Creative Courage.
April 12, 2011

The thing about publishing is that it’s like a reallllly long ladder with neverending rungs. Just when one rung is reached, the next comes into view, then the next. Just like a poem or a novel, it seems we’re never finished.

Sometimes the writer’s journey hurts so much it aches — a physical sensation I’d liken to a punch in the gut, and which, from time to time, can extract a low groan which causes dogs’ heads to turn and husbands to pause the television to inquire.

Some days there is over-confidence, not necessarily because a writer thinks they’re oh-so-great, but as a stop-gap measure against the waves of doubt that threaten to drown the hope, occurring mostly on the days we feel especially discouraged, stressed or unsure.

Other days we can lose all confidence because it’s easier to give up for a day (or month or week) than to continue to remain confident (takes much more energy) and withstand the aching assault on our writing hopes and dreams.

That’s where creative courage comes in.

It takes courage to create art, and not only to create it, but to risk the criticism and exposure that accompany the act of putting our work (our heart) out there.

Courage will falter from time to time. That’s normal. Those are the times it behooves us to follow our dreams back to their roots, to the childlike magic that precedes our words, brushstrokes, camera flashes, musical notes, pirouettes …

At it’s heart-shaped core, the act of art is an act of bravejoy. If an artist can reconnect to the joy, the doubt subsides and the hope and fortitude return.   

Writing is tough, getting agented is tough, going out on sub is tough — creative courage is tough, but if you’re creating art, if you’re putting yourself out there, if you’re picking yourself back up after a rejectional fall, please consider this post a candle in the window, pages and pages of belief in you, a full-out sentence parade with a marching band, flashy floats and paragraphs and paragraphs of confetti in your honor.

More and more, I admire the artists of the world. I believe artists change the world, both within and without. 

So thank you, artists who come before us, for your creative courage. Thank you for lighting our candles with yours. We hope and dream and leave the belief-light on in the jules (and jewels) of your example.

Tomorow is a new day of words.

Tomorrow is art waiting to happen.

Why Do We Publish?
July 28, 2008

“I smile when you suggest that I delay “to publish” — that being foreign to my thought, as Firmament to Fin. If fame belonged to me, I could not escape her — if she did not, the longest day would pass me on the chase — and the approbation of my Dog, would forsake me — then. My Barefoot-Rank is better. You think my gait “spasmodic”. I am in danger, Sir. You think me “uncontrolled”. I have no Tribunal … The Sailor cannot see the North, but knows the Needle can.”

Emily Dickinson in an April 25th, 1862 letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson. 

Emily Dickinson

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this subject, lately, as I continue the query process. Why that thrust toward publishing our work? How are we sure we have something worthwhile or meaningful to say?

Since I finished my novel in May, my world has shifted from writing, or creating, to research into the business end of writing and the query process. Related facts and rumors, exchanged amongst writers, perk my ears and cause me to compare and contrast my own work, process, and motivations.

In reality, the query process casts a spell upon me that is both dark and grouchy; as soon as I find an industry insider explaining the perfect query letter format, I find another (and another) with a whole different take on this important letter (that may open the door enough for a crack of light to fall upon your work).

The fact is, I’m a writer. I’m an artist, a creator, a thinker, not a businesswoman. I only travel as far as I do down Query Road by pushing on, regardless, and due to my stubbornness — it really comes in handy during the query process.

Thinking on this further, I miss the writing part of my novel. I miss my main character. She grew into a close friend whose mind I snuggled up in and whose vision conjured up my inner champion. With her struggles being very relatable to three to five million human beings in the United States alone, she taught me the basics of human existence: how we all struggle toward love and acceptance, from others and from ourselves. On some levels, the query process isn’t immune to this truth.

I miss my days being creative and light, since the business side of writing feels like an uphill mountain trek complete with mental thunderstorms and shifting confidence. Actually, I’m supposed to be taking the summer off, spending my time reading and riding and kicking back after two years of hard work, seven days a week, rewriting and editing my novel. Only, I can’t seem to let go of it. Frankie is counting on me, and for the millions of people with eating disorders, there’s no vacation for them, either.

Just like tomatoes are actually fruit, (berries, to make the concept even more bizarre), like it or not, so are artists business people. Why do we publish? For many, many reasons. Because we want to show off our hard work, because we’re writers and that’s what writers do, because we have something important to say and to share, and even because of the difficulty of the process, in its artful mix of skill, hard work, and fate.

In 1886, upon Emily Dickinson’s death, 900 (unpublished) poems were found in her dresser drawer tied up with string, and the rest is history. Maybe she was right; if fame belongs to us we cannot escape her, not even in death. Just like Emily, with or without recognition, or even publication, the writers I know write anyway because they are writers. What else would we do?