Weekend Edition – Your Writing Matters plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Yes, your writing matters.

Image by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design

Image by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design

I find comfort in unexpected patterns of discovery. When I am wrestling with a question, serendipity never fails to serve up a chain of touchstones that offer, if not an answer, perspective and guidance, or – at the very least – the knowledge that I am not alone in asking my question. This week I experienced just such Universal benevolence around the question, “Why bother writing?”

It’s a harsh question. I know.

But, I think it’s one many writers struggle with. In my case, I looked around at all the injustice and pain and suffering in the world and my desire to write seemed petty and insignificant in comparison. It felt frivolous and self-indulgent. Other people are out there doing Important Work – saving lives, inventing things, righting wrongs. And here I sit – hacking away at the keyboard, making stuff up, and sharing my inner thoughts with a certain amount of artistic hubris.

I have written before about navel-gazing and other writerly fears. But, this is a conversation I return to again and again in my head. It’s not an argument that is simply “won and done.” I may beat the feelings back for a while, but they always return to test my mettle.

When these well-worn doubts came a-calling this week, I was glad to stumble across allies who helped me stand my ground more firmly. This morning, in case you are battling similar demons, I want to share them with you.

headshot jen loudenThe first voice I heard was a friendly and familiar one. Jen Louden is a tireless champion of the creative and authentic life. She is a kind and nurturing teacher who shares her own vulnerabilities openly. In her post, Why You Creating Stuff Matters, Jen asks, “Why are you doing this when the world is dying?!” (By dying I mean climate change.) “People are starving. Girls are being turned into sex slaves. Do something!” Jen answers her own question beautifully (and, I recommend you read her full response in her post), but here are a few lines that jumped out at me:

Here is what I believe – it makes all the difference. I believe women who create are women who will not allow our planet to burn.

… working toward creating work that has more meaning, creating books that will help others – has everything in the world to do with their happiness and shaping a fairer world.

The point of life is to make something good and beautiful in the face of meaninglessness and horror. To not give away your voice to false gods of cool shoes, Facebook likes, fat bank statements or to cynicism, resignation and anger. Rather to keep feeling, keep creating, keep enchanting yourself and others with the power of creation.

Her words are inspiring, aren’t they?

headshot ali gresikI shared Jen’s post with a group of writer friends and the lovely Ali Gresik, a talented author and creativity coach, offered her own heartening perspective,

“My conclusion is that the best way for me to serve the world is to be myself and use the resources I’ve been given. I was made to be a writer, and given the desire to write, therefore that’s the way I need to serve the world. Not writing just makes me depressed and useless to the world. So part of my job as a writer is not to let that tension between the perceived ‘frivolity’ of writing and the gravity of the world’s problems stop me from writing.”

Also inspiring, no?

headshot leanne regallaFinally, just this morning, my inbox served up a post from Leanne Regalla’s blog, Make Creativity Pay. In 12 Truths Successful Creatives Know About Making A Living, Regalla makes believing in the value of your art her #2 truth, opening with a quote from Pablo Picasso, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

“Creative expression is part of who we are as human beings. It’s one of our most basic drives. We can’t separate ourselves from it for long even if we try – and if we did succeed, life would be pretty dull, if not downright unhealthy.

Music, writing, and photography can all be ethereal, spiritual experiences, but they affect us and the world around us in very concrete ways as well.”

Each of these women, these writers and artists, answered my question in her own way. Each of them stood beside me in my moment of doubt and gently reminded me that art – including my own art – is important, and even Important. I know the question will never be fully vanquished, but I’m glad to know I have allies who will help me keep these false fears at bay so that I can keep hacking away at my keyboard. And, I hope you will make them your allies, too.

What I’m Writing:

Image by Bethan via Albumarium

Image by Bethan via Albumarium

This coming Tuesday is the last meeting of the Fiction I class I’ve been attending via the Grub Street writing center. I am sad to see our time coming to an end. It was only eight Tuesdays, but I have learned so much and been inspired to dig back into the hard but very fulfilling work of studying and writing fiction.

During this week’s class, my second submission was workshopped and I was delighted to the point of grinning with the class’s feedback. As I put it to them, they were totally “picking up what I was putting down.” There are, I think, few things more satisfying to a writer than knowing that her readers “get it.” Though the piece I submitted was only at the first draft stage, the class was engaged in the beginning of the story, my characters, and the possibilities they saw for what might happen next. It was so encouraging. I am now itching to finish the story, especially since they generously offered to read the rest once I’ve finished it.

