Thankful Thursday: What IS a Writing Path (Part 1)
This month, I came up on my 1-year blog-versary for this website and blog. I’d been blogging at LiveJournal for a while longer, but started this site when I got the contract for The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide. I decided I wanted a blog that was more tuned into my professional self, a blog that might, hopefully, be a bit more helpful to other writers.
Since then, I’ve let go of the LiveJournal blog, because, well–TWO WAS CRAZY, but also because I realized I can’t really split off the personal and professional parts of my writing path. Not very well, anyway, and definitely not helpful.
Anyway…in mulling over what I do here, etc, I took another look at the title and thought, okay…what does that mean? I have a sense; we probably all have a sense, but I realized I’ve never talked about the title here and what it means to me.
Off the top of my head, there are two elements to my writing path–the craft lane and what I call the profession lane (not much liking to get into success/non-success talk!). Today I’m going to talk about my craft lane. Then another day, maybe next Thankful Thursday, I’ll move to the other side of the road and talk profession.
Because, it is, for me, about being thankful. My writing, wherever it came from, is one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever received.
Here are some of the steps/stages I’ve taken on the craft path. See if any of them sound familiar to you!
- Writing what I read.
I’m not talking here about writing in the genre we love, but rather that all-important first step of mimicry, flattery-by-imitation, derivative work. For me, this stage started when I was young and mostly took the form of starting a different fantasy story every week, pretty much based on whatever novel I was immersed in at the moment. You can see more about that here. This is a stage I think most writers go through, at some point, and it’s not a matter for embarrassment or shame. It’s part of learning the craft.
- Writing for assignments.
This is what I did in school. I chose a college that had a concentration in Creative Writing and I wrote short stories and novel chapters and poetry. A teacher would assign a topic, and I would write. This was the stage in which I found out about writing for deadline and writing on task, and when I learned that I could do that. Creatively.
- Committing to a project.
For many, many years I was a mystery writer. I was writing a mystery. I started it when I was living in Los Angeles, brought it with me when I moved to the Bay Area, added a toddler character after my twin nephews were born, and dumped that character when they were teens. I took this mystery to critique group, I revised and rewrote, and I honed my skills on writing scenes, developing characters, planting clues, and creating tension. And then I got a better idea.
- Falling in Love.
I took a workshop from April Kihlstrom about writing a Book in a Week. While I was there, I was jotting notes about a new idea, a kids’ mystery with a hero and a sidekick that kept interrupting my focus being inspired by April, and telling me to write about them. Which I did. That book got written and revised and dispatched to look for a home.
- Stretching and Growing.
Up until this stage of the path, I was a one-idea writer. I had one idea, I wrote about one idea, and I pushed down the panicky voice telling me that this limit said something bad about my creativity/my ability as a writer. Then, I got a chance at nonfiction, a young woman told me she HAD to have a fictional role in a certain historical moment, a mythical creature said it was finally time to put him into a picture book, and that old fantasy love reared its sweet head again. And I find myself wondering not just when I’ll fit it all in, but–more importantly–about where on the craft part of my writing path all these projects will take me.
Because I do believe that I could not be taking any of these steps without the ones that have come before. Maybe path isn’t the right word. Maybe bridge would be better. (I’m SO not changing the site title!). As much as we want the superhero cape and powers that would let us leap those tall buildings and smash through the brick walls, we don’t have those. Thankfully, though, we have brains–incredible tools that grow new synapses and zap out new electrical connections and let us grow in ways that are, frankly, unbelievable.
Think back. What have you done that’s led you to today? What steps on your writing path have brought you to this curve, this fork in the road that you’re just starting to peer around?
To quote one of my favorite heroes, “The road goes ever on and on.” Thank goodness.
Oh, excellent post!
I tend to look at the writing path as twofold– my own writing career path, and my writing path for individual works. In my own career, I think more about how I progress and grow as a writer, each work another step on that path. In my individual works, I look at the process from idea to finished work.
