Monday, January 14, 2008

That Inner Truth

by Tawny Weber

I attended an RWA chapter meeting recently that featured three published authors, sharing their journey. Not so much their journey TO publication, although that was included, but their journey AFTER publication. The three are all awesome writers, I've been lucky enough to have books by them all. But they, their writing, and their journeys couldn't be more different.

And yet... the core message each of them shared was the same. Its all about being true to ourselves and our writing. What a fabulous message (and yes, one we've all heard before, but it hit home so hard for me that I'm sharing anyway *g*). I'm using writing as the general comparison here, but I really believe this message can apply to anything you do.

I remember how important it was, when I was starting out, to learn to weed through the masses of information to find what worked for me. Oh sure, some stuff is general. Grammar isn't fluid, and manuscript formatting is... well, formatting. But the important things like voice, style, the message I bring to my work... I had to find those and, once I did, make sure I was true to them.

Of course, as the ladies at the meeting pointed out, there are always people who want to refocus us. Before we're published, it could be contest judges (nobody is buying THAT or I hate this kind of story, you'd do better if you learned to write XYZ, etc) or critique partners (similar feedback as contest judges, but we actually TRUST the CPs) or even editors and agents we're submitting to. After we sell, it doesn't change much. Except now we've got reviewers and readers with suggestions, and the stakes and fears get a little higher. There is, as one Christine blogged about the other day, the question of writing the same thing or changing it up. There is the pressure of writing to the market or writing, as Kirsten said in her comment to Christine, writing the story that's inside you.

How do you sift through it all and come out feeling like you made the right choices? Thats what I learned in this talk -simply be true to yourself and your writing. Always (here's where that general non-writing specific stuff comes in *g*) know, when you're done with the book, job, task, that you did your best. That you're proud of it and know, if a fifty foot flashing billboard proclaimed this was YOU and your work, you'd be proud. That way, no matter what happens as a result (for instance, it took me six manuscripts before I sold...but I'd gladly share any one of the earlier ones with pride) would you know you did your best.

And if you're lucky, along the way you find people who get you. Who want to support you being yourself and keeping your writing true. Like, hmm, say the Romance Bandits? I'm sure none of us thought we had much in common when we all got those calls in March of 2006. And yet, here we are... Twenty diverse, empowered and strong writers, all heading in different directions, but going down the same path. Together.

So... nothing new here, I realize, but it was my first big OOOoooooohhhh moment of the year and I wanted to share it!

How about you? If someone took out that huge bilboard to highlight one of your recent accomplishments, which one would make you beam with pride?


Helen said...

Is he back in Australia

Have Fun

Helen said...

Tawny that is a great post I agree with everything that you said we have all done things that we feel very proud of when I finished my diploma I new that I had done well it was hard work and there were times I wished I hadn't started it but when we put on our pesentation at the end of the year and it was all video taped and each of us has a copy if ever I need to remind myself that I can do something I really want to I can always replay the tape.
As for you lovely writers I agree stay true to what you love to write because we readers love to read.
Have Fun

Christine Wells said...

Oh, pipped at the post! But by an Aussie, so I suppose that's OK. Congrats, Helen!

Tawny, I'm glad you shared your OOOOoooh moment with us.*g* Even if it has been said before, I think you're right, the message bears repeating because it's something we tend to forget when we have an eye to sales, bigger contracts, etc.

It's why I'm so proud of Joanie T sticking to her wonderful Romans instead of writing in a more 'popular' period just because it's easier to sell. When she gets the call, she will be shouting it from the rooftops, not cringing in a corner. The amount of promotion we all have to do these days would be excruciating if we weren't proud of what we did.

Great stuffy, Tawny!

Dianna Love Snell said...

Hi Tawny -

Good topic. I read Christine's this morning too - had a couple minutes for myself before my day starts. You Banditas write great blogs.

