Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Conflicting Revelation

Yesterday, I had been feeling pretty good. My mother had come with me on my morning walk, I got a shower before 9AM, three piano students cancelled (not necessarily a good thing, but with my crazy schedule this week, it actually helped a lot!), and I didn't lug all my junk to the conference (pen and paper seriously work wonders, I've decided). I walked in with more confidence this time, ready to absorb all the knowledge that was before me.

I wasn't expecting the startling revelation which left me feeling slightly deflated.

Writing is hard work. Hard work. (No, this is not the revelation). Oh, sure, writing a blog isn't too difficult. Writing something the family wants to read is a little bit harder. Of course, writing to attract many readers and maintain their interest takes some muscle, as I've seen with my own blog these last 2 1/2 years. But the kind of writing I've always wanted to do is dang hard. Hard like throw-your-entire-self-into-a-character-and-plot-and-feel-vulnerable-to-the-point-of-embarrassment-and-then-get-rejected-over-and-over-and-over-and-over-by-publishers-and/or-literary-agents-because-you've-obviously-only-been-doing-it-for-a-short-time-and-you-haven't-suffered-enough-and-did-you-honestly-think-you-could-write-professionally?!? Yeah. It's hard.

So, I was sitting in a class, where I was learning about the Internal Editor versus the Writer Self, and we were discussing the process of drafts, revisions, "seasoning" a draft, etc. and it hit me like a ton of bricks:

I want to be a writer. I am going to do this. No matter what, I am going to do this.

Now, dear reader, you may be wondering why I see this as deflating. I'll explain it to you in the best way I can. Behold! A list!
1. Writing is hard work.
2. If I had spent all this money and time at a workshop to discover that I had no more desires to write books, and no more desires to write period, then I would have been perfectly content. I would not have seen it as a waste of time to realize I wasn't meant for something.
3. Now that I realize I want to be a writer, I'm kind of freaking out. Quietly, though. More of an internal dialogue full of fear, knowing that I want it. Seriously? Before I figured this out, I just thought I'd give it a good ol' try. I'd send in my books, I would write a little here and there, and finally, after the third or fourth rejection, I'd shrug my shoulders, say "At least I tried!" and be done with it. But now I can't. Now I have to face what these authors have faced: The reality of wanting, living, breathing, dying, longing for acceptance for something that might not be very good at all.

Did you know that one author at this conference had tried for 4 1/2 years and had 425 rejections before she was accepted by a publisher? This is the type of thing I now have to face--the humiliation before I find the success, and if I'm being perfectly honest with myself? I may never even have success.

But, this revelation was strong and true; the desire wasn't fleeting. Even now as I type this, I know that writing is something I want to do. So, I will do it. I will write 5 minutes at a time for years and years until my novels are finished. I will work on my picture books, my chapter books, my historical fiction; I'll find the genre where I excel, and I will write draft after draft after draft. I will face the rejections with humility and I will attend conference after conference and write query/cover letter after query/cover letter. I will do this, because now, I realize, I want it. I really, really, really want it.

It's insane, really.

In closing, here are the classes I attended:
"Passion or Practicality --Writing for Love or the Market" by Stacy Whitman (Editor, Mirrorstone)
"The Hat-Switch Trick: When to Write, When to Edit, and the Crucial Questions to Ask, or, Avoiding Fashion Disaster and a Bad, Bad Book" by Jeanette Ingold.
"Mining Your Memories: A Tap on Our Own Shoulders" by Kathi Appelt.

I'll leave you with another 5 minute prompt I wrote (long hand) in Kathi Appelt's class. We brainstormed descriptive words of what made us think of "Summer", and then we had to pick three of the words at random. One of the words had to be our starting word (no "the", "a", or "my"; just the word), and we had to use the other two words in the first paragraph. My words were ice-cream truck, bare feet, and cut grass:

"Ice Cream Truck!" yelled Jared.
Immediately we jumped up from the rug in front of the television and raced out the front door. I didn't wait long enough for Sally to make it through the screen door, and I heard her whine in protest. Dad had mowed the lawn that morning and the cut grass stuck to my bare feet as I raced towards the sidewalk. I could already taste the chocolate ice cream, cold and wet, dripping on my tongue.
"Jared, do you have the money?" I asked, out of breath.
"What? For me, yeah. Not for you!"
I slugged his arm and ran back to the house, passing Sally on the way. I figured I should get some for her as well or else she might tell mom. I was in enough trouble as it was, having...

P.S. Have you ever found something that you love to do but realized that loving it was going to be hard work? Tell me about it...


Amber said...

When I first starting writing, I was terrified. I mean, I'd always loved doing it and majored in broadcast journalism in college. But when I graduated, I went into PR.

A year later, the opportunity arose for me to become the travel editor for a magazine. I was thrilled and scared beyond words because I hadn't really been trained in print.

I fretted and freaked out over my first article about hiking to Dog Lake. Problem is it was winter and they wanted a summer article. I probably spent 30 hours writing that dumb piece that never even got published.

