I’m giving up fear for Lent

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image from Tin House

Hidden away in a large plastic bin are years of my writing; poems, plays, short stories, articles, essays… even a finished book-length manuscript. Why are they stored in a bin and buried in my bedroom?

Because I am terrified of rejection.

I used to send my work out, but after twenty-five rejection letters I quit. I couldn’t take the disappointment and depression any more. Every rejection felt like a rejection of me, not my writing. I was the loser who poured her soul into every word only to have all that work stomped on by a heartless editor. My writing was worthless, therefore I was worthless.

My ego became intertwined with my writing. How can it not? Writing comes from the heart; it makes you vulnerable. You have to open a vein into your inner core and let the creativity pour out. No wonder every rejection letter felt like a rejection of my soul. I was just another girl who thought she could write like the millions of others who think they can write. I’m not special. I don’t matter and neither does my writing.

Vulnerability turned to depression and depression became fear. Never wanting to feel that much misery again, I put my writing in a plastic bin and shoved it behind my bed.

The other day, someone asked me what I was giving up for Lent. Not being a Christian, I just shrugged and said, “candy.” But what actually is Lent? And why should you give something up to celebrate?

According to The Upper Room, Lent is the season of the Christian year when Christians focus on simple living, fasting and prayer to grow closer to God. For 40 days, the length of time Jesus wandered in the desert alone, Christians let go of material things and focus on their spirit. For this ritual to work you have to give up something you really love, or are really attached to.

I am absolutely attached to fear. Perhaps this is a blasphemous way of observing a holy tradition, but as I said, I’m not Christian. However, I do believe ritual and symbols are important and that reconnecting to our sense of spirit is vital. Making a commitment to something greater than ourselves makes us better humans. Some people find that in religion. I find it in creativity.

For the next forty days I will submit my writing. Every day, I will send one piece of my work out into the world and will not think about whether or not it is accepted. Acceptance isn’t the goal, getting over fear is. And I will do this in the spirit of Lent. I am letting go of ego and sharing my work with anyone who may find it beneficial. I am strengthening my creativity and weakening the inner critic who tells me I’m worthless. And if I get 40 rejections, so be it. I’ll decoupage them and make a gorgeous collage.

 

 

Why I loved Carrie Fisher, and it isn’t because of Princess Leia

As a kid in the 1970’s, I loved Star Wars. But that’s not why I loved Carrie Fisher. To me, Carrie Fisher was more than Princess Leia, an icon from my childhood. She was a strong, outspoken, honest and creative woman. She was a role model.

Carrie Fisher was a writer who shared her struggle with mental illness and addiction, but she did it with humility and humor. Sharing her story allowed others to laugh at their own struggles. She inspired me to write honestly. Speak the truth and don’t apologize, unless you really screwed up, then shout “I’m Sorry” with all your heart. And Carrie wasn’t afraid to fight. When people made fun of her for gaining weight it hurt, but she didn’t hide. Squaring her shoulders she responded with her usual strength and humor, and a loud “Fuck you.”

Carrie Fisher took no shit. Which is one of the reasons her death is so sad. Imagine how much more creative and outspoken she would have been at 80.

Thank you Carrie. I hope I can continue your example. Speak the truth. Laugh at yourself. Love with all your heart.

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Air Your Writing Grievances!

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Festivus, first depicted on the television show Seinfeld, is a secular holiday that allows for the Airing of Grievances. Got a complaint about a person? Air it out on December 23rd.

In that spirit, I would like to Air my Grievances about writing.

  1. I hate my compulsion to write. I am addicted. The need haunts my dreams, makes me grumpy when I don’t have the time to write and makes me resent everyone who interrupts my writing. Overall, writing makes me a bitch.
  2. My life is filled with imaginary characters who talk all at once and demand my attention, even when I’m surrounded by real humans. Writing makes me look like a crazy person.
  3. I have spent thousands of hours of my life pursuing perfection in writing. In those thousands of hours, I may have written four perfect sentences. Maybe.
  4. I have arthritis in my hands from thousands of hours of writing.
  5. Writing has made me a hoarder. There are boxes of journals, stories, half finished novels, outlines, bad poems and rejected manuscripts filling my attic and stuffed under my bed.
  6. Writing is life threatening. I will always get a great idea for a scene or story while driving. I will risk my safety and the safety of others to grab my cell phone in order to record that idea.
  7. Writing is boring. I would rather pick fleas off my dog than edit my novel. But like all good addictions, I will write and edit and write and edit until I go mad with boredom. This is why writers drink and their dogs have fleas.
  8. I’m sure I used the wrong “than” in the above section. And I am a horrible speller. But I will continue to butcher the English language because that is the only way I can get my writing fix. Being a writer and a horrible speller is a curse.
  9. I am terrified of rejection, but am compelled to write and submit and write and submit in a never ending cycle of masochistic misery.
  10. Writing makes me a narcissist. Everybody thinks their life story would make a great book. I am one of those people.

 

What are your grievances about writing?

Goodbye Dan Poynter. Thank you for the guidance

Dan Poynter, the Godfather of Independent Publishing, passed away this week. He was one of the pioneers of independent publishing, self publishing a book on parachuting in 1973. Since then, he has written numerous books and taught thousands of people how to self-publish their own work. His “Self Publishing Manual” was the first book I bought when I started Medusa’s Muse Press.

I met him 10 years ago at a publishing conference and heard him speak. He was dynamic and positive. With hard work and dedication, anyone can tell their story, he said. Anyone can publish a book. Never give up!

Thank you Dan. You were an inspiration and I will never forget you.

Happy 100th Birthday Arthur Miller

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Arthur Miller, playwright and activist. He fought against the Anti-communist witch hunts of the 1950’s by refusing to testify against his fellow artists and continued to fight injustice throughout his life. His play, “The Crucible” was inspired by his battle with Congress and his conviction of obstructing justice in 1957, a conviction overturned the following year.

Arthur Miller is one of the greatest American artists of all time. His plays revealed the inner life of ordinary people hunting the American dream. “Death of a Salesman” does this beautifully. If you haven’t read this play, do so.

Or listen to a live recording. What better way to celebrate the birthday of a genius writer than by celebrating his greatest work? 

No time for social media because I’m writing

I hear it all the time: to sell books writers must be online marketing themselves. We need blogs updated four times a week. Active Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. Pinterest clip boards filled with images of scenery from our books. And now Instagram because people under 40 want to see us writing, not just read our Tweets.

How exactly are we supposed to get any writing done?

If I spend all that time looking for interesting things to post on my “page”, when will I finish writing a page in my book?

I’m sorry, but my life is not so interesting I think I should fill up the net with images of my toenails or what I ate for dinner. No one’s life is. But we writers will make things up to have something to share online. If only I could come up with that one clever Tweet that goes viral and suddenly I’m a star on line for a day. That one clever comment everyone will repost. My blog will get a bump and I’ll sell more books. It’s like winning the lottery.

If I spend creative energy thinking up funny sayings or hunting for inspirational quotes (which I do, I hate to say) then that is creative energy not spent writing.

Where is the balance? How do we write and still find someone to read it. Writing for yourself is no fun. Writing for thousands is thrilling. Or so I hear. Maybe if people like what I’ve written here in this blog they’ll share it and my blog will be featured all over Facebook. It’s worth a try.

Time to work on my book.