City of Nethra

Official Site of Melanie Atkinson Books

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Ambivalent Writer

Many years ago, in the early days of my marriage, I found myself wandering through a Borders Bookstore on a crisp, probably cold evening in Logan, Utah. There were a few extra dollars in my pocket (I'm not sure why; we were always broke during those days)and I knew I needed something to inspire me. I skipped over my typical search through women's fiction- this was before I'd discovered how much I loved children's and YA literature- and drifted toward the section for writers.

Anyone who has a yearning to write knows that section. It's the one that offers advice, sympathy, and a thousand encouraging words for the poor, miserable souls who are convinced writing is their path to immortality. The shelves are jammed with books written by editors, literary agents, successful authors who've forgotten what it was like to be on the dark side(every unpublished author hates those the most), and unknown writers who seem to think they have a wealth of information to spew even though no one has heard of anything they've written. There are over priced reference books that list constantly outdated requirements for submission to agents and publishing houses, and books on grammar that people like myself ignore far too often.

My eyes scanned the titles, looking for what would make the flame inside me blaze.

 That "flame" - my writer's flame - had been around for nearly as long as I could remember. It flickered at times, but sometimes, it roared to life again until it nearly consumed me. The first time I'd been consumed was in fourth grade. Even though I knew I wanted to be a writer by third grade, it was my fourth grade teacher who assigned the class to write a paragraph about three things they'd take with them to a desert island.

 I ended up with a twenty-two page story. And that tiny writer's flame inside of me exploded. I knew writing defined me, my desires, my future, my very soul.

 So, on that night in Logan, after years of failure in writing and a million moments of the flame alternating between flickering and blazing, I wanted something solid. Something that would tell me my words had worth. I shouldn't give up. Someday it would be worth it.

 And I found Betsy Lerner.

 It's been years since I read her book "The Forest for the Trees" but I remember feeling like she GOT it. Betsy understood how difficult this business was. How discouraging. How humiliating at times. And when she defined the different types of writers, I knew she had my number. I'm what she termed the "Ambivalent Writer". I'm the writer who can say, "I'm awesome, I stink," all in the same sentence. I have a million ideas and I can't force myself to write them. I fear writing. I love it. I hate it. I HAVE TO DO IT or I forget how to breathe. And this is why my second book isn't out yet.

 I'm not making excuses. Honestly, I'm not sure that it really matters to anyone but myself. One of the nice things about being an indie author is that an author can set her own release date. Usually, with indie authors, they are much faster than the year long wait between books with traditional publishing. However, sometimes, it can take much longer. And in my case, it's because of my ambivalence. I'm all over the place when it comes to my confidence and desire to write.

 All over my "All About Writing" Pinterest board, I've pinned words of encouragement about just sitting down and writing and sticking to it because that's what I struggle with the most. When the writing flame is only a flicker, it sputters with a barrage of thoughts that sound something like, "I suck. I suck. I suck." Then I begin the internal war that goes, "I HATE writing!" in a pouty, weepy voice, but quickly moves on to, "But I LOVE it. I NEED it. I AM a writer." Then, "But I hate it! I'll never be good enough!" And on and on.

 Occasionally these thoughts make a verbal showing around my family and I can promise, it drives my husband crazy. If he thinks it's that bad, he should try listening to it in his head all day.

 The reason I'm sharing this is to explain. For anyone that cares, yes, Aylen and Sai's story continues. I love them. I care about those characters as though they were my own flesh. I hear their voices when I sleep and during nearly every waking hour. The next book is about their individual strengths and sacrifices and it's nearly done - but I AM a slow writer. Besides the typical struggles of being a mother of four small tyrants (really, I adore my tyrants) I struggle deeply with self confidence and self worth. Deeply. This isn't a good thing when you are putting your books out to be critiqued (Note to self: New Year's resolution is to develop a thicker skin) and sometimes I allow my confidence issues and love/hate relationship with writing to cripple me. Sometimes it cripples me for weeks. Months even. Other times, something ignites the flame again and I can overcome it. Oftentimes, it's the kind and encouraging words of a reader that clears the haze of discouragement from my mind.

 So, I want to thank those that have read my little story and said such positive things about it. It is the kind, enthusiastic words from readers that keep me from giving up when my confidence is fragile. A simple positive rating on Goodreads from a stranger has honestly been a tide-turner for me. Your opinion and support matters. And I think it's the same with all writers. We rely on our readers. We care about them. We appreciate them. Words have so much power, especially from a reader. In fact, they may be the very thing that can turn a writer's flame back into a blaze that can consume the writer's ambivalence and set them back on the course they've lost. Thanks to my wonderful readers and writer friends, I think I'm headed there now.

 I hope you have a wonderful New Year. You truly deserve it.