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Why dogs are like writing

My kids once argued that they could never be bored if they had a dog. You can probably guess how that worked out. But I feel the same way about writing. I can never be bored when I have a story to work on.

Writing’s been keeping me engaged for three years now. In fact, if you ignore the complete lack of pay, this is the longest I’ve held one job, um, ever.

I’m not lazy. I just crave constant mental challenge. Once I master my work I’m ready to move on, but writing is the one thing I can never fully master. Even if I were flawless in all aspects of craft—oh, if only!—there would always be a new story to challenge me, new plot points and characters to work through, research to be done.

Writing has held my attention over the last three years, but each year has had a different focus or feel to it. That keeps it interesting.

2009 was all about the joy of writing, happiness at finally finding something to keep my brain engaged, and getting to know other writers. I started learning how the industry worked, and began to see that it was changing rapidly.

2010 was the year of craft. I read as many books, blogs, and articles as I could get my hands on. I took online classes, attended my chapter meetings, worked with a critique partner, and entered contests. I attended my first national conference and volunteered at the national level.

2011 was the year I hit my stride as a writer. I got the Golden Heart nod and placed well in several contests, and I started getting requests for my full manuscript, rejections with feedback (including one revise-and-resubmit from an agent), and requests for my future work.

I took a leap and started teaching my online Scrivener class, getting back to something else I’ve always loved. But the other thing that happened in 2011? I faltered as a writer. I got too caught up in the craft and structure and forgot how to just write for the story first. I focused too much on my process, my stories’ publishability, and other people’s visions for my work. I got too involved in volunteering, email loops, and social media.

I went off track.

So, 2012 is the year I take back my writing. I’m scaling back my commitments to more manageable levels. As for my writing, this is the first year where I feel like I might actually be ready to deal successfully with a publishing offer. I even got my first revise-and-resubmit from an editor.

Now that I have all that craft swimming in my head and know (better) how to layer it in during the revision process, I’m focusing on the writing joy again.

Maybe this won’t be the year of the contract. And that’s okay too.

People who’ve never written before wonder how we can stand to wait three, four, five, or eleven years to get published. Sure, the anxiety and impatience are there, but the longer I’m in this game, the more I realize how ill-prepared I was in the early years, and how much more I still need to learn.

I have to believe that persistence will pay off. So, until I get the call, I’ll be happily working on my future backlist.

Besides, I have a dog, so I can never be bored.

0 Comments

  1. Reply

    Writing has such an informal and undefined career path. From “gee I want to write” to “cashing the big one” is a winding road to say the least.

    Few would argue that a pediatrician might need to formally study just a tad before they practice. We still debate if an MFA helps or hinders a writer.

    Sounds like you are on track to me.

  2. Reply

    Retrievers and Labs are the best kid dogs. I have a picture of our Chocolate lab, Tyler, stretched out on the floor with my then three year old grand daughter sitting on him like he was a chair. He did open his eyes when I moved to pick up the camera.

    Something you might have missed in your list above is “voice.” I have been reading your material for a while now. If one thing has changed that is it.

    You may not know it but you speak with an assumption that you will be heard. That has effected your style. It is much more fluid and connected. Your words resonate. The reader hears you not just with their mind in terms of understanding but in terms of their person. You will cobble one together that connects with an editor, mark my word.

    • Reply

      Interesting point, Curtis. I’m sure it helps knowing I have a few loyal followers out there. 😉 Thanks for sticking with me so long!

      I think my voice is stronger in my manuscripts too. Some of that just comes from increased confidence, and practice. In my feedback, I’m usually praised for my style and voice, and dinged on my plot or conflict. At least I know where I need to work…

      And, yep, Zoe is super kid-friendly. One reason we went for that breed.

  3. Reply

    Good luck this year! I’m hoping to get back to writing this year, but with Wesley, it seems unlikely to happen for a while. More sleep would go a long way to improving my creative process.

    • Reply

      Thanks, Kali! I’ve been thinking about you and wondering how things are going. Good luck with the sleep thing. You’ll have plenty of time to write later. Just enjoy this now. 🙂

  4. Reply

    Good for you for taking back your writing time, Gwen! And I love how you’re working on your “future backlist.” 🙂 Nice way to think about it.

    If you haven’t scaled back your reading time at Attacking The Page, you might like today’s post about perseverance.

  5. Reply

    What a terrific post, Gwen! Thank you for sharing your perspective on your first years of writing. You are getting closer to publication, and when it happens, you will be ready. I, too, enjoy the process and the challenge writing provides. I’ve held the same dayjob for 25 years but it’s the kind of job where I can accomplish one set of skills and then move onto the next one. Even so, I had to start writing or I’d have died of boredom.

    Writing is perfect for those of us who, once we master something, are driven toward the novel. 🙂

    • Reply

      Thanks, Jolyse. I knew we got along for a reason. 😉 In other writers I’ve found a group of people who get me. It’s so nice. Happy writing!

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