"Are you a writer or an author?"
I used to think this simply meant the difference between being unpublished or published. That's not untrue, but I'm beginning to realize that it's not that simple.
Elizabeth Atkinson talks about the publishing process as "introverts being expected to be extroverts."
Jennifer Crusie has said that getting published is like taking a piece of art and turning it into a can of soup, and if you can't make that transition, publishing is going to break your heart.
Lynda Mullaly Hunt recently told a roomful of hopeful author-wannabes that being an author is about the business side of writing, while being a writer is the about the creative side. And she urged us to protect this creative core of ourselves, to not let it get swallowed up by the business of being published.
Good advice, but how is it possible if you want to be a writer and an author? The 30-70 Rule (presented by Elizabeth Atkinson -- Nov 2018 post) is a time guide that a lot of authors keep in mind as a matter of practicality: 30% of their time is used for actual writing and 70% on promotion/sales/ submissions/social media/etc. That's 70% of the time not writing!!! How is it possible to hold your writing self intact if you spend such a small percentage of your time actually focusing on it?
Six months ago, I quit my job and plunged into a "writing walkabout" to discover more about why I write, and to see if it could it be a real vocation. The discoveries of these last months have gone beyond far my expectations as I've taken classes and workshops, and tried all kinds of new writing (I even tried stand-up comedy!). The main thing that has happened, the wonderful thing that has happened, is that I have discovered that not only do I love writing, but I love it in a whole new and more complex way than I could have realized even a year ago, and can see that growing and developing as I continue to learn and write.
So writing? YES!!!!!!!
But authoring? Hmmmm...
Have you ever read the acknowledgements at the back of a book? That long, long list of people involved in getting a book to press? Those lists intimidate the heck out of me. That's so many people, so many steps, so much work and time. My stomach starts to cramp up thinking of all the emails and revisions and meetings and input and PEOPLE! All those people! And that's after you do all the submission work and find an agent/publisher!
At least I know I'm in good company. I'm not the only one who'd like to pass on all the authoring stuff and just sit at my computer with the sunshine or the rain or the snow outside my window, drinking tea and creating worlds and letting characters romp through them. Or sitting on my bed in my pajamas, not even officially up for the day because I had a spark of an idea as I woke up, so I'm sitting there writing and writing as a new story emerges, thousands of bright-winged words spilling out as I lose track of time.
And then my book would magically revise itself, perfectly phrased and typo-free, and morph a lovely cover and lightly textured pages of recycled, non-chlorine-bleached paper, and somehow, osmosis-like, end up in bookstores and libraries, and no one would actually read except for people who LOVED it, so I didn't ever have to worry about pesky things like critics or social media trolls, or if my family or friends liked it or not.
I'll keep hoping! :)
Meanwhile, as my writing walkabout is ending (practicality demands it!) and I step out again into the unknown, I'll try to focus on the usual: finding balance, staying open to possibilities and opportunities, and doing things one step at a time. And making sure that no matter what authoring might be in my future, that I always remember to make room for what I really love: writing!
When: May 3, 4, 5
Where: Springfield, Massachusetts
Who: SO MANY WRITERS!!!
What: Keynotes and workshops and pitches, oh my!
This was my first official conference for the Northeast Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (NESCBWI) and it blew my socks off! They kept us very busy--I have a notebook full of scribbles that I'm now decoding, gleaning all those gems of information passed on by industry professionals from picture book writers, middle-grade and young adult writers, and agents and editors. There were members there from as far away as Texas, travelling all the way to the east coast because the NESCBWI conferences are awesome! (You can see the details at https://newengland.scbwi.org/ )
Aside from the four workshops on Saturday and three on Sunday, and meeting other aspiring authors, my favorite part of the conference was the keynotes. While it's understandably frowned upon to pass along information learned at a workshop or conference, I think it would be okay to share a snippet of inspiration from the keynote speakers (and if I'm wrong, please let me know!)
Jane Yolen, award-winning author of over 300 books for children, (including the How Do Dinosaurs... books) started off the conference on Friday evening. Among the inspiration she shared, I loved her focus on valuing the writing process, not the end product, because, Jane said, if you focus on the product, you will lose the joy of writing and you will burn yourself out.
Patricia MacLachlan also spoke on Friday evening, in a fireside chat. Patricia is the author of one of my favorite books, Sarah Plain and Tall, and seeing her on stage was a trip--she's quite outspoken and funny and tart! I enjoyed her take on writing as "a wonderful way to make a living" because you can take naps, hang with the cat, drink...and find joy (because of the writing, not the drinking. Or...maybe both?).
Saturday, the keynote speaker was Lynda Mullaly Hunt, a middle-grade author who spoke about being vulnerable in writing, as she found herself doing at a whole new, uncomfortable level with her newest book Shouting at the Rain. Lynda had so many great quotes (my notebook is a solid mass of scribbles!) but one that resonated with me was: "It's not who you think you are that holds you back. It's who you think you are not" --a quote attributed to Denis Waitley.
And finally on Sunday, Euka Holmes closed the conference. EUKA HOLMES, y'all! She spoke with the kind amazing energy and warmth that is reflected in her art and told us about specific books that she illustrated and her process of creation. One thing she shared was something her mother always told her: "Don't get ahead of yourself, don't let yourself get overwhelmed. Just do the next thing, whatever that may be." I loved that! Good advice for any endeavor!
So now the conference is over, and while I'm still processing everything, I am also considering the next steps in my own writing journey. As I move forward, I hope to hold on to the inspiration that I gained from the people above, who've been there, done that, and triumphed. I hope to hold on to the inspiration to enjoy the process, take naps because I can, not limit myself, and "just do the next thing, whatever that my be."