To say this past week has been inspirational is to be needlessly understated. On Thursday I had tea with Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, on Friday and Saturday I rubbed shoulders with Diana Love, Simone Elkeles, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and many more best-selling, talented writers. I mention these four specifically because they were generous enough to share their writing lives with us.
I literally cranked my brain and my heart open and listened and absorbed and swore to retain. I mean what kind of idiot drinks from the fountain of wisdom and then lets it all evaporate out her ears? OK, so let’s say such an idiot did exist, would she then not be un-idiotized if she wrote the nuggets of wisdom down to return to when idiocy comes a-calling again?
So, here’s a list of the things I learnt from these phenomenal women:
1) The one thing in common between Susan, Diana, Simone, and Chitra is that they unabashedly embrace being DISCIPLINED about their writing. They set a schedule, turn off the outside world, and they WRITE.
2) The one thing that completely differentiates these four from each other is their PROCESS. They write at different times of the day, aspire to different word counts and take completely different approaches to getting from the first word to the end of their stories. But irrespective of the how and the how much and the when, they turn off the outside world, and they WRITE.
3) Each one of them believes that writing is HARD, or has been hard at one time or another, and will be hard as long as they do it. But they believe the only way to get past the hard is to turn off the outside world and WRITE.
4) Each one of these ladies was incredibly generous and unerringly helpful, but the one thing they said they couldn’t help anyone with was finishing their book and moving on to the next and then finishing that one and moving on to the next. You can only do that if you turn off the outside world and you WRITE.
OK, so maybe I heard only what I wanted to hear (needed to hear?) and my list veered off to take on my own agenda. But that was what I brought back with me. When I went to Spring Fling 2012, I was in search of my writing joy. I was firmly wedged in that dark space between wanting and getting. I was spinning my wheels in so much self-pitying sludge it had paralyzed my doing.
But watching the women who do this thing with such elan turned on a light bulb. While I want to be one of them, I already am one of them. Yes they smiled when they talked about the sales and the reviews and the fans. But what put that slightly mental fuzzy smile on their faces was talking about their writing, the sitting down, the creating, their characters, their worlds, the sheer joy of being able to do this. I know how that feels. Already.
And you know what the kicker is? You can have the joy without the sales, the reviews, the fans, but you cannot have the sales, the reviews, the fans without the joy. You just cannot. And doesn’t that just turn things on its head?