Fish in the Sea

When telling people that I am an aspiring writer, I can’t count how many times I have gotten the response, “Isn’t it lonely?”

We are all familiar with the image of the solitary artist: locked up in a cluttered studio, wandering city streets, or scribbling away in a dark bar.  And while I have my moments of solitude, I truly believe that I wouldn’t be on the path that I’m on without the support of my fellow writers. 

I have had many wonderful opportunities to share my work. I’ve previously mentioned the writing groups I am in and how beneficial they are. In particular, I have been feeling very fortunate to be a part of Main Street Writers’ Thursday night group. I have been writing with the people in this group since March. Each week I use the time to write a scene from my work-in-progress. 

By now, the people in this group have gotten to know the characters and, while they haven’t gotten their information in a linear trajectory, they are able to piece together the main plot points. Their perspective has been incredibly beneficial as I continue to piece together the rest of my manuscript. Seeing them able to make inferences about personality traits and speculations about the plot has been encouraging. It gives me confidence that, one day, my readers will be able to connect the dots in the same way. 

In addition, I continue to participate in open mics throughout the Pioneer Valley. In the last two weeks, I have read at Wendell Spoken Word and Straw Dog Writers Guild in Northampton, MA. 

While the experience of reading my work in front of an audience is always nerve-racking, I find the benefits to be limitless. I am always surprised and encouraged by the response I get out of audience. Whether it is tense focus or casual laughter, when I get the intended reaction, it feels like I am on the right track

Perhaps the most encouraging part of the open mics is the feedback I get following a reading. I have had several people approach me afterwards not only to comment on my writing, but also to implore me to keep writing. 

“What happens? Do they ever find her?”

“Don’t stop writing, you’re on to something!”

“You’re going to do great things, I can tell.” 

I’m human, and just like anyone, these ego-strokes feel great. But more than that, it’s a wonderful to get hints that I am following the right path. Because, at the end of the day, when it’s just you and your computer, sometimes self-doubt comes creeping in. When you feel like one lonely fish in a big, wide, literary sea, our goals and aspirations feel intimidating, if not completely hopeless and far-fetched in the darkest moments. 

But when I connect with my peers, it helps me to realize I’m not alone but am really a part of beautiful, colorful, diverse school of fish, I  mean, writers (pardon the corny metaphor). Each one wonderfully unique in what they have to offer.

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For anyone out there struggling with their writing, I encourage you to find ways to connect! Join writing groups, go listen to other people reading if you don’t have the courage or material to read yourself. Visit the library. Visit a coffee shop. Open yourself up to these connections, and I can bet you will be feeling much less lonely in no time. 

As always, Happy Writing, Reading, Sharing, Connecting.

*Snaps* For Good Decisions

I had a strange sensation while driving into town this afternoon, on my way to run a few simple errands. The night before had been one of those magical, hot, random summer nights filled with friends, dancing, swimming and laughter. 

As I drove, I replayed scenes from the night before, remembering interactions and unexpected faces. My mind buzzed actively and the muscles around my mouth tugged upwards. What is this? I found myself questioning. And then it hit me. Oh right: happiness. 

Last winter I found myself in a Catch-22. I felt, quite literally, stuck in Colombia. I hadn’t made enough money to move on to another city in South America, as I had anticipated. I was emotionally drained from dealing with visas, the uncertainty of moving to a new city without a job of a plan, being immediately targeted as a tourist. I knew I couldn’t stay, but where to go?

My first instinct was money. Follow the money. Everyone in the international teaching world knows that the money is in Asia. I began searching for and applying to jobs from Japan to Hong Kong, Thailand to Malaysia. The money was enticing. But in my heart of hearts, I knew it wasn’t what I really wanted. The problem was, I couldn’t think of any alternative. And so, anxiously, I dove into the applications head first, despite my better judgement. 

It wasn’t until I a conversation I had with an old friend that I started to reconsider. I still remember this as being one the most influential conversations of my life. Come home, she told me. And finally, I allowed myself to listen. 

It wasn’t an easy decision. I felt embarrassed to be returning home, jobless, with much less money than when I’d left, and only a year and a half into what I had imagined to be a several year long adventure. I didn’t want to look like a failure. 

Thankfully, I’m lucky to have a family that is both understanding and supportive. They have helped me get back on my feet and finally start to pursue my passion: writing. I am so grateful for the wonderful friends who have helped me through life’s difficult decisions. 

Five months after my return, I have never felt more certain that I made the right decision. Not only is this place my home, but it is an inspiring community for writers. I have met so many people of all ages who share similar interests and pursuits. 

At times, I think about what my life would be like at this moment if I had taken a job that brought me to the other side of the globe, far from the people and places that make me who I am. I may have been wealthier in some ways, but I truly believe that my quality of life would have been much poorer. 

Driving this afternoon, the sunImage shining on beautiful green pastures on the side of the country road, a smooth breeze breathing through the open windows, I identified that peculiar sensation: I am exactly where I am supposed to be. 

 

Calling All Writers–Online Writing Group

Those of you who have been following my blog know that one of my goals for my “Year of Writing” was to join a writing group.

