Although I’ve been a professional writer for over 25 years, novel writing is brand spanking new to me. Every day brings about a Lord of the Rings-sized challenge, with a finished novel about as likely as reaching the peaks of Mordor. Here’s one thing I’ve learned, however: don’t try to navigate the publishing landscape, filled with jagged rocks, harrowing crevasses, and even the occasional Orc, alone. Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, a very talented writer and professor, recruited me for a writer’s group, and I’m so grateful. They keep me going when I want to turn around and run home.
So with that, meet my fellowship, a talented, funny, and generous group of gals who have kept me from slipping under the spell of Sauron, a.k.a., really crappy writing. Here, each of them answers the following question:
Gift, chore, or hassle: what does the writer’s quest mean to you?
Kristin Bair O’Keeffe, author of Thirsty, and many published essays
Kristin Bair O'Keeffe @kbairokeeffe
In my most grueling writerly moments, I’ve been known to proclaim, “I should have been a dentist,” but I don’t mean it. Partly because I could never stick my fingers into people’s mouths on a daily basis or ask them—with any genuine interest—about their flossing habits, but mostly because I absolutely love that I see the world in stories. Bright, brilliant, textured stories that keep me coming back to the page.
And while I believe that writing is a great gift in my life, it’s also my work…my job…my masonry. And like anyone with a job, I have to show up ready to complete the task. I can’t get out of it by scribbling a note that says, “Please excuse Kristin today. Her muse is taking a staycation.” So if you see me huddled over my keyboard chanting “Writerhead! Writerhead!” give a wave…and know that I’m doing the job I’ve been called to do.
Julie Long, author of Baby, an Owner’s Manual, & several other books
Julie Long @julielongwrites
The actual craft of writing always feels like a gift to me. Even when I’m struggling with a scene. Even (like today) when it took me two hours to write one paragraph. Even when I’m entering tedious edits (I think of those as grooming a beloved pet — I don’t love the act but I love that darn dog, so wiping goop out of her eyes is a way to honor her). A long time ago my mother cautioned me to make sure I enjoyed the process, the journey, not just the destination. I thoroughly enjoy the process of writing, editing and revising.
Now the other aspects of the writer’s life? That’s another story. The agent search, the self promotion, the social media, the staying abreast of an industry in constant change — for me these things range from necessary chore to is-it-worth-it hassle to complete bewilderment!
Meredith Mileti, author of Aftertaste (launching this week!!)
Meredith Mileti @winsomechef
At various times it’s been both a chore and a hassle, but overall it’s a wonderful gift. I feel tremendously lucky to be able to live the writer’s life. And not just because I get to work in my pajamas and fuel my muse with tea and my favorite biscuits every day (undeniably a HUGE perk). I’m a self-confessed junkie for the printed word. (Happily, there are far worse things to be addicted to.) I love laboring over words and sentences just as much as I love discovering my characters and devising situations that will challenge them, madden them and hopefully help them grow.
I can’t imagine tiring of the quest to create something that will make someone laugh, or perhaps think about the world in a different way. That said, there are many aspects of the writer’s life that are challenging and, at times, frustrating. I think it’s a particularly difficult time to be a new writer trying to break into the industry. Publishing is changing so drastically and so rapidly that developing a plan of attack can sometimes feel like charting a course through maelstrom! But there is nothing else I’d rather be doing.
Aren’t they wonderful? Yes. Yes they are.
So, find your brethren, lock arms, band together. It will save you, enlighten you, inspire you. And it will be spring in the Shire before you know it.
Click to watch Sam carry Frodo up Mordor. It’s awesome!