If You’re Wondering How I’m Spending My Time

I’m writing a book-length fictional story.

There. I said it. It’s out in the open. I declare this out loud to myself and whoever else cares. I’ve kept it quiet, thus far, so I won’t be all talk and no action.

A year ago, I discovered my life had fewer responsibilities, my children were at school, and I had more time. “What should I do with myself?” I asked.

I want to write.

But I didn’t know what to write. Nonfiction? Fiction? Free-lance? A writing job?

Instead, out of fear, I read. I substituted reading good authors for actual writing. I called it research.

Then I read about writing, mostly how-to-write-fiction books. One suggested an exercise of writing a 10, 000-word autobiography first—to get out my own life stories out of my system.

I did. I began to write two hours every morning, and my autobiography turned into a book-length work. Of course I never intended to publish it. When I had written up to my high school graduation and didn’t see any end in sight (my life only became more complicated and wordy after age 18), I started asking again, “What do I want to write?”

Then, for Christmas in 2007, my husband gave me a domain name. Ever since, I’ve written here at my website most every day. Normally, I don’t write about writing; I want to write what comes right out of my soul, what matters to me. I write about people, spirituality, my family, and of course, books.

This fall, I revisited my goal to write fiction. I still kept hanging back, finding barriers like . .

A Fear of Failure: I have very high expectations of myself. I don’t want to crank out mediocre fiction, but there’s a good chance that’s what I’ll write. Can I accept that and move on?

My Marketing Misery: I’ve read some intense, interesting and fun fiction with great plots. But, my writing style is more character sketch than fast-paced thriller, and I convinced myself that the kind of writing I write wouldn’t sell.

This Writer’s Block: I blocked myself from creating fictional characters for fear that I wouldn’t know them. Instead, I substituted characters from my life. Big mistake that’s probably a common one for beginning writers. When I did that, I just kept retelling their story and not allowing the fictional ones to live, develop and discover their own story.

I’ve either come to terms with these barriers or I’ve knocked them down.

Other writers directed me to another creative soul on the web, Zoë Westhof, and I’ve been following her series on How to Focus Your Ideas. I do this all the time with my nonfiction writing, but what I discovered was that I wasn’t applying those same principles to my fiction.

I never actually generated any ideas. I just sat in front of my computer and thought it would come. So, on her suggestion, I left my computer for a few hours and generated some ideas. Zoë encouraged us to post our results of our messy minds so everyone could get a peek.

The result: My characters started living and breathing. And when they came alive, I did, too.

I’m writing. It’s been a year with several false starts, but I’m on my way past a fear of failure and any writer’s blocks. As for my marketing misery, I’ll save that hurdle for another day. But I will say that while I’ll be thrilled when its complete and I hope my readers will be thrilled by what they read, I’m not writing a thriller.

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6 Comments

  1. Rebecca
    Nov 14, 2008

    How exciting! Good luck! What a fantastic undertaking!

  2. Ryan
    Nov 14, 2008

    TJ, if you published a book, I’d want to buy it. I think that’s great that you’re writing. I’d like to convince my mother-in-law that she should write a book now that she has more time. She loves reading, but hasn’t made that “writing connection” yet.

    The marketing is a big hurdle for me too. I convinced myself that if I ever wrote anything worth publishing that I would self-publish and avoid the hassle.

    At any rate, good luck.

  3. Zoe
    Nov 14, 2008

    I love getting a peek into another writer’s mind! I definitely agree that it’s much easier to move forward when you understand what’s holding you back. Looks like good progress on your part… 🙂

  4. Rachel Corbett
    Nov 14, 2008

    Yeah! I can’t wait to meet Lily!

  5. e-Mom
    Nov 14, 2008

    Fantastic! Congratulations on getting started. I’m reading a book about creativity (for artists of all kinds) called The Creative Call. Hopefully, I’ll overcome a few hurdles like you have! :~D

  6. Camille
    Nov 15, 2008

    Yeah! Thanks for giving me a glimpse of your story. And do I get to read your autobiography sometime? That’s what I would like to do someday.

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