Paula’s Post #80 – Today was one of our periodic 5writers brainstorming sessions. The kind of day where the five of us gather from near and far, clear our schedules and huddle in a room for hours on end and try to decide where, as a group, we should go next. The kind of gut check any group needs from time to time to reboot creative juices and add more glue to the bonds that keep us together as a group, even as we move further and further apart on the time-space continuum.
Since writing is an art… a calling… a craft …an avocation, these meetings also demand a great deal of mental fortitude and creative energy, so we inevitably also ensure we are fired up by enough sugar, caffeine and protein to adequately fuel our bellies and our imaginations.
Today, our meeting was hosted by our 5writer colleague Karalee and she didn’t let us down.
Typically, I come away from these marathon sessions both invigorated and exhausted. Excited by the synergy of the group, daunted by how to make sense of the many creative ideas we’ve managed to cover in such a short time. But perhaps the most important outcome of almost every one of these sessions is the individual and collective opportunity to look in the mirror and do some soul-searching. To see where we have come from and chart a course to where we want to go next.
For every writer, this is an integral part of the process of getting better. Essential for making the leap from occasional dabbler to published author. For learning the skills and discipline necessary to conquer the modern writer’s brave and often complex new world of publishing, marketing, blogging and self-promotion… not to mention writing.
Did I mention writing?
Let’s face it. That’s another big advantage of having an active writers’ group. Your buddies, your colleagues, your critiquers know if you’ve actually been writing. So today, in our usual show and tell, we all disclosed what we’d been working on… and what we hadn’t been working on.
Now, I’m not going to violate any confidences of inner sanctum (aka Karalee’s kitchen); my job is not to spill the beans and rat out my 5writer colleagues. But today’s meeting did serve as a painful reminder to me that I’ve a lot of “monsters” under the bed.
Monsters, you ask?
Yes, monsters. In my case, an unwieldily number of bankers boxes filled with first and second drafts of the half-dozen or so novels I’ve written in the last few years.
They haunt me.
They taunt me.
For some reason that no doubt would require a dozen or so years of psychoanalysis, I have trouble polishing first and second draft manuscripts to the stage where they are ready to submit to agents and editors.
Seriously. It’s not that I haven’t had invitations. I’m the master of the fast-talking ‘pitch’ at writers’ conferences. I have literally dozens of invitations to submit my work for consideration. Sometimes the first few pages… sometimes some chapters, often the full manuscript.
I’m almost ashamed to admit how few of these invitations I’ve actually followed up on. All talk, no action. That, I fear, is me. At least recently.
The only consolation is that I’ve no doubt that I’m not alone in this problem.
If you wish, you can leave a comment and add your own ‘true confessions’ right here. In fact, I’d welcome your input as to why you think you haven’t moved on and taken your manuscript to that ‘next level’. The level where you’re ready to submit to editors and agents.
Some say it is fear of rejection. But in my case, I don’t really think that is the problem. I spent my life being rejected (no, not unlucky in love. In that department, I think I’m the luckiest woman in the world). But in my former life, as a prosecutor, I spent a lot of time getting rejected: some days, my submissions didn’t sway the Judge. Other days, I’d concoct a novel argument as to why some necessary piece of evidence ought to be admitted and get summarily shot down. Many days, my idea of a fit and proper sentence range was not that of the presiding Judge. In short, I’ve developed a thick skin. I’m used to rejection.
I know what to do when visited by it. Get up, dust yourself off, start all over again.
I’ve never felt, well, destroyed, when I’ve opened a letter or an email from a literary agency rejecting my submission nor query. Usually, there is some consolation prize to be found within: a few nice words of encouragement, or, if I’m really lucky, some constructive suggestions about what worked and didn’t work in my writing.
So that isn’t, I think, my particular problem.
I have a few ideas of my own about where the problem lies. Some of them have to do with the fun of dashing off first drafts vs. the drudgery of trying to make sense out of the muddle I’ve made of that rollicking ‘seat of the pants’ wild rush to the finish. How to unwind and re-work the mess produced by that heady cocktail of adrenalin and inspiration that propelled me from the moment I typed ‘Chapter One’ to the moment I sighed and tapped out, ‘The End’.
As Earnest Hemingway so famously said: the first draft of anything is $h*t!
But for me, there’s no comfort in knowing I’m not alone. I need to move from second drafts to third, fourth and fifth drafts. Trying to figure the ‘why’ of my reluctance only helps so much. I just need to move on and get on with it.
The plain fact is that I have reached the time and place to stare down my demons.
For me, it’s time to confront the ‘Monsters under the Bed’ and pull out and sort through some of those first and second drafts. I know from the feedback of my dear critique group colleagues some of them show promise.
I need to winnow out the most promising among the bunch and try to fall in love all over again. I need to try to rekindle that initial magic.
In the next few weeks, when the days are long and the moon is bright, I’m going to confront my fears of he dark. I’m going to confront those Monsters under the Bed.