Even if you are not participating in a formal class or writing group, I encourage you to find a few readers who will be willing to give you constructive feedback on your work. I realize that sharing is scary, and that finding the right reader is hard, but I believe that the benefits outweigh the risks. Even if you only ask your readers to identify places in your story where they had questions or got confused, that one piece of information can be invaluable in reshaping your narrative.

In a previous weekend edition, I shared Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like an Artist, but his more recent book, Show Your Work, may be an even more inspiring read. I can’t say for sure, because I haven’t actually read it yet; BUT my dad (who hardly ever reads anything) read it and loved it.

I hope you’ll think about sharing what you’re writing. It might be scary, but you never know how it might help you move your creative endeavors forward. There is magic in putting yourself out there.

What I’m Reading:

book vampires groveOh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

I love all the strange and serendipitous ways that books land in my lap. I love being in the right place at the right time when a bookseller is purging ARCs (advance reader copies).  I love adopting books that have been abandoned on the sidewalk. And I especially love when a book seems to stalk me – showing up in magazines, conversations, and – finally – on the staff picks table of a favorite indie bookstore.

The book I’m reading at the moment came at me sort of sideways – a pseudo stalker. Karen Russell’s work has been hovering on the periphery of my reader’s mind for some time now. I’ve seen her debut collection of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, a number of times as I loitered in the aisles of my favorite Newburyport bookstore. I’d even cracked open and considered buying her first novel, Swamplandia!, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. But until this week, I hadn’t read her work. I’d only thought about it.

But then, I went to the library in search of the novel Big Fish. (I’ve been thinking about watching the movie again, but first wanted to read the novel.) Fortunately for me, the librarian (a dear friend) sent me to the wrong section because there is, apparently, another book called Big Fish by a different author. ANYway … long story, short … after realizing the mistake, I turned around and there, practically jumping off the shelf at eye level, were two of Russell’s books, Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove. I snatched them both up.

I decided to read Vampires in the Lemon Grove first and am utterly enchanted. I am only a few stories in, but – wow. I kind of hate Russell, but I’m also kind of falling in love. I feel a writer’s obsession coming on. Her stories are so original and so beautifully written. I am swept away immediately, taken in by the characters, and intrigued by her ideas. The language is envy-inducing. And how she manages to pack so much into each short story is almost miraculous. I can “feel” the weight and depth of her worlds far beyond the few pages that hold the story.

I can’t wait to read more.

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_creativity_heart

Wishing you courage, confidence, and creative joy. I hope you also find wonderful reads in surprising ways and maybe wonderful friends to read your writing.

.
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.

38 thoughts on “Weekend Edition – Your Writing Matters plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

  1. Inspiring!
    Our society is like a tree. Each and every branch and each and every leaf has a role to play. Same goes for creative people and for those who are intellectually inclined and articulate their thoughts. Thoughts have great power. They do influence external circumstances.

  2. Love the quote…it is very, very true. And about writing creatively, I have to agree. creating something is good enough. Heck, it’s even better than other alternatives…the world needs help, and if the creative cease creating, how much worse of a world are we going to make?
    (And who said we couldn’t help the world? Doing small things help too).

  3. Thank you for another inspiring post! I love the quote. I’ve been reading a lot about self publishing and book marketing for this past week, and talked about my upcoming projects with some peers and future cover artists and copyeditors. It sparked more inspiration for my upcoming book about representation in Star Wars. I did the introduction (one of the last missing pieces) and I didn’t expect to put my heart into this in how personal the introduction got. After completing the draft, it felt right though. 🙂

    • Hello, Natacha. Nice to “see” you.
      Glad to hear your gaining inspiration from sharing your work, and congrats on getting that intro written.

      Have a great week!

  4. We all do what we do best. In writer’s case, it is writing. But that’s not all what writers do. They don’t spend 24/7 typing, do they? Like everyone else there are other sides to them. Some probably are busy with charity or humanitarian works, or volunteering in soup kitchens, helping one way or the other in the community, making donations…
    I am not a professional writer but I do write because I love to write and there is always something going on in my brain I have to give my thoughts an outlet or otherwise… but that doesn’t make me useless.
    For example : when I go on holiday I bring clothes and shoes I don’t need anymore, blankets and other things too and give them to less fortunate in my areas. I take poor children out to eat in Mc Donalds or in the mall shopping or wherever they want to go. maybe I am not doing much for the world but I’m sure I am making a difference no matter how small it is to the lives of these people I am trying to help. I believe nobody is useless unless they choose to be just that.

