Task #1: Start Revising First Piece
The above TED talk by novelist, memoirist and journalist Elizabeth Gilbert came upon the heels of her global success as the author of Eat, Pray, Love. The title was made into a movie and discussed on an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s television talk show. Even my male friends made jokes around the bar about women’s new adventurous spirits and brazen quests for independent pleasure, leading back to them of course, due to this wildly popular book. Gilbert had been a writer of articles and short stories before the success of Eat, Pray, Love, which took her and many by surprise.
The above talk shows how no matter if you achieve your and the world’s version of success with your writing, living in the world as a person who does such an uncommon and indescribable task as writing is challenging. Writing is insecure and undefined by set boundaries to let you and others know you have done the best job you possibly can. You will have doubts. There will be room for others’ opinions and criticisms and judgments. There will be room for your own nagging voice to ask “Is it good?” or “Is it enough?” or “Will anyone care?” or “Will I sell it?” or “Is this really a real book?”
Instead, look forward to completing a piece of work fitting into a set structure or genre or path you can work with, and pushing that work on to readers through the channels the work demands, and then continuing to write. It is a lot, so please eliminate extraneous questions to ask yourself. Hold yourself up in order to just let your writing fly joyously, boisterously, exuberantly, fully, flabbily, and excitedly like fun passion you look forward to more than anything else in the world.
Without that enjoyment and passion and fun and sense of happy anticipation for writing, nothing will work or produce readers for you. If you are not released from other cares and functioning as a creatively-driven being with purpose but without force, you will not write these stories and visions you have to tell. You will keep putting it off or making excuses. You will grow weary of a gift that is supposed to be energizing. You will lose phrases, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and even books in the shuffle of just talking or thinking about what you want to do rather than really doing it right now.
If you have taken this course and come this far, your writing spirit demands attention. It wants to talk. It has something to say right now.
What is “Spirit” in Writing?
This is not a religious-based or faith-specific course rooted in theological premises, spiritual and religious texts, or divine practices. I am not a spiritual guru, positivity coach, or professional motivator. I am an author who loves to write in any and all forms, and I have my knowledge and experiences to share to start or re-start you on that path, so you may continue to build a portfolio of work to use how you choose to.
What do you want to do with this? (It is A-OK if you don’t know specifically).
It is fine to be here because you want to get some writing done, and no more than that now.
- Do you want to want to tell the story of your life or parts of it?
- Do you have a story and characters simmered over a long amount of time, and are they dying to speak to more than you and your computer or your notepads?
- Do you want to earn a livable wage and income from what you type and/or write?
- Do you want to publish a book for readers to buy from you or an outside source?
- Do you write often or have writings stored which fit in none of these categories?
Task #2: Take some time to ponder and write out answers to one or more of those questions, if need be. One page typed or written in notebook paper is sufficient for this task. Please share in the Forum.
Putting your thoughts together for yourself and others to see will serve as a valuable mission statement to refer to this month and beyond.
“The useless days days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels…. These things are your becoming.” —Cheryl Strayed
No author is above employment of publishing industry jargon, normative terms and common lingo to work. You must be able to define “GENRE” for yourself, and people you approach with your writing.
Genre simply means style, form, category or distinction. First, you must determine the format of what you like to do: Short, Long, Interconnected, Free-Standing, Commercial, Literary, Popular, Humorous, New Forms, etc..
As with any art or profession or industry, writers have different categories to choose from and compare to. These categories are by no means all-inclusive, but writers should have some sense of how their work relates to past and current works that have stood the tests of time.
Task #3: What is Your Genre?
This is an awkward and uncomfortable question for a lot of writers. We just want to write, not think about “business.” But, whether you like it or not, you are going to have to understand if your work fits with the “artistes” or the New York Times bestsellers or independent authors or book club set. This will make a difference in everything from where (or if) your book is shelved, what conferences and events you will do, and what types of book-buyers and readers will benefit most from hearing about your work.
Think of a title and example you like in the following GENRES (include books from your childhood, high school and college days):
- Fiction (one example and definition for all): Literary, Horror, Speculative, Suspense/Thriller, Romance, Historical, Young Adult, Children’s, Illustrative, Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Social/Political, Memoir.
- Non-Fiction (one title example and definition for all): Comedy, Self-Help/How-To, Business, Health, Scientific, Technology, Political and Research.
You should be left with 20 different definitions, and one title of a book or work you feel fits each particular genre. That should be enough to help you answer the following question in one paragraph: Where do I fit in, and why?
Task 4: Get Savvy Professionally
I have a catalog of trustworthy, time-tested writers’ resources on my Goodreads Author page, and I’ve replicated it here.
ORGANIZATIONS & COLLECTIVES:
Sisters in Crime
Kalamu Ya Salaam Listserve for Writers
PEN American Center
The Author’s Guild
Literary Freedom Project
Red Room For Authors
Gotham Writing Workshop
Writers Guild Foundation
Association of Writers & Writing Programs
Spirit of Writing
My Dreams Matter
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Ernest Hemingway on Writing
This Year You Write Your Novel
Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
Pencil Dancing: New Ways to Spark Your Creative Spirit
The Jane Friedman Blog
The Poets & Writers Guide to the Book Deal
Writing the Blockbuster Novel
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. How to Publish a Book
The Superior Person’s Book of Words
Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School
Check out this “After”:
Kalisha Buckhanon’s novels are CONCEPTION and UPSTATE. Her writing awards include an American Library Association Alex Award, Friends of American Writers Award and Illinois Arts Council Fellowship. She and her work have been featured in Essence, People, Guardian, London Independent on Sunday, Mosaic Literary Magazine, Colorlines, BlogHer, xoJane, Michigan Quarterly Review, Hermeneutic Chaos, Winter Tangerine Review, Atticus Review and more. She has taught creative writing, humanities and English through PEN American Center’s Prison Writing Program, Kankakee Community College and many inner-city schools programs, summer arts camps and library initiatives. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sisters in Crime, with appearances for the group as an on-air commentator on Investigation Discovery Channel’s “Deadly Affairs.” Kalisha has an M.F.A in Creative Writing from The New School in New York City, and a B.A. and M.A. in English Language and Literature both from University of Chicago.