"I write, but not constantly. I don’t feel a daily compulsion to share my haphazard thoughts with the world. Instead, I keep my quill in a velvet box—so to speak—only taking it out for special occasions. I cannot throw out valuable words and make them something common. Maybe that makes me not worthy to be a writer, but I only write when there is inspiration or a reason. I have to be struck by something personally prolific that cries for expression."
--Gina Gates, Falling In October
Aspiring writers often approach published authors for their advice about how to get their works into print. My brand of wisdom is probably not bursting with the quick answers you'd want or expect, but maybe my twice around the block will be worth the listen.
Since Chapter Two of my book is simply titled "Writing", be assured that my lifelong love of wordsmithing will come through. But why would I cover that subject in a book about romance? Because writing is my passion. Nothing is more romantic to me than weaving words in a heart-shaped loom and creating warm garments of love.
Ahh, it all sounds so...Jane Austen. Yet writing has certainly not elevated me to a lucrative livelihood. (Case in point: You've heard of Jane Austen. Up till now, you'd never heard of Gina Gates.)
Publishers aren't lining up at my door to score book deals, so you have to look a little deeper. I'm more like a starving artist, wondering if anyone will ever truly absorb the rich sensitivity of my soul-filled creation. As the song "Starry Starry Night" bemoans the tragic Vincent Van Gogh: "They would not listen; they did not know how. Perhaps they'll listen now."
We cry to to be more than just heard. It's not even enough to be recognized, rewarded, or acclaimed. Every toil of talent cries to be understood. We are secretly elated when someone dissects our structured paragraphs with precision and discovers those delightful, tiny nuances that we so skillfully slipped inside. We hope those things are noticed. We can only hope. Because if the entire colorful spectrum of our story is consumed by the mind's eye of the reader, then every bandwidth of the message that we intended will be realized. Only then are we finally and fully understood.
There's an overused admonition, "Do what you're for." Abraham Lincoln was destined for politics, yet he notoriously lost elections until he eventually tripped uphill to the presidency. At what point did he say, "I'm doing what I was destined to do"? Was it when he achieved the highest office or was it long before? If he had not taken those early political steps, he would have never gotten there. So which moment was magic, and which step counted the most?
As a writer, when can I say, "I've found the top of my Mount Everest"? When I write something award-winning and quotable, and have a fan base of a few thousand? Will I know as it's happening? Or will I look back later and know when I did reach that pinnacle of my potential? Will I ever get there in this lifetime? Or will some enlightened future society declare that I was a brilliant authoress long after my dust can't revel in it? More than likely, those questions will remain. All I can do is keep writing when I'm inspired.
As my biography states, I've "dabbled" in writing and editing projects for several years. Some of those were triggered from the left side of my brain and were academic or business-oriented. Others were meaningful and dripped straight from my innermost springs. But writing Falling in October forever ruined me. The easy explanation is that I put more into this book than anything I've ever written. I don't mean more effort; I mean, more of myself. After I wrote the first manuscript, someone encouraged me to expand it, saying, "When I see something great, I want more." That word more kept burning through me. I didn't have more in the way of raw material. I got more by allowing myself to go to a more revealing place in my writing. What resulted was more intimate than what I had planned on putting on bookshelves. Yet once I did it, I felt a personal triumph.
I am used to writing in both left and right-brained spheres, although I always preferred to write about what was important and dear to me. But now, when by necessity I revert to the kind of writing that claws at my mediocre marketing savvy or grammatical expertise, that gear-switching is now soul-grinding. It's harder for me to drag myself back to a vanilla copywriting mindset now. No, it doesn't drain my creative juices. On the contrary, it feels mindless. Picasso was meant to paint, but he would have been miserable painting pink bedrooms for little girls or stenciling house numbers on curbs. His pictures are framed and hung in museums, as they should be. He did what he was for. Whatever our opinions of his offbeat facial or mammary interpretations, there is no argument that there was indeed an artist within.
I know I will send a gasp through the crowd for my opinion on this, but to me, blogging just for the sake of "blah-ging" feels like the worst chore on a kid's Saturday morning. So even though I love writing to my heart's content, it has to be about more than tweeting, flitting, flying, or otherwise camping out in the massive book of faces with a few thousand of my closest "friends". I will and am establishing a presence so those who want to find me and my book can do so. My motivation is more focused than a typical author, because this book is tied to running head-on into one special man. He's the one I write to and about. I highly value personable connections and welcome comments from readers; but in public forums, I will not write just to write. If I say something, it's because I'm contributing something meaningful and I'm hoping that it touches someone in a positive way. I will not lose who I am in the sea of humanity, nor forget to honor the value of individuals.
Falling in October didn't take me to the heavenly heights of self-satisfaction as a writer. It just showed me how much more potential I have--as we all do. So, I'm not a writing snob who considers her every word golden. I'm just bored with uninteresting, insincere, recycled information. I want original, and I hope to be original. I will continue to be heart-based in all my writings.
I'm convinced that becoming technically better at this craft is not the answer to professional or personal achievement. In writing this book, the fulfillment came in surrendering to the process of letting my own mind and emotions steep in the scalding water of my life's journey. I have virtually always had that mindset; but this time, I just experienced it with such intense impact that I'm prone to shout it out. If you want my secret for becoming an author (albeit, a little known, starving one), this is it: Don't set out to write a book. Let the book refine and redefine you until it writes itself.
In his book, From Where You Dream, author and teacher Robert Olen Butler expresses these same sentiments. He quotes Miles Davis, the jazz trumpeteer, who said: "Man, you don't play what you know, you play what you hear." Butler admonishes writers to "get out of the habit of saying that you've got an idea". Instead, he insists that "Art does not come from ideas. Art does not come from the mind. Art comes from the place where you dream. Art comes from your unconscious; it comes from the white-hot center of you."
I don't know if it proves that I can write or shows that I can't, but that's the only way I've ever been able to write anything that contains a breath of human substance. Everything that has come from the structure of my left brain has perhaps sounded intelligent, but lacks emotional worth. I've always recognized that. Those two types of writing are very different, just like salt and pepper. Each has it's own purpose. But I only love one kind of writing.
If you want to write intimately, you can't do it while sitting behind an objective barrier. If passion ends up on the pages, it will be because it coursed through your veins first. You can't just hold the string, dip words like a teabag in hot water, and not get your fingers wet. You have to become the tea in the teabag, committing to all the color and flavor being drawn out of you--even and especially when it's painful. To hold you in place, that sane structure of your writing needs the confines of the teabag--that delicately porous but constructive medium of the English language that contains all those potent, granular pieces of you. Being neatly kept in that square paper pouch will give you a certain dignity, even while subjecting your whole internal being to the utter inferno in the teacup. But inside, as you surrender to that intensity, you will write intensely. As you submit yourself to all that cuts you and bleeds, readers will be rivetted and spellbound. That's when you'll get the deserved respect given to true authors. I covet that for myself, and also for you who aspire to write. So....do. ♥