Well, now I have joined two, and I’m hooked. The experience has been very positive, and being surrounded by a community of writers is so inspiring. But that is a post for another day.

Today, I am wondering who out there may be interested in an online writing exchange. I have communicated with a few other bloggers who expressed an interest in this. So I am testing the waters.

I’m open to suggestions, but I can imagine the following format:

  • Each participant will submit a piece once a week to a group of writers via email. Let’s say our day for submissions is Wednesday. So as not to overload each other, I would suggest a maximum word count of maybe 1,500 words.
  • Once you receive another writers piece, we will read and make our own written comments. We could do line edits as well as a paragraph or so of feedback. I personally would like both positive and negative critique, as long as it is constructive.
  • The reviewer will have one week to return the piece to the writer. We should return the piece with our edits and comments by the following Wednesday. When we start all over again.
  • Writers could submit a continuous piece, if they are working on a manuscript or a novel. We could do individual pieces, short stories, fiction, poetry, whatever interests you.
  • If people would like to do “group chats” that could also be a possibility, although I am fine doing it all via emails.

Again, this is just an idea, and I am very open to other writers opinions. Please let me know if something like this is of interest to you! I look forward to sharing work with you all, and as always, Happy Writing!

My First Public Reading!

Last night I decided to attend a reading in Northampton, Massachusetts. I found the blurb in a local paper. It said: Writers Night Out, hosted by a group called Straw Dog Writers Guild.

I went, expecting to listen and maybe meet some other like-minded people. However, when I got there, the woman running it said that it was open for anyone to read. I was unprepared, and told her I would sit out this first reading.

As I sat, sipped my beer and waited for the show to start I thought,” Why not? What do I possibly have to lose by doing this, except my dignity?” So I went out to the car, got my computer (I never go anywhere without it these days) and put my name in the hat.

I got picked to read second. I was nervous but also thrilled. These are the kind of experiences I need to be having, need to be getting comfortable with. The reading went well. My legs were shaking throughout the 5 minutes. But it felt great to do it.

Along with my other writing goals, my new goal is this: attend some kind of literary event every week. Even in our small Pioneer Valley, there are lots of amazing events. Even if I don’t get to read, just being in the audience, networking and being involved in a literary community will be very rewarding.

I didn’t get a picture of myself, but I promise next time I will.

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My camera is terrible!
Next time I’ll get a picture of myself.

If any other bloggers out there have favorite literary activities, suggestions or comments, I would love to hear from you!

Why I’ve Become Pro-Blogging

I decided several months ago that I wanted to start a blog. Why, you may be asking? Well, quite simply because every one I knew involved in writing told me I should.

If you want to get published you have to start a blog, they said. OK, I knew I wanted to get published one day, so then blog I would. But what for? I still wasn’t grasping the idea.

To network, to get your name out there, to show people are interested in your work. Great, so I start writing a couple times a week and soon I’ll have my name in neon lights somewhere in the blogging-sphere.

It’s been just under a month since I started and so far no neon lights or publishing offers thrown my way. And that’s alright, because the benefits I am seeing from this experience far outweigh what I ever anticipated.

Blogging is not something which comes naturally to me. The idea that whatever I post here may interest people seems quite brash. But then, the experience is more personal; I am writing this blog because it is important to ME. Maybe I have to be a bit selfish, because it has enabled me to learn a lot in a short time.

Here are some lessons:

Critique. I’ve become much more critical of my own writing. Learning tips from other seasoned writers has been extremely beneficial to how I view my own writing.

Patience. It will take time. I had this idea in the beginning that I would have one year to make it or break it. But now that seems silly. Writing is my passion and I’m willing to pursue it to the ends of time.

Encouragement. Writing in the past has been such a solitary pursuit. Here, I am able to share my frustrations and fears and receive helpful and thoughtful responses from my fellow bloggers.

Commitment. It’s only been one month, and I’ve made some modest progress, but I realize I have a long way to go. Having contact with other bloggers and writers who have reached the goals that I’m striving for makes me more committed than ever to pursue my dreams.

So thanks to all the people who have made this such a rewarding experience so far. And if this post can convince anyone who is on the fence about starting a blog, then I feel like I’ve done a good job.

A Novel Idea

It hit me some time late last year. I knew what my New Years resolution for 2013 would be (and I’m not typically one for resolutions). I would finish my first novel by the end of the year. Brilliant, I thought. What a unique, interesting, admirable goal. I must get started right away.

The problem: the farther I go into this adventure, the more I realize how completely unoriginal this ambition is. I’m almost embarrassed now that I thought this would somehow be innovative, fresh, different. A young woman dropping out of the rat race to pursue her dreams. How romantic; I think I have my next book’s plot line.

It’s blown my mind seeing the community of writers out there. And the amazing thing is, what I’ve seen so far is only a minuscule fraction of what really exists. It’s been inspiring to see so many other young women following their dreams; working hard to pioneer new paths. It’s been intimidating to see so many of them thriving, growing, publishing.

Yes, it gives me hope. People do this, it happens. For some. But for how many? What I can do to give myself the best chance possible is to work hard, be patient and learn something new each day.

So far, thanks to the great online community of writers, it’s been pretty easy to do. I look forward to working with you and being inspired by you for many months to come.