But it was a great learning curve for me and things got easier after that as I got more comfortable with me and more importantly, found my voice.

Jan said...

Good for you, Cheryl!

I love photography. Love it. The need to take a photograph of something is almost overwhelming at times, it will eat at me, prod me, nudge me until I pull out my camera and get an image that I am happy with.

I love that I can have a home-based photography business. What stay-at-home-mom doesn't want a way to make a little extra money on the side? But while I loooooove taking pictures, capturing families relationships and love, the whole business part of the photography business thing is HARD work.

Tax law, liability, insurance, contracts, dealing with clients, meeting deadlines, quality control, data backup, being aware of trends (and choosing which to take on), the list goes on.

I love my photography business and I am so grateful for it. But the late nights (it's not unusual for me to be up 2-3 hours later than hubby so I can get my projects done) are wearing on me.

I wouldn't change a thing, but yeah, it's hard work. Anything that's worth doing is.

Amber said...

Being a mom. I'm not sure this is what you are looking for but it's it for me. When I look back and think- maybe we should have waited to start having kids- I know that the choice wouldn't have changed. Even knowing what I know now. I wanted to start our family. Only now am I realizing what a challenging job it is. Only the past couple of years have I realized that this is a DAILY effort to be the best that I can be. I want my children to grow up and thank me- that is going to take a lot of effort. DAILY effort to be a teacher, a friend, a cook, a mentor, a positive influence. I WANT to be a good mom. I love being a mom, but loving it is hard work.

Cristy said...

This is how I felt during my first film shoot. It was as though I couldn't breath (partly because I was working so dang hard) but mostly because I knew I loved it and would do anything to do it. I worked my guts out for years until I had Will.

Now my anguish is finding something I love that much and will be able to do later in life. I cannot do what I used to love anymore. A camera operator or crew member is a slave to that profession, and no halvesies for a Mom to jump in and out from it. Plus, the physical labor is super intense. I couldn't do it in fifteen years when my kids are older.

It's been a slow process for me to come to grips with the fact that something I loved passionately has come and gone so quickly from my life. Their are elements I can continue, but it's not the same. Luckily you've found something that you can do no matter the circumstances. Something that you can pick up or put down as needed, etc. But yea, it's scary.

Jill said...

I had the same thought as Amber. I've always wanted to be a mom. But, it's really hard work. And, just when you think you have something figured out, something else comes along that knocks you off your feet. You're always going a million directions and no two days are ever the same. It's so challenging, but the most rewarding thing I will ever be a part of.

By the way, I love your paragraph, can't wait to read the rest of the story. ;)

Grandma Rozla said...

Don't give up Cheryl. Don't ever ever give up. You can do it and I will buy the first published book - But don't give up :)

Never A True Aggie said...

You are right. It is hard. I would say be patient. You have a lot of plates to spin and sometimes the writing will come together, sometimes it won't.

I know with Don it has been really hard, but every now and then we look back from where we came from and we are happy we made the choices we did. One time he was told that his illustration looked like someone in Middle School did it. Another time someone told him that she liked the box his artwork came in more then what was in it! Ugh! Those early days were hard.

I remember talking with Don and saying maybe it is not worth it. Maybe he should just sell insurance or something. We actually looked at other jobs. At one time he pursued the FBI to put his Russian Language skills to use. However, it all came back to getting back to work and moving past all the rejections. You just have to ignore it. It is hard, but you just have to let it roll because the right opportunity will present itself. We still struggle a bit. Once you get success, you see how much further you have to go and it is tiring.

Being a Mom it can be really hard. Kids take up a lot of time. It is not a bad thing, but it does cause you to restructure things a bit and put away some of the things you want to do. But, it also sounds like Brandon is very supportive, so you will find your way in all this.

The best news is that you went to this Conference! I think a sign of a good artist (writing is an art) is the ability to say that you have more to learn. Don and I run into a lot of people who get really put out when their work is criticized. You have to learn how to take it and use it in a positive way.

Anyway, Super long post. Sorry. Have fun at the conference and keep writing!

The Motherboard said...

This will sound weird to most, but for me its my marriage. There has been nothing that I have wanted more in my life-- then to be married.

I did things the way I was taught, and I married in the temple to a wonderful person. But it was a slap in the face when I realized that he had his OWN opinions and his own way of doing things... and they just might not be the same as mine. I guess I was under the delusion that we would always think the same and never disagree on anything.

Don't get me wrong. I love being married and I LOVE my husband very much. And, 15 years later, I am happy with where my life is.

I wouldn't go through those first few years of marriage again for a million dollars-- it was very difficult and hard. I like where we are now so much more.

I just did not know how much work was involved in maintaining a happy healthy marriage. I was under the delusion that if I got married in the temple it would be "happily ever after" with no fights, arguing or difficult times.
Not true. Its work, and at times its HARD.
But like someone else stated, anything that is worth having will be a lot of hard work. And, in the end, the hard work is what makes it worth while, and makes you appreciate what you are working for all the more!

Mother of the Wild Boys said...