    • Yes, we are all multi-faceted. No life is focused 100% on a singular purpose. In the writer’s case, I think that the diversity of experience and activity can only enrich the writer-part by introducing new ideas and granting new perspective. Our writing is simply a window into our larger world – both internal and external.

      • Yes. Real life out there is a great source of inspiration for everyone, artists or not. And if one can put them experience into words to share with others, so much the better. Some enhance the involvement through participation and use the experience for self-reflection to increase their professional value.

        Thanks for always answering my comments with great insight.

  5. I too share those very veritable doubts on the frivolity of writing, especially on writing fiction, And at my age (45) I thought it had something to do with growing old(er). Or even something to do with the fact that, of late and for research purposes, I’ve been studying The Universe (it’s around 13.8 billion years old and the earth is about 4.54 billion years old – we humans live for an average 71.2 years – It’s easy to feel insignificant against those odds).
    But then again, I’m a human not a universe. One of the foundations behind human longevity is the written word (we learn by our mistakes). And if my writing creates one single reaction on one single face, then that, I tell myself, should be good enough for me.

  6. Hey Jamie Thank you for an inspiring post. Out individual work might seem insignificant in a global context – as a struggling writer, in particular, I feel stupid all the time :P. But we writers need to realize that all of us have the power to transform ONE life through our words, our vulnerability and our passion – and this ONE person makes our creativity well-worth it! #HUGSS YOU ROCK!

    Kitto

    Date: Sat, 15 Nov 2014 16:57:30 +0000 To: kitgetssocial@outlook.com

    • 🙂
      I feel stupid all the time, too.
      I agree – even the smallest positive transformation is still powerful. Our influence does not have to happen on a grand scale in order to be important or meaningful. It gets harder to remember that in this ever-shrinking world where digital technologies bait us to think bigger.

      Thanks for the lovely reminder.

  7. I am a PhD student and I had the same fears about an academic carreer. It sounds to me sometimes as if I am dealing with many hypothetical stuff while people deal with real problems outside. But your piece is inspiring , thank you

    • You’re so welcome. Each of us has a job to do, right? Just because one job is more behind-the-scenes or less overt than another doesn’t make it less important or valuable.
      PS – Love your avatar image. Too cute!

    • I’m so glad if this post helped keep the loneliness at bay. No work of art, no creative endeavor is trivial. Keep on writing!

  8. Thanks for the post Jamie, encouraging as always! I have a question about sharing your stories with others. What do you or others here think about sharing your drafts on your blog? Do you ever wonder about them being ripped off, and are blogs a good place to workshop a piece? I have often thought about starting up a blog just to do that with others, but it seems to me that there are already some established sites that already do that. I’m starving for good writerly interaction and story sharing, so if you ever want to trade stories let me know!

    • I think the moment we put our stuff out there, there is always a danger of it being steal by someone who is not honest. It is very difficult to track all the activities concerning the things that we made public, whether it’s an article or an image. It simply out of our hands.

    • That’s a really interesting question, Gene. I am no expert, but a couple of thoughts:
      – First, if you “share” your stories online, they are, in fact, considered “published,” which will make them ineligible for many other publishing opportunities (since most online and print outlets require that any work they accept has not been published elsewhere).
      – Second, though I believe that anything you publish on your own site is considered under your copyright, there is always the chance that some unscrupulous individual will swipe your work and try to pass it off as his or her own. If it were me, I would hold out and publish only when I felt something was ready for a broader audience.
      – Third, “workshopping” tends to mean that the piece isn’t really finished. It’s a work-in-progress. I would prefer to do that sort of development in “private” with either an offline group or via a private online group.

      How you find the right writers for a writers’ group is a question I have posed to the instructor of the Fiction I class I just finished. I’m eager to hear her insights and will definitely share when I get the scoop!

  9. Thanks for the inspiration, Jamie! I’ve had some moments lately where what I do feels trivial or silly, but what a nice reminder that what writers do ( or any artist) matters! There is definitely value, and power in articulating characters and stories! xx

    • As writers, we have a huge responsibility to reflect the world back on itself. We provide a glimpse of truth through fiction. And that’s undoubtedly important. Thanks for coming by. Nice to “see” you here. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Weekend Edition – Getting Paid to Write, Part 1 [NSFW] | Live to Write – Write to Live

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