O THE GUILT
I began this blog, when I put up my website, with the best of intentions. I wanted to share with you ideas I tried and ideas I discarded along the road to publishing success, because first and foremost, I plan to succeed. The problem? All the time you spend dancing first this way, then that way, trying to decide which turn is best to take next.
It’s been nearly 18 months since I began this independent-writing journey. In those 18 months, I have published 18 books. Are they selling? Sort of. Maybe a 400% increase over last year’s sales. But that means nothing if you only sold 77 books in 2022. Of course, I only had a couple of books then, and they came out at the very end of the year. At which time I decided, the only way to proceed was to figure out marketing. Therein lies the challenge. Has anyone else noticed how many people promise you that their way is the right way? After reading dozens of books and taking a number of courses, I’ve figured out one thing. The only way that is going to work is what works for you, what speaks to you, what you connect with in your gut. Something you might actually stick with and build on. No one is going to do it for you.
Anyone who has ever read my bio on my website knows that at one point I took a twenty year sabbatical from writing. Well, I’m doing it again. This time, not from writing, from blogging. Not for twenty years this time, just for however long it takes to learn enough to have time to write blogs. If anyone cares, I will be writing a monthly newsletter which will at times cover issues I had planned to cover here. Just hit the Home button where you will find a subscribe button.
Yesterday, I was going through some files and ran across the following two papers that I wrote in my earliest writing days. You will notice it was way before we could even imagine the thought of something called the internet, the day of snail mail, and waiting that new generations can’t even imagine. The reason I am including them is that I had no recall of writing them, and that they actually sort of inspired me, and to show that I actually have come quite a way, especially when taking in a 20 year sabbatical, and that I plan to make my intended goal within the next few years. The sooner, the better, so that I can find the time to blog. Wishing you all good things.
THE PLEASURE OF WRITING
Criticism? No problem. I thrive on it. Why else do I write? Rejection? Love it. A masterpiece, the baring of my soul, flawless. Almost perfect? No? And it doesn’t make things easier when, after batting away criticism after criticism, a friend pronounces, “Dark colors are so slenderizing,” the very day I wear my new floral.
Who doesn’t appreciate “constructive” criticism? Teenagers love it. New mothers thrive on it. In-laws beg for it. Spouses bask in it. My favorite: “I’m only trying to help,” and “What’s the matter? Can’t you take a little constructive criticism?” I take it, maybe not well, but I take it.
I love watching any critic when given a “helpful suggestion.” First reaction? A smiling, “Gee, thank you, I hadn’t considered that possibility?” Nope. The smile freezes on their face, their eyes screen-out, defenses are raised against attack. Immediately.
A writer is a sponge for criticism. Rereading, editing, revising. With the skill of a surgeon and a critical eye s/he operates on her Frankensteinian creation. Finally, IT is ready. S/he releases her offspring. The challenge, to survive in an indifferent world. S/he waits. All s/he needs is a sign. Any sign. Will it be accepted?
Which is worse? The piece returned, the address in your own hand with a polite “Thank you but…” or the piece returned looking like a piece of scratch paper used in a math class? At least you can rationalize that the clean piece is probably what they say, “…not suitable for that particular publication.” That’s when hamburger comes to my mind. Maybe the butcher made a mistake. Why would anyone want to make hamburger out of my New York cut?
The sponge continues to absorb whatever flows its way. Soon it’s saturated. Something drips out, almost unrecognizable in its blend of so much sweat, a little blood, a few tears, and a tiny pinch of inspiration. Can it be? Success!
A Matter of Mind
As I scan my mental files, under teacher, I can skip the early years. These early files are worn and almost indecipherable, perhaps by time, perhaps because of the poor quality of the material. I continue to skim, afraid nothing will be found. Then I stop. This file is clean and sharp. Whoever prepared it wanted it to last.
She was a tyrant. She ruled her classroom with an iron hand, pacing the aisles and cracking the desktops with her ever-present yardstick, to make a point. She was unyielding, unforgiving and she cared. It made me want to learn. I wanted to please her, not because I was scared, just to make her happy, because she loved, in her way, and I loved in return. She laid an important foundation.
Other files have their bright sections, but few—too few. A high school science teacher who taught us to ask why. Those English teachers who recognized my writing potential and encouraged. My college history prof whose lectures were so exciting I looked forward to them as if they were a favorite soap opera. But this brightest file feels new. Maybe its viridity is what gives it appeal. Maybe it’s that I have again found the spirit of my sixth-grade teacher and feel comfort.
It was a chance encounter. I wanted to write. I knew I had ability, but I needed polish, so much polish. Where could I get it? Living in a small community sometimes has its shortcomings.
I contacted the University of California Extension and began my first correspondence course. I was scared. I had no idea what to expect. Was I reaching too far? Was it a delusion or did I have talent?
My first assignments came back neatly corrected and with professional criticisms but over time the tone of the accompanying notes began to change. They became warm and encouraging. Maybe I did have potential after all. But I still wasn’t sure. One day, I mentioned my doubts in a note sent with an assignment. Then I really heard from her.
It was 11:00 one Easter night. The phone rang and a strange voice asked, “Tricia?” My mistake was that I answered, “Yes.” She let me have it. For a good ten minutes she lectured me, almost yelling. I couldn’t follow half of what she was saying. To this day I am not sure what was said, exactly. I only know that she made me feel wonderful. When she was done, I knew that I could be a writer. I knew that I had as much chance as I cared to give myself. Was this Mrs. M, my sixth-grade teacher, resurrected?
Her ways are different and sometimes her points are difficult to follow, but she knows her job. I hear from her often, and always late. She builds me up when I am down and knocks me down when I overclimb. I still don’t understand half of what she is saying but her meaning is clear. She cares and through her efforts, and mine, I may one day shine.