As for those six manuscripts you wrote before selling - I love that you're willing to put any of them out there with pride, because you may very well sell some, if not all of them, at some point. I think too often a writer believes anything not sold is just an "under the bed" manuscript. But there are best selling authors who couldn't sell their early books that went on to sell those as well down the road.

That's just one more reason to always give every book your best and not deem it "worthy" only if it sells. If you wrote a story you're proud of - the book IS worthy.

Congrats on your success.


Caren Crane said...

Helen, you sneaky Aussie! I hope you will treat the GR nicely these days. He is bound to have jet lag. *g*

Tawny, too often we do not celebrate our accomplishments or give them proper attention. I know, without a doubt, I am guilty of that.

I think I would like a billboard that lists the many things I juggle and accomplish each week, just in daily life. It is staggering when I think about it rationally. *g*

As far as my writing, the only final I ever remember is the Golden Heart, but I know I have had others. I can dredge up some, but have totally forgotten others. I need a billboard for myself, so I don't believe the doubting voices in my head. *g*

You had a great OOOooooh moment!

Caren Crane said...

Oh, and as Helen said, I think I want one for my degree. Other people seem impressed that I got a BS in Electrical Engineering. I have no idea how I managed it (my son was a baby and toddler during that time), but I did! So, I'll claim that one, too. *g*

doglady said...

Congrats, Helen! Can the GR get frequent flyer miles? Great post, Tawny. As a new writer I have to constantly remind myself that some comments are simply a matter of the commenter's voice, not something I did wrong. I tend to be rather stubborn so I hope I am remaining true to my voice. Like a couple of you, I wish I had videotape of myself receiving my degrees - a BS, a MMA, and a DMA in Music. There were several opera performances that I would dearly love to have on videotape. Fortunately I have audiotapes of a number of my concerts and performances with orchestras. For now I think I would like a big billboard with my three contest finals and my Royal Ascot win on it to remind me as I am slogging thru revisions that I CAN do this!

Joan said...

Well, Helen! Congratulations! The GR visits Australia so often he'll soon start to hop like a kangaroo! (That would be cool).

Tawny, great post. You really hit the nail on the head. We are all different (not just we RB but writers in general)traveling different roads to the same destination.

An ooohhhh moment for me occured just a few moments ago with Christine's mention of my Roman historicals (sniff). Thanks Christine.

It certainly can be a challenging path to chose to write against trend. I've spent equal times feeling determined and questioning that determination. Romans won't let me back down.

The first two mss have finaled and placed and won in quite a few contests including TPD's GH final. That is validation for my determination (ok, stubbornness) but every one had helped me to grow my writing.

I recently received a comment from a judge of The Suzannah which said "I don't care for this time period but for those who do you've done a masterful job" She gave me a perfect score.

I don't say this to brag but I felt a real "pump fist in air" moment that even though she does not care for the Roman time period she liked the storytelling.


Trish Milburn said...

So true, Tawny. It took me a long time to get to the point where I trust myself as a writer, well as much as any writer can. :)

My billboard would shot that for more than 11 years and countless rejections on 18 manuscripts, I didn't give up and finally sold.

Buffie said...

What a wonderful post Tawny! I think that is something we all need to be reminded of often. There are many accomplishments for which we should all be proud of. And like Caren stated, don't forget those day to day tasks that consume the day. I'm proud that my children are happy, healthy, and seemed to be well behaved (at least in the presence of others!). I'm proud that I survived my husband going to night school 4 nights a week for 5 years while I had two babies at home to care for. I'm proud I didn't go crazy!!!!

Beth said...

Excellent post, Tawny! You know I'm all about celebrating our successes - even the ones we deem as small *g*

I am very proud that I sold a book but in all honesty, I'm just as proud of the steps I took that brought me to that first sale. All the writing, revising, rejections, the workshops, the contest feedback...everything I've done in in order to follow my dreams was an accomplishment to me *g*

Like doglady, I am rather stubborn and I think it's that trait that pushed me not to give up (or give in *g*)

p226 said...