I think you’re right–each book definitely has it’s path. It’s amazing to me, after all this time, to see how they all pour into the main one, too.
Like you, I am so thankful for my ability to write. This talent has helped me pay the bills, inspire other people and share something incredibly meaningful with my children. It has been an outlet for my creativity AND my capricious obsession with words! I can’t imagine my life any other way.
Aren’t we lucky?! 🙂
Yay for the meandering path! Mine has wandered back and forth between fiction and nonfiction, the only common thread being that history is a vital part of just about everything. My WIP is the first time I’ve added fantasy to the mix, but like you I have a long history with that genre as a reader. So even as I break new ground, it feels almost like completing a circle.
I really can’t wait to read your WIP! And I love the idea of coming full circle with your love of fantasy. It does feel that way.
My path: a grad school mentor urged to me to write when I was a returnee to school in my thirties. I had not discovered or even thought about it prior to that. I wrote pitiful short stories. Then turned to community publications. Eventually began studying the craft and evolved to business writing to follow the shift in my career path. That led to a successfully published book sixteen years ago about successful meeting strategies. After heaps and piles of training manuals and such material, I retired and began life writing.
This is my “real” path. This is where my heart kicked in. After teaching lifestory writing for a few years (I learn best when I’m teaching something), my handouts evolved into a published book.
Today I write constantly. Obsessively. Sometimes for the public, much of the time for me. Journaling is perhaps the “realest” writing form there is.
I don’t lay out my path, I follow the path ahead, wherever it leads.
October 22, 2009 at 6:41 pm e
“This is where my heart kicked in.” That just sounds so right. Thanks, Sharon.
Congrats on the blogaversary!
My path has been a knobby circle–starting quite young with writing and art, going to business and technology, and coming back to my creative side, although never leaving it completely, always a part of my day after school, after work, on the weekends, always some art or writing project to keep me happy! Now–serious pursuit!!
I love that serious pursuit. That’s where I feel like I’m at. It’s a happy place, but tricky! 🙂
I stumbled into writing. I’d been trying to give it wide berth because my sister wanted to be a writer and I didn’t want to step on her turf. Then I got a job in radio. I wrote spots (commercials)–sometimes 20 or more a day. Some were “two for one sales” and others I was lucky enough to be able to write what I called “30 sec sitcoms.” And I always wrote a wacky female character so I could voice them, too. That’s the drama queen in me. That job taught me that I have no time to wait for the muse. The muse comes when I start working. Butt in chair time equals the blessing of the muse. 🙂
Yay for you–for getting out of your own way! We all have to carve out our own turf, and sometimes it can even be fun to share! Good luck. 🙂
My path is a long one.
Always wanted to write but was told it wasn’t a real job to give it up.
Took writing classes, at last, when my kids were toddlers.
Fell into writing for newspapers after I was interviewed by a local paper about something I had done.
Joined California Writers Club and started volunteering.
Got my first and second critique groups by being a part of that group.
Got my first agent because of that group.
Got into writing for Parenting Publications of America because of that group.
Got dared to write a children’s by someone in my critique group.
Sold books and articles and short stories while taking more classes, joining more professional organizations, and reading like crazy.
I have been up and down the path a few times in different iterations.
Most days I’m just happy to be on it in any way at all.
I forgot about adding the groups, Susan. Thanks for the reminder. And you are So on it! 🙂
Wonderful post, Becky. Happy Blogiversary!
As for writing paths…here’s the short version:
Wrote but too afraid to let people read it.
Found critique group
Found it wasn’t the end of the world when critique group offered feedback.
Discovering how much I enjoy the revision process.
The rest is still to be discovered….
Good luck, Becky!
I LOVE that–“found it wasn’t the end of the world.” More like the beginning, really, once you get past the fear, right? I think, from what I’ve heard you say, that you have found a wonderful group–they sound incredibly supportive AND constructive. And I’m betting they feel the same way about you.
Yes, those forks in the path ahead of us have so much fog around them, still, don’t they? 🙂