Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Road Warrior Writers

I have a dear writing friend in Alabama who joins me on many of my writing adventures. Sometimes the adventures only require meeting at a coffee shop to share thoughts about our work. Sometimes our adventures require more planning and a road trip is involved.

And that's when the adventures get crazy. While we are reasonably intelligent beings, we seem to have an innate ability to confuse ourselves whenever we hit the road. And this is with my TOM TOM GPS on board. Of course, I'd like to add that TOM TOM lies to us and steers us wrong on a regular basis. TT once took us to a hotel in Atlanta that didn't exist despite inputting the correct address.

During these moments, I'd like to say that I'm the epitome of calm. Anyone who has driven with me when I'm lost will quickly refute my claim. There is no point in even bothering to pretend I'm cool when late, lost or both. Nope. I'm not. Fortunately, my co-pilot is -- this is helpful in that we eventually do need to find our location.

With this knowledge, the fact that we are directionally challenged firmly ingrained in our heads, we ventured off to Atlanta for a GRW meeting. Once again, I dutifully plugged in TOM TOM and inputted the address. This time I was smart: I also printed a map with directions to our hotel. Didn't matter. As I was driving over the mountain in Huntsville, TOM TOM blathered on and on about making left turns and U-turns.

His instructions did not coincide with the map's. And so it goes. Confusion ensued. Fortunately, we're visual so once we spotted a few familiar landmarks, we decided TOM TOM was deranged and kept driving. All and all, we had a pretty decent drive. No major mistakes and other than frightening some other drivers with our sudden lane changes, we managed to arrive at our hotel in Atlanta unscathed.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why drive 4 hours to another state to attend a chapter meeting? In fact, why leave home at all when we have writing to do? Why take the time away from our computers?

The answer is simple: these trips feed and nourish our writing souls.

Our journey was valuable to us. We got 8 hours total of talking about our books, our career, our writing, our process, what we learned, what we wanted to learn.... get two writers together and stick them in a car for that length of time and we're in constant create mode. Although all that creating is probably the reason we get confused and lost and more while we are hunting for our exits and freeways... but I digress.

We also spent time with our writing friends on Friday night. Writing is a solitary pursuit and often filled with doubts about our talents, our stories, and the business. Connecting with other people who share our passion and who understand why we plunk ourselves in front of the computer despite all the roadblocks we encounter is vital to our creative process. In GA, sitting around a table in a restaurant, we discussed the most important aspect of our writing.

It's not the business aspect about how many queries or submissions or requests to we have out, but the very heart of our writing: the books of our heart. We all have them. To be honest, I was battling back a darkness about my writing and my process. I didn't want to worry about if or when I got published, I desperately needed to recharge my belief in my abilities, my process, and my stories. I think my friend did, too.

Friday night I began to believe in my stories again. Saturday I revitalized my belief in my process after attending the GRWA meeting. In addition to a great program discussion led by Missy Tippens about building the premise of the story, we also participated in a round table chat with a published author, Berta Platas, which validated my writing process. I guess I need to hear the same thing over and over again before it sinks in.

My process is my process. And yours is yours. It sounds so simple, but it's hard. I've often wished I could be a clean and tidy writer with excellent grammar skills. I have fabulous writer friends who have those skills. I don't. And it's taken me a long time to accept the fact that I'm never going to be that kind of writer. However, on Saturday I realized I was lucky: I KNOW my process. I know how I write and how I need to build my stories. I will probably be impatient with my process, but I know my strengths and I have the people around me who can help me shore up my weaknesses.

My friend also had an epiphany about her writing and her goals. By taking the time to get away from our daily writing grind, we were able to take the long view and gain perspective. We returned to Alabama with renewed enthusiasm for our tasks.  And we can't wait to go back to Atlanta for the 2010 Moonlight and Magnolias Conference. We'll see our friends, attend an amazing workshop given by Michael Hauge and we'll celebrate the MAGGIES on Saturday night. And I imagine we'll come away from that conference filled to the brim with writing spirit. We'll return to our chairs renewed and motivated.

How do you nourish your writing souls? How do you replace the darkness with light and energy? And if you can make it to the M&M this year, let me know, I'd love to see you Atlanta to talk about our favorite subject: writing.


Kieran said...

As usual, I LOVE your blog posts!!!! I hope you DO have faith in your process--you're like a bottomless well brimming over with creative ideas that everyone is going to love! So keep going to those meetings and hanging out with other writers. It's a MUST!!

You take care--am going to link this to my Twitter page.

hugs, Kieran :>)

Vicky said...

Thanks to Kieren for posting the link on Twitter. I very much enjoyed this post as I have others you've done in the past. You've hit on something that took me a long while to figure out, but when I did, I finally, finally made a breakthrough. And that's believing in yourself.

Here's the thing. As your post suggested, it doesn't matter how you get there. It's not as if an editor or agent will know or care for that matter (although I entertained my editor with stories behind the story at conference, but I digress, LOL). Last year at the PAN retreat, Susan Elizabeth Phillips shared an interesting observation, and that is over time, your process is likely to change. Whatever works, right? Cheers!

Donna Cummings said...

Great post. I had a Magellan GPS that died last summer and I do miss her. I called her "Naggie", because she seemed to have a tone to her voice when she said to make a U-turn--like she was biting back the word "idiot". LOL

And I agree that it's important to have these kinds of connections with other writers. It's kind of like taking vitamins, keeping you recharged and healthy and happy. :) They can help shore up those areas where we feel doubtful, and get us back to where we need to be: writing. :)

Martha W said...

Oh man, Christine. I have tears in my eyes just envisioning the drive with dear Tom. :)

I think as writers sometimes we focus on how the bad times nourish our creative souls and forget how much the good times, laughter and happy tears do too.

That sounds like a wonderful trip for a meeting. I know I make sure each month to have my meeting on the calendar in bold letters, underlined, so hubby knows it's coming up... lol.

Christine said...

Hi Kieran: Thank you for linking my blog to your Twitter page :-) I have so many ideas, sometimes I don't know where to start. This trip helped me determine what I was doing next. Whew.

Christine said...

Hi Vicky: Welcome to my blog and thanks for your comment. I think you're right: believe in yourself and the world will reward your dream. I love what you said about SEP... she is so wonderful and I enjoyed her chat at the RWA National Conference this year.

My process will evolve over time. I think with each book, I learn something new. Not just about the craft, but about myself.

Christine said...

Hi Donna:

I love your name for the Magellan."Naggie." Gosh, how I love to argue with TOM TOM. He's so opinionated and always thinks his way is the right way. More often than not, he's wrong. Maybe Naggie and Tom Tom should go on a date. I'd love to hear their arguments when they drive somewhere :-)

Thanks for visiting my blog today.


Christine said...

Hi Martha: Tears from laughing, right? But you're right. We need to replenish our souls and connect with people who understand our world. And focusing on good stuff can lead to happy books, which I love to read. Well, I love to read HEA books. Always have. Always will.


Dayana Stockdale said...

Great post. I have been blogging about the craft of writing, and not about heart, which means that its not on my mind. The last couple of days though, I've been thinking about what it means to be a writer and how we can be healthy. I'll write it here too so I don't come off like an advertisement, but I turn my writing into something cute. My need to write comes from my wrogan, my writing organ, and I need to feed it with words, like its a second belly. Sounds silly, but it helps me to make light of the madness.

Christine said...

Dayana: Thank you for popping into my blog and leaving a comment! I love the the "wrogan" and think this is a very cool way to think about our writing.

I also believe you're right. It's organic. We can't stop, can we. That would be like cutting off chocolate and wine to me.

Or breathing ;-)