Kath here. Today’s guest is Ellen Weeren. Ellen graduated from college with an English Writing degree 20 years ago and began her career as a law enforcement policy writer, newsletter editor, and conference planner. When her second child was born in 1999, she quit working and quit writing. Then, three years ago, her husband was very unexpectedly offered a job in New Delhi, India. After, Ellen says, she “literally threw up”, she moved her family across the ocean to a country she knew very little about. As part journal and part therapy session, Ellen started a blog about her family’s adventure – A Reason To Write which has received international recognition as one of the best travel blogs in the blogosphere. Ellen enjoyed writing so much that she started a second blog called A Reason To Read where she reviews books. Since returning to the U.S., Ellen continues to pursue writing. You can follow her on twitter at @EllenWeeren or @AReasonToWrite.
Enjoy our guest post with Ellen Weeren!
Sometimes you read a book and you just know its message will stick with you for a very long time. Usually that book’s message confirms what you already know to be true. But, particularly as writers, we tend to allow doubt to slip too easily between the hairline cracks or gaping holes in our confidence. We want to believe we have a story worth telling and that someone will care when we finally get the nerve to share it. How nice it is when a respected author graciously gives us confirmation that we should keep writing.
I recently read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont. It is a wonderful book about writing and, in many ways, life. The main thread of advice she gives is to take writing and life little by little (or bird by bird), so that it’s not so overwhelming. There is no sense worrying about whether or not people will like your piece if you haven’t written it yet. So write first. The worry about misspellings and the wild popularity of your story can wait.
As she must in a book about writing, Anne delves deep into all the things we need to focus on such as character development, voice, dialogue, setting, plot, jealously of other’s success, etc. She ties all of these themes into stories from her own life and she’s pretty funny. The book quickly becomes more than an entertaining how-to. It also serves as a marvelous example of why-to.
Anne even gives us permission to write a terrible first draft. That permission, in and of itself, is priceless. (Actually, she used a much more colorful and smelly word than “terrible” but I am not sure what Writer Unboxed’s policy is on profanity so I cleaned it up a tad.) She reminds us that we cannot polish until we create.
She nudges us to remember that drafts will ultimately demand changes on their own. They can show weakness in the beginning because they are meant to be a starting point not a finish line. Anne encourages us to simply get some words down on paper. (She recommends writing at least 300 words every day.)The fine-tuning comes later. That is why pencils have erasers and computers have delete keys.
Then Anne gives us the ultimate gift. She celebrates the actual act of writing – not the hopeful end result of publication – but the joy of writing for writing’s sake. She says, “There are moments when I am writing when I think that if other people knew how I felt right now, they’d burn me at the stake for feeling so good, so full, so much intense pleasure. I pay through the nose for these moments, of course, with lots of torture and self-loathing and tedium, but when I am done for the day, I have something to show for it.”
Writing can feel just like that. We write a sentence or pick just the right word and we are inspired to write more. We believe we can do this writing thing and maybe even do it well. [Read more…]