Should it be troubling to me that I can't think of anything recent? I mean, I worked a 26 hour shift to get some stuff done this weekend. You'd think at the end of that, when the phase of work was completed, I'd be able to look back and go "behold what I have done!" But no. All I see is how that was a stepping stone to more. It's much like climbing a large mountain and as you ascend what you thought was the summit, you realize no, not the summit at all, merely a ledge which obscured the summit from your vision. The summit is still many thousands of feet higher.

I feel like Eeyore today.

terrio said...

Oooohhhh moments are always good. Heaven knows I've had a ton of them in the last year since starting to write. And I just happened to pick up this really great book over the weekend - Does She Dare. I've barely started but ooh la la Dante is HAWT!

I so wish I could get one of those billboards. I submitted my first anything last week and I'm very proud of my story. In fact, I was giddy for days afterward. LOL! This stuff is kind of fun.

I'm also working on my BS in Business Degree and having that up in lights once I'm finished would be so great. I'm like Caren in that I try not to dwell on all the stuff I seem to juggle - not always gracefully. If I think too much about it, I might drop it all on my head.

flchen1 said...

Congrats on the return of the GR, Helen!

Tawny, that was a lovely post! I agree that we need to be reminded to celebrate our accomplishments, especially those that we do without only thinking how they'll appear to others. Congrats to all of you on staying true to your own voices and stories--your happy readers thank you! And congrats to all of you fellow moms--your children (and the rest of us!) thank you for your amazing accomplishments (not just your fabulous kids, but everything else you manage to do in addition)!

I'd like to celebrate the days that our family takes the time to read together, which sadly isn't every day anymore ;)

Tawny said...

YAY Helen :-D Congrats on snagging that feathered beastie!

I'm kicking off late here in CA - woke up to an editor call and haven't been able to get myself on track since *g*

Helen, what you say is so empowering! Isn't it true, when you have at least one Billboard accomplishment, you have that knowlege that you can do ANYTHING --all you have to do is look back and remind yourself! Congratulations on having such a wonderful reminder :-) And hey, a video tape is a fab visual to keep you going!

Tawny said...

Christine, so right you are! I'm one of the worst at that -- I am so goal-oriented that accomplishments tend to be things to mark off the goal list, rather than celebrate. I'm trying, though!!

JoanieT is the PERFECT example of a writer who's rocking her voice and being true to herself!!!

Tawny said...

Hi Dianna :-)

Thank you! I love how you summed that up That's just one more reason to always give every book your best and not deem it "worthy" only if it sells. If you wrote a story you're proud of - the book IS worthy.

So much of what we do, as writers, depends on outside 'approval'. Editors, agents, reviewers, readers - they are the ones who, in the big picture, deem our work worthy. But to me, each story I wrote is the very best I could do at the time, and I am proud of them :-)

And, as you say, you never know when they'll come in handy. I'm currently revising my light-paranormal for my agent, whose pretty sure we can make it rock a contract.

Tawny said...

Caren, your billboard would be of a juggler!! I think thats one of the most overlooked and underappreciated accomplishments -and probably the most important, no matter what we do for a living. The art of balance and juggling all of the commitments. GO you on doing such a great job :-)

Pssst... you rock as a writer, tell the voice to hush!

Tawny said...

doglady -what fabulous accomplishments!! That billboard might have to be on audio too, since you have so much to be proud of :-) And hey, each one of those contests finals & win rock!

I have a rule of thumb for feedback. Unless it totally resonates for me (or comes from my editor, who gets to overrule my rules) I only make changes if I hear the similar feedback more than once.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hi awesome multi-tasker you! :> What a wonderful post and wonderful Oooooh! moment. Thanks for sharing it. I love the comment from Dianna about being proud of all our work. There's at least one I know in my file drawer that definately IS an under-the-bed book, but the others...hey, if I can sell 'em I will. I always remind myself that John Grisham didn't sell his first book - A Time to Kill - but it not only hit the NYT List when it did sell (third book, I think) but got the movie deal and all that. :> Smart on him not to shove that one under the bed. Grins. Then again, I'm a total capitalist, so if I can sell it, I will. Snork.

