“I’m Going Into the Deep End, Far Over My Head!”

I am going into the deep end of the writing journey on November 1. This year, I will commit to a soulful call, a yearn that has tugged at my heart for a few years now. I am going to join the thousands of NaNoWriMos in Atlanta to pen that novel. What genre? What characters? What inspiration? I admit that I have unfinished novels scattered like the leaves on my yard, but I want a fresh voice, a fresh idea, and a fresh challenge.

I am going to give in to that “Butt in the chair/seat” (B.I.T.C. or B.I.T.S.) philosophy, right-wing advocates, for the first time in my life. I guess you could call me a left-winger. A believer in when the juice flows, I have always written for creativity. When the honey well drips with more than enough of that nectar, I write joyfully, plentifully, creatively. (Don’t tell me not to use adverbs. I am a left-winging writer.) I have never wanted for words or inspiration. This NaNoWriMo is different!

Ha, ha! Let’s see how much honey will remain in that well when I keep going to fetch from it daily. Scary thoughts are made of these! Thirty days of writing continuously, pounding the keys, forcing them to obey me. To obey or not to obey, that is the question I will answer in 30 days. Will the honey well run dry after I milk it day in, day out? I fret!

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What Will You Do to Keep from Getting What You Want?

Since the Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project ended this summer, and I became a Fellow, I have been writing furiously in every quarter of my writing life. As furiously as I write, something or someone (me) is preventing me from getting the change I want: a situation I liken to someone shooting herself in the foot to prevent physical progress.

At the KMWP event, there sat a lonely book on a table begging for a good home. I, being a lover of all things book, picked it up and knew that I would give it a good home and a good read. I confess that, that book sat unopened for a few weeks while I wrote furiously in all quarters.

Something caused me to pick it up and flip to the introduction. I know as a teacher, a writer, and an avid reader that an introduction is the million-dollar Super Bowl advertisement for a non-fiction. If the introduction does not grab me, it will be a struggle to read the rest of it.

I opened up to the introduction and froze, forced to examine myself and the reason I have not been published, and forced to accept that I have prevented myself from being published. The question the authors ask (which they borrowed from the late William Perry of Harvard, a gifted trainer of therapists, counselors, and consultants): “What does this person really want—and what will they do to keep from getting it?”

I devoured the introduction, a ten-page volcano that shook me to my roots. The book itself is titled How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work by Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey.

Put simply, I know what I really want, but I have done everything to keep from getting it until now. I’ve made every possible excuse in the world. There is no excuse anymore. I’ve done things that are not-for-profit. They made me incredibly happy, still make me incredibly happy, but they do not need to prevent me from accomplishing my for-profit goals. Getting published is for profit, little or big, and that is the ultimate goal of every writer who labors, moi meme included.

I’ve labored for far too long. I’ve been writing since I was ten years old. I’ve been published in magazines and online, but you would think that I should have had books out and been filthy rich and world-famous by now.

What will I do (have I done) to keep me from getting what I want? Everything, but no mas! I made resolutions this year, and I will not allow this year to end without accomplishing them or most of them. Change has come to stay.

Sitting on Revision

When I taught reading to middle school students who groaned loudly every time I asked them to read anything, I gave them this mantra: “I do not like to read, but I have to read.” I gave reasons why they should read. Those who allowed the sprinkled dust of tacit persuasion to touch their intellect bought into it.

Today, I find myself at crossroads and have to adopt my mantra in order to get over a huge chasm the size of the Grand Canyon. I do not like to revise my work, but I have to revise it for several reasons.

When a writer submits a purported best-write, and the publisher comes back with the proverbial red ink suggestions for a rewrite, it takes a lot to pump up the shoulders, keep eyes on the prize, and buckle down to those suggestions. I repeat: It takes a lot!

That is where I am. I have stated numerous times that I do not have the old fanged and famous diagnosis of writer’s block as hashed out by Edmund Bergler, Purdue Online Writing Lab, Irene Clark, and many others.

Since I have a continuous influx of ideas, I refuse to subscribe to this school of thought. I write because ideas bombard my brain constantly. I choose not to write not due to any writer’s block.

What I have is the Kilimanjaro-reluctance to do what I must do. Some will classify it as procrastination; others will call it writer’s block. I just refused to revise my work. Simple, case closed. Or is it?

I have been sitting on my publisher’s recommendations for months now. I wanted to arrive at a place where I actually would allow myself to take that novel apart, perform the necessary surgery, and reattach the limbs (if possible). It is a tall order, this submission to dismantling a well-built house with a wrecking ball.

I admit, ego blocked my progress. That confounded chip is the undoing and the downfall of a writer who refuses to detach herself from that most magnificent creation and be humble. Today was such a thing for me. I went to bed at 1:50 this morning because transformation gripped me. I devoured books by people who know the business. They tolImaged me to get over my elitist self.

They informed me that I was misinformed. Because I taught English, writing, and literature for decades, and because some colleagues called me “word wizard,” I figured I was that. They said I needed to get real, take off that title, fling it into the bottom of the Pacific, and find a tattered cloak of humility to put on for the world to see that I have written diddly, nada, nothing.

Heather Sellers and The Portable MFA in Creative Writing were kinder in their phraseology, but Les Edgerton let me have it without mincing words. When I say, “me,” I am sure he has no idea who I am, but the “me” refers to any reader who picks up Hooked. Yes, the man knows how to title his book. I was hooked from Page 1 until I put the book down around 1 A.M. and picked up Page after Page by Sellers.

With my tail tucked between my legs, I am humbled and owe my publisher an apology for wasting valuable time on what I should have finished months ago. Then again, I am glad I waited for the tough love that came.

It arrived early this morning with waves of inspiration and resolution crashing down on me to get my lazy behind on the chair, what Sellers calls “Butt-in-the-chair” determination. Needless to say, I needed a figurative kick in the shin (which hurts more than a kick on the derrière).

As any writer worth her salt knows, a writer must be a reader first and must read and read. I feel better now that I have heard other voices to imbue me to do what I must do.

“Go crazy! Punch a higher floor!” sang Prince. I am not letting the elevator bring me down, not until I finish this most important necessity. I hear Prince’s instrumental as I jump into revision. “Oh, no, let’s go! …Let’s go nuts!” (With revision, that is.)