Things I have learned (some about myself, others about writing) during this residency:
Crocheting is as important as writing. Find your BECAUSE YOU LIKE IT thing and do it. You don’t need any more reason than that, so long as it’s not killing the household budget. If what you like is expensive or takes time your family can’t give you, see if you can pull a little dangling thread somewhere to get a small marked bit of time and space. You need it in life even more than writing.
The value of silence: it is tempting to tune into online TV during crochet time, the radio while we drive. Do without every so often. Sit and listen to what you’re thinking about, and be surprised at the connections that form because of the silence.
Don’t lose sight of places you like to be. Until I got to Fayetteville, I had forgotten how soothing, how inspiring, being in the woods is. Church, ball game, bathtub: wherever you go to get your writer on, don’t let anyone keep you from it.
Do new stuff because it’s new. This could be writing, finding a new place to hike, visiting a different town, cooking something weird, trying an intense craft pattern. Bust out of your comfort zone.
Know what you believe. I believe in Jesus. After that I’m listening. Right now polarities are oppositional in politics, religion, even how to cook lasagna. Every idea space is full of debates and hurricanes. Listening is good. Keeping one’s mouth shut is good. Usually people don’t want to know what you think; they want to tell you what they think. Let them; it’s grist for the writing mill, and not difficult to shake off what they will enjoy as a power move. It makes GREAT character study. Don’t get excited; get a notebook.
Draft fast; edit slow. My latest manuscript of 65K words drafted in three weeks. It was crap but had great bones. I set it aside for three weeks, then edited, sent to readers, edited again. The polished draft is with NYC’s publishing deities. Time plus chair plus keyboard makes drafts; fallow time plus finessing makes books.
Work with other writers in a bordered capacity. I’m fortunate to teach for Memory2Memoir and mentor writing educators with American NewMedia Foundation. What other people struggle with, how other people choose to tell stories, invigorates your writing. That said, offer too many consults and your time will disappear. When I sat down to do “other writer stuff” besides drafting or editing my manuscript, how much “other writer stuff” there was startled me.
Enter contests carefully. Writers can spend their lives looking for and finding them at $25 entry fee per. Like a plot itself, getting sidetracked to tell a wonderful story about some minor character may be fun, the writing great, but it doesn’t advance the overarching narrative. Entering contests because you don’t know what to write about yet? Awesome, keep going. Entering contests as avoidance to writing your book? Nope.
Have simple foods on hand. Peanut butter and apples were my staples, plus Trader Joe’s frozen polenta for hot meals. When you’re knee-deep in plot yet hungry, you can keep going.
Hope these are useful to you. I’ve loved my time at Lafayette Flats.
Truth. Great photo!
The photo is from Scotland last summer, actually, driving through the Highlands when we stopped to hike.
Wonderful, sage advice. Thanks Wendy.
What a helpful article! Printing it out, taking it with me to a weekend retreat with just my husband at a favorite B & B. Thank you, thank you!
Wendy, I really enjoy your perspective and delivery…..this kind of advice spans all professions. Thank you, I listened (read)!
It IS a really good picture of you! AND, I must add – I don’t think there’s any place in Scotland that would make a bad picture! Longing to go back!
Jack is still running tours for a few more years.
Does he take his tours to Iona? It’s one of our favorite places –
Yep! The Highlands and Islands tour does. I am not certain if the Borders and Bards tour does.
Jack here – the 2019 tour goes to Iona as well as 2 days in Ireland. This year is full and doesn’t go to Iona.
Wendy, I so enjoyed reading this piece. And I so wish we had met during your stay. I spent a good portion of the winter in SC, watching over a friend’s property. It was calming and energizing. Soak up the last few days of your Residency. It’s so very special in so many ways.
Thanks, Jack. Our travels for the year are pretty well “full”, too. We scratched a trip to Ireland – in favor of train travel; LOVE Amtrak! We also love both Scotland and Ireland – been there, done that, wanna do it again before we’re too ancient! Blessings and FUN to you and yours –