During the month of May I challenged myself as an author. As I sat down with my work in progress, a voice whispered that I should churn out a few short stories.
Someone of my regular subscribers just said, “aren’t you working on a novel?”
Yes. Yes, I am.
While my first book received two prestigious nominations: Georgia Author of the Year and a SIBA nomination, all of my awards are for short stories. I cut my teeth on them. Pressed pen to paper, wept, laughed, and bled pieces of myself into those stories. So when the voice whispered I sat up and paid attention.
After all, the voice had whispered before.
For those of you who are authors and parents, let me pause a moment for some plain talk. You should expect the following EVERY time you are under deadline.
* You or your child will be come ill (it was me, terrible allergies/cold)
* Everyone in your home will make demands on your time (Honey, I know we’ve had the slate in the basement for 6 years, but I’ve decided to start the project now)
* You will learn to prioritize, or you will not meet your deadline (I’m sorry, I’m available after June 1st)
* You will want to give up (Lord, what am I doing? Why do I bother?)
To stay on task, here is what worked for me:
* I did not obsess about subject matter.
* I prayed for words, then waited.
* I wrote something every day. Sometimes, it was a notation in my prayer journal, other times it was a burst of 1800 words.
* I dusted off the Trash File; you know the one, these are the stories you’d be embarrassed to let out of the house.
* I wrote stories in 3rd person, this was a real challenge.
* I unplugged from Facebook. I wrote by hand, edited by hand.
* I did not give up.
I’m not certain why I lost my mind and agreed to write 40K words in May. It wasn’t even NaNoWriMo (National Write a Novel in a Month). May is an impossible month:end of school, family reunion, Memorial Day activities, all tug at me leaving very little time, but still, I do what I’m told. The beauty of my self-imposed deadline is accountability. I am my biggest critic. No one needed to nudge me. If I want success, I must work. I must work hard. I must sacrifice.
You do know that . . . right?
I didn’t obsess about word count. I wrote. Obsessing about content will kill your creativity.
Every. Single. Time.
You can not sit down and force words. They will not come. Ever. Actually, when words failed to arrive according to my schedule I walked away from the computer and arranged pieces of slate for my husband’s front porch project. This physical labor allowed me to sweat and allowed the words to stew.
Words need to stew. Stew is very good.
The final week was a disaster. Multiple issues pulled me away from my work, leaving me emotionally exhausted (my cold didn’t help either). At one point I sat outside, weeping. Crying, I had a big ole pity party. Then the voice spoke. You have allowed this drama to come between you and your work.
Notice that the voice said: “allowed.” Yes, issues required my attention, my time, my energy, but I would only fail if I allowed the issues to wear me down.
This is why writing pen to paper works for me. When I must be away from the computer, work travels with me. Notebook pages have no internet access. No access is a good, almost as good as stewed words.
So I wiped my face and I pressed on. The end result is a pretty awesome short story collection. Now I will determine whether to shop them for a publisher, or release them myself. Regardless of my choice, with my deadline met I will let the words marinate for a couple months. Pick them back up in August and make my decision; unless the voice whispers. By now I know to listen and obey.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes. In 2012 she released Stress-Free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She is currently working on her first novel. She would love to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com