Community

When you write, you’re never alone. Your characters are with you, your worlds. And if you’re lucky, so is your muse.

I see my muse as that inner voice that tells me to add a paragraph break in a spot where I don’t think it’s necessary, but provides perfect pacing when I’m reading the piece through. I show her respect when I make the changes that just feel right and follow the scenes that play out in my mind. The more I trust my muse, the more she wants to play. The work I’ve done up to this point (and there has been a lot of it) has heightened my ability to communicate with her, taught me the skills I need to let go and let the words come. I feel my muse with me when I write.

It’s when the work is finished that the loneliness can set in. My muse has moved on by the end of a piece, whether I want to or not. I think that’s part of why I seek to be published.

I love my characters, good or bad. I want to share them with others. Putting them on the page is a good first step, but when they make their way into other peoples’ hearts and minds, they become that much more real. Now they exist in you. I look forward to being able to talk to people about the characters that I’ve spent so much time with, to hear the readers’ thoughts and maybe get a fresh perspective on characters that I still have more to learn from.

Writing bridges the gap between the community in my mind and the one in the world I live in, bringing the characters, the worlds I create, that much closer to me and (hopefully) my readers as well.

Shoes

I am not a person who is overly fond of shoes. I own maybe half a dozen pairs and only actually wear three of them (everyday sneakers, sandals for rare skirt appearances, and hiking boots for muddy days at the park). I’m usually most concerned about comfort when I search for clothing, so I have trouble relating to characters who are defined by a near-obsessive love of attire. That might have ended with my latest pair of sandals.

They’re cushy and they’re mostly flat, they fit my feet better than most shoes, and I actually love the way they look. Strappy in a Romanesque style, they fit my list of criteria and my personality. And that brought on my epiphany. People (and characters) can use shoes to communicate. Whether it’s something as fleeting as a mood or as deep as their personality, shoes and clothing tell a lot about a person. This is probably obvious to many people, but I’ve never given it much thought (as my wardrobe attests).

This revelation has come with a new writing exercise I’m eager to try. I’m going to go shoe-shopping for some of my characters. Whether online or in a store, I’m going to peruse the shelves while thinking of my characters and ask myself, what would they wear? Would they be excited about these shoes? Is there an event in the book that might make them want to go out and buy a special pair of shoes?

I might never use the actual shoes in the story, but it will definitely inform the character and that will come across in my writing. When my writing helps me to understand the people around me better, that is a very good thing.

For Love of Writing

Sometimes I forget why I’m here. Not in the existential sense, but why I’m at the keyboard. Why do I stay up late and skip gatherings or even meals to get the words down on the page? What drives me to keep writing book after book, to continuously study the craft and the industry, when it would be so much easier to watch TV or hang out with friends?

I tell myself it’s because I’m trying to get published, and that’s hard work. True, but the question I forget to ask is, why do I want to be published in the first place? “Well, because I want to be a writer,” my goal-oriented self says. And then I’m left wondering, what am I now? Goal-oriented self doesn’t have a quick response to that, which gives me the opening I need to take a breath and actually think.

I am a writer. When I don’t write, I’m not happy, not whole. People notice. I notice. I might not have as much time in my day to write as I would like, but I’m still writing. Publishing my works, and hopefully achieving some success with them, is a means to an end (writing more), not the end itself. Remembering this helps me realize that yes, I already am a writer. And that thought makes me happy right now.

Chiaroscuro

When you write shorter pieces, the good and the bad can be more sharply defined. You don’t have time or word count to soften the edges. Maybe this is why my weaknesses become so much more apparent to me in shorter works. If I’m repeating the same phrases or words in an 80,000 word novel, they have more room to hide. But in a 10,000 word piece? It becomes obvious pretty fast. It’s hard to look at weaknesses without giving fodder to the inner critic. I try to keep it at bay by reminding myself that I can always edit those things out. And with each thing I notice and correct, I become a better writer.

Limiting my word count forces me to give even more thought to my choice of words. If you have a paragraph describing a character, then decide you need to cut it down to one sentence for pacing, imagine the difference in the words you would choose. Experimenting with word counts can sharpen your skills, expand your vocabulary, and increase your awareness of pacing.

Shorter pieces are like chiaroscuro. The light and the dark stand in much starker contrast and can show us where our strengths and weaknesses lie.