P226 AKA Eyeore, just surviving a 26 hour shift warrants a billboard in my opine. :> Heck, reading the Federalist papers warrants a billboard in my books as well.

Helen, you treat that bird right, now, you hear? He had a busy day yesterday playing with the kids, so he's bound to be tired. Grins. Congrats on snagging him back to OZ. Whoever said he should get frequent flyers miles is right. He sure does fly to Oz a LOT.

As to the recent billboard moment, mine would be flashing up under the heading: SURVIVED DECEMBER. Snork. Not that it wasn't great, but Lordy, I don't remember any recent year where Dec.'s been so doggone busy! (Probably because I'd never had a book-plus-revisions deadline ever before!)

Great post Tawny!

Tawny said...

JoanieT-- You SHOULD brag! What an incredible comment. You're staying true to your stories and voice and that is so important. Talk about a billboard achievement- I have total faith that when you sell it's going to be HUGE!!!

Tawny said...

Trish, your billboard would be gorgeous, too! Look at all the incredible accomplishments you'd have to show for those 11 years up there. Methinks it'd need bling, much much bling!

Tawny said...

Buffie, OMG I WOULD have gone crazy ;-) Thats definitely a major accomplishment. I'll bet your husband is willing to design and advertise on THAT billboard, too, huh?

Tawny said...

Beth, you, stubborn? Nah LOL.

I think an ode to stubborness is definitely worthy. Because there are SO many opportunities to give up, no goal --not writing, not job related, not weight loss, not school -- is easy to achieve. It always takes an element of stubborn determination to see it through.

and the little things, they all add up to achieving those goals! YAY you - your billboard is gonna be sooo purty!

Tawny said...

p226, dude... you must be exhausted!! OMG 26 hours? Sleep is your friend.

I hear you on that mountain analogy. I see writing the same way. Altho I admit, sometimes my visual of scaling the mountain had people on the ledge rolling boulders down on me *g*

I think thats why, in goal setting, I'm so big on breaking the big picture into little pictures. Sell a book is one goal, but its only a snapshot of the bigger goal, which is a Successful Writing Career. Doing that makes those ledge discoveries a little easier to take. And like Beth mentioned here, rewards along the way are vital!

Even if you're not ready to design your billboard, you definitely deserve a reward!!

Tawny said...

YAY Terrio!! What a fabulous billboard moment! GO you on submitting, that totally rocks :-D
And a degree too - hey, you can use the billboards to hold over your head in case you do drop that stuff *g*

But you know... even though the billboards I'm talking about are imaginary -great visualization tools for empowerment and encouragement - you COULD create one of your own. Posterboard, glitter & glue... talk about encouraging!!

Helen said...

Love everyones comments we all have lots to be proud of.

With the frequent flyer points the GR is logging up we could share them and get together for a big party.I have to go to work soon so the GR is going to have a nice quiet day in the air con because it is going to be hot so he will be very relaxed for his next flight I am leaving Tim Tams and a few drinks there are some good DVD's to watch or some great books to read. He probably needs a good sleep.
Have Fun

Tawny said...

Duchesse, December was a rough one, wasn't it?! GO you for surviving LOL. I know it was touch and go for me there, too. But GO you on handling your first book-plus-revision deadline! That is such a huge, whohoooo accomplishment that it does definitely deserve a billboard-especially in the midst of December, which is Totally crazy time.

Tawny said...

aww, Helen, thanks for taking such good care of the GR. The sweetie is so pampered now.

Joan said...

terrio! GO you on sending out your first submission. It takes a tremendous amount of courage for that very FIRST...Good luck to you!

What do you write?

As to you p226 I would say you need to revise your image of the mountain. Because you'll see Banditas scattered about dangling ropes to help you on up!

