Spent the weekend with some writerly folk, the Kansas Authors Club Annual Convention, and thought I'd take a moment to compile some of my thoughts and notes before diving into the items on my desk that need sorted and my house which needs cleaned.
I think the most comforting words of the weekend came from Max McCoy, the keynote speaker and workshop presenter who comes from right here in Emporia, Kansas. I even took the time to introduce myself since we are pretty much neighbors if you are looking at the big Kansas map.
Max told us the seven secrets of writing well. One that really stood out, in my mind, was to love others. He said he'd never met a writer who wasn't truly in love with humanity. I have to say I agree whole-heartedly, although I hadn't really thought of it in terms of a trait all writers have. Instead, it has been my experience that when I am in the mindset of "loving humanity," of openly embracing the diversity of the people around me and appreciating the different outlooks, passions, and beliefs - that is when I am happiest, at my most creative, most productive in terms of the work I do and the stories I write.
Max also suggested that it takes 500,000 words written before you are in the place where you start writing work that is publishable. "Don't cheat," he said, and I think that's good advice in a day and age when anybody with word processing software can cobble together a story and have a book published. It's a process, and I'm sure it comes to some easier than others, but it helped me to see myself (at least in terms of fiction writing) as somewhere along that 500,000 word path. I've had a few short story successes that I am proud of. I have what would probably amount to a couple of first drafts "in a drawer" by now, and everything else I have done/am doing in writing is teaching me something about the process of using words, as well as about my own power and ability to control the realization of my own dreams.
Which brings me to another point of contemplation this weekend. At these gatherings, the question always comes up. "What do you write?" Initially, I found myself using my elevator speech. "I'm a freelance writer... ghostwriting, web content, articles... blah, blah, blah." I was all but handing out my business card. Somehow it kept coming out feeling all wrong. That wasn't why I was there.
I was there for the soul food -- my personal soul food.
I was there to listen to T. Dawn Richard talk about using humor in fiction. I was there to learn from Mark Bouton how to jump start your fiction with a hook. I was there to listen to Lisa Harkrader talk about writing for the kid within. I was there to meet other writers -- people I can relate to who often, like me, are more verbal with their fingertips than with their actual voices.
I was there to feed my dream of writing and publishing fiction.
Max said "everything you have done in life is preparation for the book you write."
So what if I'm taking a leisurely approach (to fiction) on that path of 500,000 words. I'm writing. I'm happy with what I'm writing, and I'm enjoying the challenge of being my own boss.
A completed fiction book is still down the road a ways, but I left the convention feeling inspired and with some new ideas for exercising my fiction voice and for perhaps revising some of my current dreams in progress. I also enjoyed connecting with some old writing friends, and I met some new ones -- always a bonus.