by Jonathan Gottschall’s book The Storytelling Animal. The comments from Phil and the FairytaleFeminista made me wonder if perhaps stories aren’t the truest way to share ourselves, and therefore the most authentic way for us to connect with others. Could it be that the fictions we create and consume might be the most real part of who we are?

In a post on her blog, Lessons from the Flock, fellow Live to Write – Write to Live blogger Wendy Thomas wrote about how stories permeate and even perhaps create our lives. She mentions the movie Big Fish (a favorite that I’ve been meaning to re-watch) which is a beautifully rendered tale about how stories can become reality and sustain and connect us in ways we would never have expected.

I honestly don’t have any answers here. Just asking questions. There’s no question that stories are more than mere entertainment. But now I’m wondering just how deep their influence and magic run.

 

What I’m Writing:

... is it really?

… is it really?

I won’t beat around the bush. I’m writing a lot, but it’s all the stuff that pays my bills. This past week has been the beginning of what looks to be a three to four week stint of excruciatingly busy days. As is often the case, all my clients needs seem to have converged during one, short span of time. More troubling than the weight of the workload (for which I am, by the way, extremely grateful) is the fact that for these next three weeks, my daughter does not have any summer camp plans. What was that you said about work/life balance?

The most painful side effect of being as busy as I’ve been recently is that my morning pages routine has ground to a temporary halt. Between staying up (very) late to meet deadlines and getting up (pretty) early to get my daughter to last week’s riding camp on time, there just wasn’t any time to squeeze in my usual first-thing-of-the-day writing practice. I’ve missed it SO much! Next week, I am looking forward to resuming my daily routine. My fingers are fairly itching in anticipation and my brain feels about to burst with the tension of so many unrecorded thoughts and musings. It’s no wonder I’ve found it difficult to concentrate this week, what with all that extra baggage rattling around up there instead of being spilled out onto the page at the start of the day.

Has the chaos of summertime stolen away any of your writing routines? How are you coping? 

 

What I’m Reading:

book flora ulyssesMy daughter and I finished another fun bedtime read this week, Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo.  I have to admit that I have wanted to read this book for a while. In fact, I’ve picked it up off the “new arrivals” shelf at our local library several times, only to be shot down by my daughter who wrinkled her nose doubtfully whenever I showed her the cover or read her the blurb.

I’m so glad I decided to ignore her ambiguity and just get the book.

In the end, she loved it at least as much as I did. The book is both laugh-out-loud funny (especially some of the illustrations or, as the cover refers to them, illuminations) and extremely thoughtful. It deals with superheroes, child/parent relationships, divorce, and the possibility of the impossible. The story is told via a split narrative – half Flora and half Ulysses, the superhero squirrel. Love courses through the story like a river through a canyon – strong and undeniable, but sometimes zigging and zagging.

Flora and Ulysses is one of those wonderful “children’s” stories that can be enjoyed on several levels, and DiCamillo’s writing is – as always – such a pleasure. to read. Whether you have kids or not, this is a story worth reading. Who knows, you may even discover your own inner superhero.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

 

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin all that we see

Here’s to creating your own reality and, through it, connecting with others who share a similar world. 

.
Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

27 thoughts on “Weekend Edition: More than a Story, Pressure, Superheroes Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. I hope that your daily routine for writing goes better next week! Thank you again for a great Weekend Edition! I always look forward to them! I’m glad to be back to writing. Caught up with tons of blogging, which is good as I don’t always have the opportunity to write content on a given day. I really love the scheduling feature on WordPress. I’m also back to different writing project. A book proposal was submitted to a few publishers, an abstract is going through proof reading and now working on the first of 3 articles I plan to submit over the next couple of months.

    • Started Monday with a return to my morning pages. Yay! Glad to hear you have so much going on. Sounds great. Love your hustle! 🙂

  2. I’m always excited when my comments create new posts! 😉 Stories do challenge us in ways that we may not even think about until the need arises. It’s art and everyone will see something different in the telling. The way one person tells a story does share a piece of them with the reader and the way a reader interprets it shares a piece of them. The fact that we still read centuries old fairy tales and find meaning in them proves that the magic is way deep.

  3. I wish that I could find a writing job that will pay my bills! But, I feel as a writer, it’s important to read the genre you think you want to write in. Learning your target audience has to do with the kind of story you want to write. This post really made me think! Love it!

    • I’ve read articles by different authors about whether or not to read in your own genre … especially when you’re in the middle of a major writing project. Some writers swear by immersion in the genre while others refuse to read anything in their genre lest it influence them too much.

      I don’t worry about it too much since my reading preferences are so eclectic. Give me a few months and I’ll likely have touched on half a dozen different genres. 😉

  4. A beacon to help us find our “tribe” – I think this is exactly what it is – and a very exciting word to describe it! I can think and dream and ponder all day but it’s not until I actually put this into the form of a story and tell it that something happens. Connections are made. Opportunities arise. I’ve always thought of this as being like waving my antennae, but the idea of it being a beacon is spot on. Thanks!