BTW...I'm starting a Bandita vibe in your direction to inspire you to WRITE!

Caren Crane said...

Buffie, you deserve a tiara for surviving the two babies all but single-handedly!

Terrio, congrats on the submission! And I have to say, I know exactly what you mean about keeping your eye on those balls. I feel like I should wear a helmet, just in case they start dropping on my head! *g*

Joan, your Romans rock and you are going to blaze a trail as soon as the right editor realizes that and snaps them up!

jo robertson said...

Poor rooster, by now he doesn't know which way is up :-D!

Tawny, thanks for the kick-butt inspiration. I think we writers, pubbed or unpubbed need to hear these words often because it's so easy to give up, give in, give out LOL!

And yes! I'd put my BA on a billboard too. It took me 8 years and 3 children to get it :-D.

Cassondra said...

Hmmmm. Let's see...

You know, the thing I'd put on a big billboard would probably be one of my events. I can honestly point to several entertainment industry events and say, "If I wasn't there, that event would have crashed and burned."

But then there's this little voice on my shoulder that says "nah. Somebody else would have done it."

I think that's my downfall. Assuming that just because I was there to do it does not mean the effort was of particular value. Okay I know with my head that events people are freakazoids and other people lose their minds when all the sh*t hits the fan, but I keep my cool through it. But in my heart.....I hear the little voice.

Hmmm. I must be the only one with the little voice.....

And it's interesting to me that as I was thinking about stuff to put on a billboard, I forgot all about my GH final. What is WRONG with me?

Caren Crane said...

Cassondra, I have the little voice! When I accomplish things, I rarely stop (or even pause) to acknowledge them. People often say, "I don't know how you manage to do all that you do!" and I shrug and say, "It doesn't feel like I do that much." And it really doesn't!

I figure if I can do something anybody could do it. Seriously! The only thing I do that I don't think anyone could quite duplicate is my writing. However, I readily acknowledge there are far better writers than I in the world. *sigh*

I don't know how we overcome that part about not giving ourselves credit. When other people try to give me strokes or kudos, I find it vaguely embarrassing and feel I don't deserve their praise most of the time. I feel like whatever I do, I do because it's necessary. Or because I want to. I don't ever expect praise or gratitude or acknowledgment. Maybe I should, but I don't.

Again, I'm not sure if you can fix that about yourself. Not sure I want to, either!

p226 said...

I figure if I can do something anybody could do it.

Wow. I tend to think that way about a lot of things too. Especially about guitar players. I've been playing for 20 years, and freely admit that I stink. Since I'm so keenly aware that I stink, I tend to judge guitar skill by "could I play that?" There are various levels of "could I play that." I'll line them out and provide bands as a reference.

1. Yeah. It'll take me ten seconds to learn it by ear. (Green Day)
2. I can learn that, it'll probably take an hour by ear. (Most hair bands)
3. Whoa, that's gonna be hard, I can probably learn it, but it'll probably be half by ear and half by sheet music or tabs. Might take a few weeks or months of practice. (Kickin' rock/metal bands like say, Avenged Sevenfold)
4. Ok, this one's probably above my level. Too ambitious for me. (Most of Eddie Van Halen's more technical stuff)
5. Never, ever, after a hundred years of practice will I be able to play that. (Steve Vai, Paganini, Zappa, Michael Hedges, Eric Johnson etc.. all in "shred mode")

So, when I learn a new song, that song drops from one of the higher levels down to level 2. As such, it instantly sucks, and the guitar work is crappy, because *I* can play it. And if *I* can play it, any monkey can play it.

I swear that's how I think about guitar.

Cassondra said...

Yes! You know, Caren, I even have outside validation. The last event from which I retired...well...the woman they hired to do my job the following year...she walked out on day two of a nine-day event. I swear. She left, went home, and never returned.

She just lost it and freaked out and left with like six people standing around waiting for orders or her decisions on their paricular issues.

