Writing Lessons: Steering the Course, Staying True

I don’t like my country very much lately. Since late 2016, a fissure emerged in America’s lands and everyone jumped eagerly to either side. Trump being elected was like a trumpet blown by the Republicans and all of their party supporters. The supporters were portrayed as frustrated, forgotten, worn out voters who put Trump into power to “Make America Great Again”–their version of greatness, anyway. Many of these voters had been affected by the lack of working class jobs, ones shipped overseas or replaced by technology. Trump was their secret weapon; he was their line drawn in the sand. They wanted to turn back time and have their old way of life back.

I’ve been sick for the past week and have had time to reflect. I attended classes and counseling sessions last month to jump start my writing platform. And to be honest, I found that I hated these sessions. I was asked questions like “What makes your writing special?” and “Why should I pick up your book?” I answered their questions, in my typical straightforward fashion, but none of my answers seemed to appease. I sensed my words weren’t flashy enough, weren’t meeting the elusive standards of good marketing. I wasn’t attracting attention in the American, shallow way of enticement. I came away feeling I needed to change and become a saleswoman.

And I found myself simply not caring.

It’s difficult in America to be an introvert and to be one who likes deep, thought provoking ideas instead of fads, trends and sensations. America worships the golden calf of capitalism and applauds all of those who want more of everything, aka materialists. And this “everything” changes every season to be purposely elusive. It maintains our attention and keeps things fresh and not stale. There never is any satisfaction, however, because there never is enough. If you’re not growing, you’re dying, the business mantra goes. If you don’t buy this product, you’re missing out. This is bizarre.

The saint and I try to support small business, especially women owned or family businesses. I find these to be better, more simple, and caring (in general) in its service delivery. This is one part of capitalism I like–families working together to support themselves. I’m not pressured to spend more money than I have and I’m not pushed to consumerism excess (usually). I get to know the owners and admire their work ethic and passion for what they do. It becomes a family. The smaller the business, the more intimate the setting is, and there’s less of a chance of me bumping into capitalism’s second cousin, greed. Greed smells; greed rots like cancer. Greed is operating our government.

In my case, the turning point in my writing session came about when my counselor pulled up a NY Times best selling author on her laptop. She explained to me that this author took several of his characters and made spin off books, leading to more books and hence more money. This was good writing, this was good business, her tone implied. She showed me all of this after I told her my current novel, M.B., was a standalone novel. Clearly this wasn’t a good business decision. I needed to reconsider.

I’m finding in my journey of becoming an author that people expect you to be more of a sales person than an actual writer. I understand that in order for people to know your books exists, you need to share it. Hence my idea of doing YouTube. However, I feel tension when I’m expected to maintain multiple social media accounts with continuing updates and flash pan entertainment. I recoil at this, I even feel sick. Don’t put me into that box. I don’t want it.

Hence I’m pumping the breaks on some of my ideas that I felt were pushed onto me by well intended people or just society itself. I’m taking a different route to get to my writing dreams. And it’s nice to be doing it solo, without a publishing house breathing down my neck to be successful and to balance their books. I get to define success for myself. I get to write. And that’s really all I want.

M.B. has been wrapped up by my editor and I’m finding a proof reader to go through it one more time. Stay tuned for that.

Any other writers out there with similar journeys or lessons they’ve gone through? Things you had to figure out for yourself? Leave your comments below, I’d love to read them. Happy writing.

Author’s note: To be clear, I do like my country and its founding principals. I love the melting pot, the freedoms our Constitution offers and the wide array of geographic landscapes (everything from rain forests in Hawaii, to deserts and mountains in the west, to the beaches out in Maine). I’m not sure what the answer is to when we get off course and start to hate each other. But I think it starts with quiet listening, basic respect and maybe a little humility that we don’t know it all. Flashy headlines and firecracker sound bytes just stir the pot.

Song: “The Scientist,” Coldplay

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