    • I’m so glad you like my metaphor. And I love yours, too. “Waving my antennae” … that’s so perfectly descriptive – tap-tap-tapping our way to a destination, a connection, a conversation.

      So nice to “see” you. 🙂

  5. Love this post as always. Some thoughts:
    1. I love that you do morning pages. I have just published (today) the second in a seven part series of inspirational books that changed my life – and it was The Artists Way :). Seriously, how good are morning pages???
    2. That comment about finding your tribe and then the article ‘everything I know in a nutshell’…although not the first time I had heard it, answered a question I had asked my Self this morning about increasing my readership, so thank you 🙂
    3. The Myth of the Solitary Genius…continued on my creativity theme of last week. Not by design, just by this seemingly coincidental flow of blogs, article, and an Elizabeth Gilbert Tedx talk (mentioned in the article) where she talks about this very idea of genius. Where in ancient times genius was “a tutelary god or spirit given to every person at birth.” ie something that we all have – has become over the centuries something that we either are or are not. I just love the synchronicity and the understanding that comes with.
    4. Sorry about my ridiculously long comment 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Sara. (And never apologize for a long comment!) 🙂

      I just queued your post about The Artist’s Way for a tweet. What a great summary of some of the most wonderful parts of that book. I also loved Elizabeth Gilbert’s TEDx talk. I couldn’t get through Eat, Love, Pray; but I thought her presentation was damn inspiring.

      Also, I have to say that I loved your poem “The Stars Within.” Just beautiful, and the image you found to accompany it is stunning. I hope you don’t mind that I pinned your post. (Love to know if you’re on Pinterest, btw.)

      As always, thanks for being here. Love the synchronicity.

      • Do I mind??? lol no 🙂 I am not on pinterest, but am thinking about it, if that counts 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and tweeting my writing – you just made my day!

  6. Provocative questions. On the one hand an author can hide behind her characters, having them say and do things she wouldn’t. On the other hand, an author offers the world her most private thoughts and so inevitably reveals herself. When I write I become immune to the world. There is no audience in mind, only me and the page. If I write for anyone It’s my inner critic, who gives me no peace until the end, at which point she backs off, apparently trusting me with the minor edits.

    • There is a definite dichotomy to the writing process, isn’t there. It is, as you say, at once a mask and a window into our truest selves.

      I love the way you describe your dance with your inner critic. She sounds like quite the task master, but in the best of ways.
      😉

      Nice to “see” you!

  7. Like many others I again feel as if I fall into a vat of champagne and northern Italian cuisine reading your blog. One could get drunk trying to take it all in.

    I love the idea behind a story being more than just a story, although I guess I feel that’s true about anything, it’a about me finding me I think and hoping for a connection with the rest, finding my self in every self.

    Also love the Poe quote which I’d not seen, reminiscent of the world as stage? My one hundred percent perspective.

    Looking forward to reading about Flora having finally finished Berg’s delicious Pleasures. Thanks for noodging me into reading that one,
    So much take away about style. I decided even the story didn’t matter, it was her writing and each little scene was complete I thought in itself. I was so “there” with her and our lives our completely different. I stopped caring whether the story hung together, whether her life was too perfect and things fell into place too easily. They only did I suppose as she was willing to give herself up to complete change, few limits. Love it when a writer grabs me in a feeling way when I’ve no connection to the story or the characters.

    Anyway, a thoroughly wonderful read and learning experience for writing.

    Thanks again Jamie!

    • Hi, Sandra.

      Thanks for the very generous words. You made my morning.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed Berg’s book. Flora and Ulysses is, of course, much different fare, but lovely in its own way. (I can’t resist a book that brings out bedtime giggles.)

      I love the way you’ve described what you loved about A Year of Pleasures. I also felt that the story was a bit predictable, but – like you – I was happy to go along for the ride. There was a comfortable intimacy that was irresistible.

      Have a great week & I’ll “see” you on the weekend.

      🙂

      • Hi Jamie, I love the idea of making someone’s morning. That’s apparently my schtick! Not experienced enough as you to say I found Berg’s book “predictable” just had read some comments from others about all Betta’s advantages that the commenters didn’t have, etc. Probably prejudiced my thinking. But finally I felt her writing style quietly drew me in emotionally, with integrity. And love children’s books so happy to use your suggestions as impetus to spend more time doing something I love, that makes me smile, and not only what I’m supposed to do!

        Enjoy every word you’re writing to pay the bills. They’re blessing so many folk!

      • Thank you for reminding me that the bill-paying work serves a purpose larger than just keeping a roof over our heads. Sometimes, it’s easy to lose sight of that.

        Enjoy Ulysses! Soon you’ll be saying “Holy Bagumba!” and “Holy unanticipated occurrences!” along with me and my daughter. 😉

  8. Pingback: Links: Writing, Star Wars, Feminism | Natacha Guyot

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