IWSG: Taking the Next Step

As much as I enjoy the sheer fun of blogging and writing in general, my goals are becoming more ambitious, more professional, with an ultimate desire to make a living from my writing. It’s going to be a lot of work and it’s not always going to be enjoyable, but it also has the potential to be the most fulfilling, personally satisfying endeavor of my career.

But I’m certainly not getting to where I want to be solely through this blog. As much as I enjoy sharing work with my handful of followers, blogging is largely an introspective activity, concerned more with personal expression than meeting the reader’s interests. The likes and comments are helpful, but don’t provide the critical insight required to improve the writer’s craft. The discipline I’ve learned from blogging needs to be supplemented with an active engagement with readers — and in the past couple of months, I’ve begun such an engagement.

Using Meetup, I’ve contacted writer’s groups in my area, and believe I’ve found a group that’s right for me. Cautious to a fault with new relationships, I established my presence over a series of meetings:

  • First Meeting — Observation. My goals at the initial gathering were simple: introduce myself, and observe the group’s interactions. I was impressed by their reaction to me, how they were clearly open to my arrival but without the desperate solicitation I find disturbing with some groups. The members also seemed dedicated to improving not only their own work but the work of other members. A good vibration, with no red flags — enough positivism to make me put the following month’s meeting on my calendar.
  • Second Meeting — Participation. Five writers submitted around 3000 words each for the following month, and I played the role of helpful critic to the best of my ability. Find something positive about each work, along with an area for improvement; most contributions were strong, and my critiques were received with enthusiasm. Still no red flags; this definitely seems like the right group for me.
  • Third Meeting — Contribution. Two weeks from this Saturday, the group will be responding to the opening scene of “The Land Without Mosquitos,” which has appeared previously on this blog. Being one of the few works I’ve actually completed, this story seemed like the best vehicle for obtaining the critical feedback I need to advance my career.

That Saturday represents the next step in what will likely be a long journey, and I’m anxious to see where it takes me.

The above is my contribution to this month’s Insecure Writers Support Group day.

The Curious Ambiguity of Having Fun

[I’m contributing once again to the Insecure Writers Support Group day.]

I blog because it’s fun. That last statement is not as straightforward as it might seem.

Fun is often associated with amusement or entertainment, and is, like cool or sucks, an apparently innocuous term that can actually convey a great deal of critical judgment; the question Want to go see that Batman vs. Superman movie? can be answered Sure, that should be fun or Nah, that’s not my idea of fun. But when I blog, I’m not often amused and hardly ever entertained. Sometimes I blog with a great deal of agitation and anxiety, frustrated at not being able to convey what I’m feeling, worried about my readers’ responses (or worse, not receiving any responses at all), annoyed at this compulsion that drives me to post something, anything, every day. When I hit that Post button, I sometimes smile with satisfaction, but am just as likely to wince with regret.

Yet I’m having fun, no matter how I feel when my daily post flies out into the ether, forever beyond my control.

You won’t find the word energized in the dictionary definition of fun, but that’s the feeling that drives my blogging, inspires me to write on days both good and bad. I feel that energy in my fingertips as they hover over the keyboard, in my mind as it searches or even struggles for just the right word, sometimes in my entire body as it spontaneously rises from the chair, paces around the room whether I’m alone at home or on my lunch break in the work cafeteria (hey guys, how’s it going, soup’s pretty good today). It’s similar to the energy I feel when fencing, that burst of enthusiasm on scoring the hard-earned touch, the scream of satisfaction. (Yes, fencers yell when they score. It’s what we do. Don’t like it — go play golf.) 

Some days that energy is low on amperage, but it never goes inert. I’m not always happy with my blogging, but I always feel some energy when I’m finished.

And it’s a whole lotta fun.

IWSG – Every Day

Today is my initial contribution to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a marvelously self-deprecating collection of bloggers whom I’ve recently joined. The only requirement for membership is to contribute a post on the first Wednesday of each month; consider this my audtion.