I have an inner sensor for which fire must be put out now and which one can burn a bit before I address it. You can't run big events without that sensor, because everything is always on fire at once, and everybody's problem is the biggest and worst EVER.

From what I've observed, it's a lot like triage.

Nevertheless, I look at it and go, "it couldn't be that big a deal. I did it successfully for years."

Hmmmmm. Caren, there's probably a book on the self-help shelf for people like us. And just think. Somebody wrote it. And got it published.......

Tawny said...

Okay, Jo, now I'm picturing the rooster hanging upside down like a bat *g*

YAY on the BA Billboard. Talk about working... I don't think I could juggle all that!! I mean, how you all do it with kids is amazing.

Tawny said...

Aww, Cassandra... I hate that voice. I hear it all the time and it definitely sucks. No matter what accomplishment we make, what billboard we have up to give ourselves whoohooo's... there is ALWAYS someone with a bigger one (billboard,people... bigger billboard) Its so frustrating to hear that voice!

Tell ya what... my kids got me addicted to this xBox 360 game called Viva Pinata this weekend. In the game, you smack the hell out of pinatas with a shovel and out comes happy candy (its a very demented and violent game disguised as adorable, colorful pinatas and romance that is entertaining is like crazy)

From now on, you hear that voice, you picture yourself beating it with a shovel. I'll do the same. I'll bet we're both much happier LOL.

Tawny said...

I swear that's how I think about guitar.

But... you can play ALL those levels!!! Thats great.

Isn't it crazy how we all set a bar of what is a great accomplishment and what isn't... and no matter where we are on the journey, the bar is right--just right there--over our head.

Tawny said...

Nevertheless, I look at it and go, "it couldn't be that big a deal. I did it successfully for years."


Little voice meet shovel

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Wow. Writer with shovel smacks pinata into next State. Film at eleven.

I could whack some pinatas. Love the imagery. Grins. Then again, I'm a bit bloodthirsty. Snork.

P226, AKA The Perfectionist, I'm shaking my head. I can't even pick a guitar, much less get anywhere near level 1. Pick it up by ear? Yikes.

And Cassondra, you slay me. (Thankfully not literally!) There's a golden fire extinguisher with your name on it and you give yourself no credit. (Shakes head.) Puhhhhleeeeease. You finaled in the GH. Billboard time.


Gillian Layne said...

My FIL said tonight on the phone, something to the effect that my girls are so magnificently wonderful, kind, brilliant because of me.

And it made that little burning, prickling sensation well up behind my eyes. Because even if I can take a tiny bit of the credit for them right now, they are hovering on the edge of autonomy, where I'll just be standing back and my billboard will be saying "I was there at the beginning." Sniff.

I need to borrow the GR in order to sniff out a bottle of vino tonight, Helen :)

doglady said...

Pass me the shovel, Tawny. That little voice is a pain in my . . . writing hand! Thanks for the tip on listening to crits. p226, honey, very few people on the planet can play like Steve Vai, the Paganini of the electric guitar. Cut yourself a break. Yes, the opera singer listens to Steve Vai. I am a complete music snob, so it takes real talent or real determination and appreciation and respect of the art to impress me. Sounds like you've got a little of all of that so ROCK ON!

p226 said...

p226, honey, very few people on the planet can play like Steve Vai, the Paganini of the electric guitar. Cut yourself a break. Yes, the opera singer listens to Steve Vai.


*bow to Master Vai
*bow to Master Vai
*bow to Master Vai

Tawny said...

Heeheehee, Jeanne. I'm a little scared of the delight and pleasure I getting out of beating those cute pinatas. and I'm not NEARLY as bloodthirsty as you are ;-)

Gillian -what a BEAUTIFUL billboard! I'd tear up too, thats such a sweet thing to hear. GO you :-)

Doglady - here ya go, one shovel, at the ready!

and p226... listen to her... she's got a shovel now *g*

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