Playing The Long Game

“Oh, I have many weaknesses!” – said E. Lockhart when I asked her what she struggled with most and how she navigated through those road blocks as a new writer.  The words came out so quickly, so matter-of-fact as if her writing wasn’t completely flawless and dream-like.

She also said have not had.

So, you’re telling me an author who has 38 books under her belt, genre’s ranging from children’s stories to adult fiction… still has weaknesses?  A woman who teaches at a university and went to Columbia?  A writer whose only true “writing” course was a creative writing class where her professor barely gave her the time of day?

You’ve got to be shitting me.

Not only did this completely change the way I viewed writing in general, but my OWN writing style and how I gain inspiration for my characters and storylines.  This was such an amazing experience and perfectly timed for the season I am in when it comes to my writing.  This author grew up so differently than I did.  She’s a bit older than I am and lived during a time where women did not have half the “name” that they do now.  She had some struggles I – fortunately – did not she had some (many) successes I have not… but in a major way… and I mean MAJOR WAY, I connected to her story so deeply and in such a way that I walked out of that room on a high that I hope stays with me forever.

“Writing is not a talent.  Anyone can learn to write.”

Wow.  I loved this message.  Because it’s true!  I get so uncomfortable when someone refers to what I do as talent.  If anyone is passionate about something, they can do it well because they work at it and want to improve.  I read to learn how authors I love, do what they do.  I learn what I like and why.  I learn about structure and timing and dimensional humans.  This, in turn, strengthens my own work.  I have wondered over the last couple of years if I should have taken more writing specific courses but what she said opened my eyes when I hadn’t realized they were closed.  It doesn’t matter if I took 1 or 20… my writing is MINE and a professor can only teach and grade based on what they are looking for specifically and not necessarily help you to hone your own style and skills.  

She worked at it and had people in the trenches with her just as I have… but one thing that I took from that hour of pure enlightenment, was a phrase I have a hard time remembering.

IMG_1499Being a writer is “playing the long game”.  

I’m not a patient person.  I beat myself up about making sure if I start something, I finish it… which is GOOD!  However, I also pressure myself to do it quickly… which is not really all that good.  I had the pleasure of speaking with her briefly as she signed my copy.  I fan-girled up and had her take a photo with me and prayed she didn’t smell the ‘weird’ on me.  I asked her questions, I hoped, weren’t stupid ones that might give me insight on what steps I need to take next.  She let me ramble, she smiled graciously, offered some encouraging words and handed my book back. I stuck it delicately in my bag, next to my notepad where I jot down things she said that made me happy and text my girlfriend who also adores this woman and drove home.  (She was the only one who would have shared the disgusting excitement)

Only when I got back did I open it up and saw the one word she wrote.  “Persist.”  

She may say that to all the girls.  But I like to pretend that it was just for me.  I can’t quite make it to a conference yet since most are far and require airfare, a hotel stay and a lot of money for a spot AT the conference… so I just do as much research as I can online, with other writer friends and by reading as much and often as I can.  From that night through my signing I finally felt that sense of true accomplishment.  

I know writing my book to begin with was great.  I know figuring out the world of self publishing alone was another major step and I know that finding the courage to do everything else can be seen as impressive… but being acknowledged by an author that I admire so greatly was so validating.   Many people have given me a “yeah right” look when I say I’m a writer… but she looked at me like a normal person.  Someone who is (hopefully) going to be among her “kind” one day.  She didn’t roll her eyes or rush me along and for the first time I shed the fear I had been weighing myself down with for so long.  

Seeing so many people show up to my signing, smiling and proud of me, people I love and admire.  Having two business women who don’t know me personally and have busy lives, believe in me enough to host these signings for me – it’s all so very humbling.  

Every bit of the last few days have wrapped me up in a warm embrace of validation and I swore to myself that I would never need that – but I do and did!  The thing is, everyone needs it in some way.

I will soon have my manuscript back from my proofreader and hope to have my changes and tweaks completed not to long after so I can send it off to my editor.  I feel I’m on the cusp of something great.  How great, I don’t know, but I’m playing the long game and I’m learning to be OK with the unknown.