  

Among the suggestions for “ISWG Day” is to offer advice or encouragement to other writers, so allow me to share the one habit I’ve adopted that’s helped me achieve my modest writing goals. It’s simple to state, not always easy to execute — but writing every day has been the key to my limited success.

Rephrasing into a command: You need to write every day. And when I say every day, I mean, every day.

No breaks for weekends or holidays. No vacations. No compromsises (I’ll write two posts today so I can skip tomorrow), no rationalizations (Tomorrow I’ll revise the draft I have today — it’s quality, not quantity, that matters), no excuses (It’s been a hell of a day, I need a mental break).

Every day.

Length doesn’t matter; if all I’ve got one day is a sentence, that lonely string of words will just have to do. Quality doesn’t matter; sometimes I dash off something I consider ridiculously lame, only to receive more positive response than I do on posts that I believe to be much better (a great lesson in self-critical humility). Consistency doesn’t matter; my blog is mostly a linear development of different fiction projects, but if I need to go off script for a day or two, that’s where I’ll go.

Every. Day.

Starting a daily writing habit is not going to be easy. You’re going to forget a day here and there at the beginning; it took a good three months before the habit became ingrained in me, and in the year that followed there were more than a few oh shit evenings where I jumped from bed and hit the Publish button moments before midnight. But eventually, it becomes a part of your day that you plan for, and enjoy.

Every day. Even when it’s difficult.

Last spring, as my mother’s health deteriorated and I left my job, home, and family to be with her at the end, I considered setting aside my blog temporarily. Writing at the time seemed self-indulgent, selfish; my blogging projects held no appeal. I knew I couldn’t continue writing solely to appease my vanity — yet I still felt it was important for me to write. Take care of yourself,the words of my mother and friends, family in those final days. You need to eat, get some rest; take a shower, go for a walk, cry when the sorrow is too much. You’re no good to anyone if you’re a wreck. Writing had become too important for me to set aside; deciding not to write would be like intentionally not brushing my teeth in the morning — I could do it, but I wouldn’t feel right the entire day. So I decided to continue writing, every day, even the day of her funeral; nonsense verse, verbal salads of garden vegetables tossed with whipped cream, the jibberish rantings of a soul in pain. I’m neither glad nor upset that I wrote daily during that time; I just know it was what I had to do.

Every day. On the good days and the bad, when the words come easily and when they have to be extracted, whether you feel like writing or feel you’ve earned a break. Writing, every day — the blissfully bittersweet obligation.

2016 Writing Goals

In a recent post on her 2016 blogging goals, Damyanti Biswas recommended her peers join one of her online writer’s groups. Her suggestion has inspired me to consider my own writing goals for the coming year.

My primary ambition has nothing to do with blog stats, word counts, or other personal accomplishments. I’m defining success in 2016 by my ability to make connections, both online and interpersonal, with other writers. For too long I’ve been trying to do this all on my own, imagining I was some genius lone wolf who just needed some time in a quiet room in order to find the success I seek. And a computer. Financial independence, as well. Someone to clean the house, cook my meals . . .

Oh, sorry! Where was I — oh yeah, my fantasy writing life, where all I need is myself. One of the valuable lessons I’ve learned since I’ve started blogging is that writers support, and learn from each other. Successful bloggers don’t just write, they read, and comment on other blogs. There is a social aspect to blogging, and writing in general, that I have been almost entirely missing.

That changes in the coming year. Already joined that group Damyanti recommended, will also beat the bushes in my area to find a face-to-face writer’s group. I’ll join, and contribute, to as many groups as my energy can sustain. And I’ll be posting comments and fowarding links on a much more regular basis.

And, of course, posting here daily. Have another chapter or three for my novel to draft, and will take the NaNoWriMo challenge again in November for another round of revisions.

All of a sudden, I realize there’s a lot on my plate this year. Going to be difficult at times, but writing is the only work I’ve ever wanted to do. Looking forward to pushing myself, and hope you’ll enjoy this ride.