Monday, April 29, 2013

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

That quote, as many of you know, is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.  It has inspired me for decades.  However, I was primed for it because The Little Engine That Could got under my skin in the first grade.  Writers need to take hold of both of these fonts of wisdom.  In my experience no endeavor produces performance anxiety like writing.  They don't call it writer's block for nothing.

Recently, as I've posted, I ventured onto Kindle.  I have published in the past, but always with the acknowledgement of a publisher or magazine editor.  Kindle requires that you draw upon your own confidence, often lacking in writers, and just put yourself out there.

While my mantra is write every day, I don't necessarily advise people to pass their work around indiscriminately.  If you show your work too soon to an audience or reader who does not understand the process, you may get criticism from inexperienced reviewers that hurt rather than help your motivation.  However, when it is time to put it out there, go for it.  Another homily I'm fond of--don't hide your light under a bushel.

Okay, easier for me to say, right?  I'm already published.  But let me tell you a story about my Arty book (, my first children's book.  I've always backed away from children's fiction.  Can't do it, can't relate to that type of storytelling I've always said.  And illustrations?  How do they happen? Do you say magic words over the page and the perfect picture appears?  Because I certainly couldn't draw anything I'd want anyone to see.

Well all that changed when I decided to take the plunge with Arty.  Miraculously, the story, and 12 others, tumbled out in a burst of steroid energy one night when I was being treated for a nasty ailment. All of a sudden, there was Arty on the page.  That was my first surprise.  But then the pictures had to accompany the story and I didn't know an illustrator.  So I just started on my own.  Truly, Eleanor's quote got me going.  I had nothing to lose, really.  If they didn't work, end of project.  But I had a hurdle to overcome. When I was in grammar school and we had mandatory art classes on Monday mornings, the nuns hung my picture in front of the classroom with the work of the other talented students just once in eight years.  One time.  This experience, and probably some verbal backup as well, convinced me I couldn't draw.

In my thirties I took a self hypnosis class for writers to tap into creative depths.  One of the exercises was to draw something in the room while under hypnosis.  I drew my shoe.  When we came back to a normal state, and I saw what I had drawn, I burst into tears.  It looked like a photograph--well close.  It certainly looked like a shoe, well drawn at that.

I realized I had believed my brainwashing, and that there probably were many hidden talents criticized out of me over the years.

At any rate, I never pursued drawing until Arty came along.  Then I needed to produce something and just went for it.  Arty went live three weeks ago and has now received 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon.  People are loving the story (funniest thing I've ever read say many of them).  But the big surprise is that the drawings are a big hit.

Had I held back and decided I couldn't draw, AJ, a ten-year old in Australia, would not have written "One of the best books I've ever read."

Fortunately, I have reached an age when I listen more to myself than other people's opinions.  I'd like to bestow this gift on all of you who doubt your writing.  I've always said that it isn't up to us to judge whether our work is good or bad.  Our job is to write and let our readers decide.  Arty and AJ are a case in point.

Write every day for at least 15 minutes.  And for the rest of the day, believe in yourself, no matter what some voice from the past is ranting on about.

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