Sunday, February 9, 2014

Know Thyself

Listen. I'm not going to tell you how to write. There is plenty of amazing (and not so amazing) advice floating around the internet. Lots of fish in the preverbal sea handing out helpful tips and sage guidance on the do's and don'ts of writing.

If I was to give writerly tips, they would be:
a. Metaphors are seductive. Learn how to say no to them.
b. Look up the definitions of mumble and mutter.
c. For the love of God, use ... sparingly.
d. Readers are your friends. Listen to them.
c. Never take writing advice from me.

What I do have in my back pocket to share is a little word to the wise. Advice that just might help you leapfrog years upon years of grueling indecisiveness as a writer. Hell, possibly as a person. 

What's this wellspring of knowledge I'm bringing to the party?

Here it comes. 
It's a doozy. 
You ready for it?
I could stop right here because y'all are like,
Yep, totally get it, Ang.
Know thyself.
I'll get on it right about now-ish.

The real question is:

Why bring up something so simple, something so cliche it's on every Hallmark card from here to Timbuktu (and I would know because I'm an ex-Hallmark employee)?

As simple as this may seem, as ridiculous as it might feel to bring it up, until a few months ago, I did not know myself as a writer. I didn't really know what it was I wanted out of this crazy joyride. I did not know what my expectations were or even my goals. I sort of adopted the status quo's mantra and got caught up in the whirlwind of social media.

It wasn't until I woke up from a serious bout of depression that I started asking myself what the hell I was even doing. This question helped me realize some important facts about myself.

1. I work at a slower pace than most writers.

Why? Well, it could be due to the five year old who, at this exact moment, is examining my ear for Purple Cauliflower People who are trying to eat my brain. Or maybe it's because I'm slightly OCD. And while I write at a neck breaking speed when inspiration smacks me in the face, for the most part, I'm slowly going the way of the buffalo. And you know what? That's okay. This isn't a race. It's writing. Oddly enough, there is a difference.

2. I really don't want to be popular.

Hey. I saw that eye roll. I know what you're thinking, everyone says that. But, I swear, it's the truth. The thought of doing an author signing gives me the heebie-jeebies. The whole time I would be wondering a. why people would want me to deface their books and b. which of these crazy bastards is going to eat my soul. Ladies and gents, I like my house. It's safe. It's climate controlled. And I can wear my pajama pants all day long without being judged. Why would I want to leave it?

3. I want to be patient as I seek publication.

I'm not just looking to be published. I'm not just looking for a quick ride to fame and fortune. I'm one of those ridiculous people who has something to say and wants to share it because they are oh. so. important. and everyone needs to listen to them. I'm a reader. I love books. I love connecting with characters. As a writer, I want to connect with my readers through my characters and make them cry and laugh and swoon. That is more important to me than money or fame or people wanting to rush off to see a movie based on my book. And OhMyGOSH, please understand, there is nothing wrong with fame and money and books to movies. I fully support it on a daily basis as I fangirl like a freak, throwing my money away on books and swag and midnight showings. I just don't care if it happens to me. Would I turn my nose at money and fame and all the jazz? I don't know. But I highly doubt I'll ever be faced with the decision so why focus on something that truly isn't important to me? Which leads to--

4. I'm not interested in money or popularity or fame and I've got plenty of time to strengthen my skillz of a writer, so why am I freaking out so much?

5. I just want to write a book worth publishing.

Plain and simple. If that's my goal, why worry about when it happens and instead work toward making it happen.

And just like that, I know myself.
I know who I am.
What I'm working toward.
I can throw out all the unnecessary pressure I've placed on myself.
I can focus on improving as a writer,
while taking steps toward publication at my own pace.
I can be happy for those around me who are finding success
and find hope and joy in their milestones verses stress and envy.
I realize this is not a race or a contest.
This is my job.

As a writer, I am guilty of looking to others to set my pace and goals. As a writer, I am guilty of feeling overwhelmed by the pressure to race toward a finish line I can't even see. As a writer, I have not taken the time to establish my own personal goals. As a writer, I have not known myself and this has hurt me. 

Know yourself, my friends. If you want to be a popular author who makes the big bucks, know that, embrace that, and tailor your goals to fit that desire accordingly. If you want to see your name on a book cover at all cost, know that about yourself and make it happen. Don't feel bad or shy or fearful or envious. Be honest. Be frank. Be fearless. 

In the words of Buddha:
The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.
Be true to yourself, my friends. Trust me on this. Life is too short to be dishonest with yourself.

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