Navigating a Broken World (Yes, it’s about writing)

People write for all sorts of reasons. Apart from technical material, which imparts information in a structured, non-creative way, in general, writers are telling a story, or instructing, or venting, or healing wounds, or making worlds in their minds and putting them on the page to share.

Some writers write for themselves, not quite journaling, though many do that, but to be creative. They don’t intend to sell their work. These folks enjoy the creativity of word painting, or storing thought, or as a sort of therapy, or just for the joy of it.

Others of us who write memoir, are working things out. In the discovery, long term problems, questions, puzzles, produce answers. Sometimes writing raises what we’ve successfully buried. For some of us, we hope that what we’ve worked through, recording the process and getting that into print, will help others unable to come to terms with those troubles. We risk. We pray. We dive in and hope we survive. We tell. We trust. Mostly, what that all means is that we simply have to write.

I write, too, with StoryCircle, worth its own blog. I’ll get to that next week.

I spent four hours yesterday with members of my local writing group, Medina County Writers Group,  taking copious notes on the marketing of writing. Essays, poetry, fiction, non-fiction. Name it. Bottom line? The world of publishing has been steadily imploding for the past ten years, minimum. If that’s your job in any way, you are in a world of hurt. Amazon is eating your lunch. I learned that what an agent can provide is not very much. Yes, you can get lucky with a gifted and dedicated agent who can point the way so you stop wandering down dead end roads, who didn’t make stuff up that they don’t intend to do. Until you have sold many thousands of books on your own, and then you’ve hit the big time and truly do need their help. That would be at the point where you are a guest in demand on national television. Think Oprah. Think national writers conferences. Think interviews with heavy hitters. Think movies. But look, that gang is pretty skimpy so agents must be very hopeful people who might be starving.

I learned all about trolling and who trolls. Folks, it ain’t pretty. Bottom line? You, writer, do all the work. Once you have your train running and actually going somewhere, demonstrating reader interest and writer success in sales, now lots of people in the biz want to cop a ride. How does that work? You’ve already become The Little Red Hen. In fact, that little child’s lesson is quite applicable. Who will help?  Okay. I’ll do it myself. And eat the perfectly baked cake myself, too.

It was very helpful to hear someone who knows tell me what I’ve been suspecting. Validation takes out the mystery. Now that I know I might be fodder for the mill, a babe in the woods, wolves with very sharp teeth and questionable intent, I have very low expectations, and much greater understanding. I must construct a tall building and then jump off it as soon as I can fly without dying. Hey. It takes two years to get to publishing with this crowd. Do you know how old I am?? No wonder Amazon is about to become my mantra. “Createspace” could be my fervent prayer. A sense of humor is the only antidote for the suspected level of poison.

I belong to a super writing group with an outstanding leader/coach/mentor/no-nonsense woman who knows her way around this hot mess. She tells it straight, pulls no punches, no coddling. She knows what we have to hear, what we need, points the way and never sugar coats it. I have the best of  both worlds in that my writing coach, a totally different personality, with very different skills, has patiently, and often doggedly, led me through the path called writing, maximized my own talents and nudged, gently pushed, suggested, and directed me to where I am, ready to market a book.

Each of these very different women bring what the other does not. One lived lots of her life as an editor. She’s deep into structure, sees immediately what is needed. I call her many things:  Storm Trooper. Eagle Eye. The other came to writing through grief and loss and became the shining healthy poet she is. Essayist, teacher, mentor,  nourisher. I am blessed by Tough and Tender, not Jekyll and Hyde. Independent of each other, they meet my many needs. They are making me a superior writer. What I didn’t know is that I bring a real talent to the table for them to mold. Even now, that is difficult for me to write. To believe. But that I can actually say it, know it, is a testament to their contribution. Like a child afraid to compete in the race because she doesn’t know she’s a fine runner, I have come to put my fears aside and look at the field of players. And take my own measure.

Writers are real people, many of them writing their hearts. Buy a book and meet someone you never knew was out there, with things to tell you about stuff you might otherwise never know. Two women and a cadre of writers, published and not, have sheltered me on my way. You know who you are and how you have contributed. Thank you, Jean. And Shellie. And Lisa. And Mary Beth. And Cowboy. (Reader, you should be jealous that you don’t have someone named Cowboy to write with). John, Dave, Wanda, Arlan, Sara and Mark, all contributors to my improvement.

And Ruthie Lou, a constant across many years now.

Thank you, Sheila and Dory. You helped create a writer. With a bit more help, you’ll make me an author.

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