Warning -some cheesy content, and evidence of my hippie upbringing to follow.
You are perhaps familiar with this little bit of pseudo-spirituality? If not, no matter. It’s good advice if a bit over used and awkward. I mention it because last weekend I spent 72 solid hours at the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. It was my second time attending the conference and once again I found myself completely, and quite pleasantly, immersed in the world of words. The theme of the conference was being brave and making one’s mark. My personal takeaway this time was a message I heard several times over the course of the weekend but perhaps most effectively communicated by Laurel Snyder in her keynote.
Laurel emphasized the importance of writing the book that only you can write, ignoring trends and whatever other voices are in your head telling you what you should write. She encouraged us to consider the reader, but only one reader at a time; the one reader you reach when your book is opened, not the massive snarling throngs of fickle and hairy public opinion. And she reminded us that the act of writing a book is brave in of itself, that books matter because they are important not because they are published. It was a great keynote.
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Tonight I sat down to work on the last 30 pages of a book I’ve been struggling to finish. Where the first 180 pages really came quite easily, this last bit has been like pulling teeth. And I think I realized that part of that reason is because I’ve had the ghost of publishing sitting on my shoulder as I write. I’ve been writing like someone -someone very judgmental – is watching. I’ve let my fears that the book won’t be marketable, or good, or liked creep into my consciousness and judge me as I’ve struggled to finish a first draft. A draft, which according to Annie Lamott, most writers, and just plain common sense should be messy and terrible by its very nature.
Tonight I pushed through the doubts and wrote a few more pages, getting to the end of a critical scene and writing at least one sentence that made me damn pleased with myself. Ha! I thought, that sentence has never been said or thought in quite the same way before. That sentence is a sentence that only could have come from me. I was quite pleased sitting all alone in my writing cave with no one at all perched on my shoulder.