By Deb McLeod
The theme of the 2013 Pikes Peak Writer’s Conference is "Writing from the Ashes: Never Lose Sight of Your Dreams." As a writing coach one of my jobs is to help my clients keep their writing dream alive. We march one step at a time toward their writing goals together. Learning to write can be a long apprenticeship. In a world where results are the measuring stick, it can get hard to face friends, family and busybodies who ask, yet again: “Finish your book yet?”
Well, it takes as long as it takes, but, bless them, if they aren’t writers they don’t know that.
Writing a book is a journey into yourself, into your characters and your story. If you let yourself, you will be changed when you come out the other side. And process is process is process. Beginning, middle, end.
In honor of the conference, and for my clients and friends everywhere, here are five things to remember that might help you keep your writing dream alive.
1. Know that it’s an incredible time to be a writer.
The publishing industry is in upheaval. That can only be good for writers. We have more control over our careers than ever before. Book tastes are changing as the audience tastes begin to drive what sells and not just what legacy publishers will publish. Cross genre books are selling and e-published work is challenging the same old genre formulas. With the advent of e-readers, studies say more people are reading. I can say for a certainty that more people are writing. It is a time of writing and reading abundance! Can you see yourself as part of this great writing evolution? Can you remind yourself that you are part of this new conversation?
2. Understand your writing as a process.
Sometimes when you’re in the long middle of your journey it can seem like your dream is only ever going to be a dream. I’m here to say that is only so if you let it be so. Start something and be alright not knowing where it will end up. Break up the long middle of your journey into pieces, set goals to get you through the time of accumulating pages so you can see what it is you have to say. Writing is editing too, so learn the tools and the craft and measure your progress as you transform that idea you had into something concrete. Transformation is process. Where are you in yours?
3. Lighten up – don’t put pressure on your dream.
Some writers are driven by the measurement of publishing. Some writers feel they aren’t really writers until an outside source has given them validity. And some, like Anne LaMott, will say that publishing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The joy is in the journey. When you’ve had a good writing day, measure your life by that. Do your friends and family know when you haven’t been able to sit down by yourself and get some words on paper? Most writers are happier, nicer and more relaxed after they’ve written for the day. If you’re one of those, as I am, then measure your success by the page. Did you get words on the paper today? Good for you. You win.
4. Be aware of the dream squelchers.
I have learned to use my squelchers to drive me. I have a dream to read one day in the auditorium of The University of Arizona where I got my bachelor’s degree in creative writing. I had a professor there who said – on our first day in class – that “there is so much bad writing out there, as a university professor it is my duty to encourage the best and weed out the rest.” I got a C in that class. My one and only writing C. He’s still at the U of A. I checked. One day I’m going back there to give him the raspberry. But then I’m going to thank him.
Pam Houston said once a workshop participant commented that she should find something else to do with her hands. Negative feedback can be turned. Learn how to turn yours, because you’re always going to get negative feedback.
5. Bring writing into your life - find community.
Of course, if you surround yourself with other writers, if you find your peeps and talk about writing, if you write together, share the dream, breathe words with one another, then aren’t you really already living the dream?
About the Author: Deb McLeod, is a writer, creative writing coach and founder of The Writing Ranch. She has both an MFA and a BA in creative writing. She has been teaching and coaching for over ten years. Deb has published short fiction in anthologies and journals. She has written articles and creative nonfiction. Deb has been a professional blogger, tech writer, graphic artist and Internet marketing specialist.