God's been trying to tell me something and I've finally decided to listen.
When I tell you what I've changed my mind about it may not seem like such a life changing moment, but for me it just might be.
In an earlier post, I talked briefly about NaNoWriMo and what I was going to write about. I also stated that I was working towards a greater cause even if I didn't know what it was. That wasn't exactly true. For me NaNoWriMo was supposed to be a reconnecting to one of my passion's in life: writing. Even though, I write all the time whether it be columns, posts, short stories or novels - I feel like I've lost the passion that goes behind the words. It had become like a job - something I swore I'd never get. Slowly but surely, my writing had begun to feel less like my life's calling and more like a 9 to 5 that I dreaded going to every day. You know the kind where you're co-workers are all .... and your boss is a ..... (go ahead and fill in the blanks!) Writing had become draining and unispiring.
Then I remembered what a good friend of mine once said to me a long time ago after reading my first book, Easier Said Than Done. I won't drop names but she is a best selling author many times over, and my mentor and spiritual sister so whatever advice she gives me is like gold and I am sharing it with you in hopes that it might help someone eles. In an email, she wrote:
Writing is like tennis.
What I want to talk to you about is emotional follow through. It's like tennis. Let your arm follow the swing all the way through, don't jerk up or pull up short in the scene--just like the swing, okay?
You have to make her vulnerabilities and pain accessible. I know you can do this because I FELT it when Damon left her in college... I felt her heaviness, her depression, her fear, felt how bereft that child was, and how emotionally abandonned she was by the women around her who thought her foolish.
Exercise... I want you to go through every scene that has deep emotional content and ask yourself if you "told it" or if you "showed it."
I know it's scary, and on some of the scenes, you go there :) But an old romance axiom is this, "Cheat not the reader on the first love scene." Damon deflowered her... go back in time, inside your mind, what did it feel like--his body pushing itself into yours? That first kiss... what was that like, the electric charge wafting off it, the sensations felt by the first touch to your breast? you must answer these questions for your reader. Do not rush it like good foreplay should not be rushed... you are delivering mental foreplay on the page. Follow through with the swing, the action, until your reader is spent. Then you can get up, stretch, and go get a cup of tea--job well done (ha ha ha--you da man!)
Don't cringe, your work didn't do that... I'm giving you a warning so you won't allow that to happen... breathe... you did good, okay. I'm just telling you this because I could feel, sense, places in the work where you were getting near things emotionally, but didn't want to allow yourself to go all the way there--and I could feel you pull up as though saying, "Nope, I'm not gonna get into that." Sixth sense, I felt it. When you've got stuff going on in your life bringing pain, it is very, very easy to do that.. but you'll make your heroine inaccessible if you do. People want to relate to her pain, feel her vulnerabilities... because most people will never be beautiful like her, rich like her, sassy like her, talented like her, have her job, her house, her car, her future... and for just a little while, they want access to her life by knowing.
And the onliest reason I'm dippin' into your bizness (your writing pages), because I KNOW you got it, girl. Write on, Sis... and use every flange of pain to make your work better. I'm very proud of you!
So, when I thought about that this morning - IT CLICKED. Writing had lost it's shine for me because I no longer was willing to go inside the dark recesses of my emotional space and pull out the pain for everyone to see. Nor did I want to pour out my joy or my heart's triumphs because that too was scary. I don't think people realize how closely pain and joy are tied together. More often than not, my biggest accomplishments - whether it be personal or profesional - are borne from a particularly difficult challenge or tribulation.
Whenever I would write something that would even take me close to touching an emotional sore point, I would pull back and lose the connection to what I was writing. For example, my second book centers around the rape and murder of a young girl. Because of my experience with rape, it was so hard for me to go there and use words to paint a picture of the devastation that rape causes in the victim's life as well as those around her. As as result, it just didn't ring true to me. And if it doens't ring true to me, how can I expect it to ring true to a reader.
I still haven't been able to finish the book. I realize now, that I never really started it. It's only a skeleton with no meat and bones and would serve no real purpose.
God wants me to write with a purpose. I realize that now. And I think I am finally in a place where I can "go there" and put on paper something meaningful that will help someone else.
So I've changed the focus of my writing. And God has renewed my passion. I was able to write more than six thousand words this morning because I am now writing with purpose. I am NOT writing my life's story. Fiction is still the genre that is most dear to my heart. But I am going to use my life's pain and joy to make sure that even with fiction my novels touch and inspire.
Because if they don't, what in the world am I writing them for?