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.