I've just recently gone through this same feeling. When I started going back to college this past fall, I was totally intimidated. I wasn't sure that I was good enough (smarts-wise) to be a teacher to almost-grown people in a high school. But one day, I just had a revelation (in your words) and realized that this was it...I was going to be a teacher no matter what. It's been hard to overcome my insecurities about it all, but I know it will be worth it. :)

Desi said...

I think it is awesome that you have found where your passion lies. Go for it with gusto and don't ever let anyone tell you you can't.

For me I have yet to figure out what my true passion is. I want to figure it out and to find something, no matter how difficult it is, that makes me feel like I've found my life's calling, but for now I just have to make it through my day to day grind without feeling too overwhelmed.

Please keep sharing your daily adventures. I love reading about what you're doing at your workshop and reading the fun things you write.

Anonymous said...

You can do it! And how great to actually know what you WANT to do!

Jumbo Shrimp said...

If anyone can do this, you can!

Sara said...

i think i can understand how you feel. it's like me and my sewing. sometimes i think i should just put it on the backburner and leave it as a hobby, but then i'll have days where i'm really excited about the possibilities to grow my business (conflicted w/ all the hard work thoughts like you explained) and want to just go full steam ahead.

chase your dream! don't give up! :)

Jessica said...

Completely off topic: I stopped by because I wanted to invite you to link your Keeping it Real post to my blog fest I'm hosting tomorrow. Marfa was the inspiration behind it all! (and she got tagged following links that ended up here) Come play; it'll be fun!

I love your blog though and will definitely be back!

Leslie said...

There are several things I would really like to be and do. None of them are something I can really be serious about at the moment. Right now...I need to be a mom and wife and figure out how to get us through this final degree. After that...I'll be working more on my own writing and would really love to take some photography classes. I have felt the same way as you have about writing for a long time too...I know that I need to be able to be more serious about it than I am now to really make it work.

I loved your story! Can't wait to hear you have had a manuscript accepted...I'm sure it will happen!

Janelle said...

I want to be a professor at BYU. I remember walking along the path that led past the President's house from the Maeser building to the Tanner Building and had the spirit wash over me that this is what I wanted to do. Then I said a prayer, that if it was God's will for this to happen that He would open unseen doorways to make this possible. I have no idea how a stay at home mom with small kids gets a masters and Phd from prestigious enough schools (let alone work experience) to teach at BYU happens, but if opportunities arise I need to be prepared to take them or even create them.

Also, Alex and I are dying to serve couples missions! This is our most beloved dream. When Alex met the Hawaiian temple maintanance missionary he was like - "What! This is perfect for me, missionary work and projects!" So we are doing what we can to save now so we are available later.

Clare said...

I LOVE my profession (I'm an audiologist, or close to it at least). I'm finishing my fourth and final year of graduate school for my Au.D. (Dr. of Audiology), but it's been a long road to get here.

I wasn't sure where to start when I began because I took some time off between my undergrad and grad program, but with a little hard work and some perseverance, it has all worked out. And I could not have done it without the support of my husband and family.

Good luck with your endeavors and just think, you have a huge blogging community to back you!

Oh, and it will all work out :)

Cheryl said...

Love this, you guys! Thank you for sharing your deepest desires and your "hard" loves with me. And thank you for the encouragement. It really means a lot. :)

Really?! It came back to me!? I'm so flattered! I'll have to stop by if I get the chance. Thanks!

Julie said...

Cheryl, I haven't been commenting or emailing much lately, but I have been reading. And I found your post very inspiring. And thought provoking. I just can't think of one thing that I am absolutely passionate about. I love being a mother, but I don't go to huge lengths to be super mom or anything. I love to write, but the blog is plenty for me. I love photography, but not enough to put in the time it takes to really make it a business. Crafts, sewing, etc. etc. etc. I think I'm decent at most things and haven't found something to be truly passionate about. One thing I've really thought I'd love to pursue is blogging -- as in making a blog that could actually generate some income at some point. I think I could do it; that I have enough random talents to make it interesting, but I get a little overwhelmed at the amount of work needed to accomplish that. I mean, how am I supposed to do that and be a decent mother? And housekeeper? And little-girl-hair-doer-person? :) I often think "not my season." And that helps, but then I wonder if I should make it my season. I haven't answered that yet.

And just to ditto everyone else, I have enjoyed your writings. Very good and believable.

Janelle said...

Ok tonight I hung out with some women who are done. Done with kids! All of their youngest children are leaving the house. And guess what the topic of discussion was.. THIS! They are vibrant, talented, vivacious women. Anything but OLD. One was going back to live in Provo and do summer session at BYU and just take art classes. Another is considering enrolling at the San Francisco fashion institute. Another is going to start writing full time.

The message is... we have TIME! We can have it all. These were full time mothers, who kept their talents fresh by having hobbies and now that the kids are gone are seriously looking into becoming fabulous professionals. They are so scared, but I couldn't keep my elation from showing on my face. I'm sorry, but 50 looks like it rocks!