Tuesday, June 29, 2004

What would it take?

I received my e-newsletter for the Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop this morning and read an article about a woman who was invited to send a demo for the possibility of being the host of a new reality TV show. She writes about the unlikely chance and how having her own website made it all possible, that and remembering to add the link in her info when she attended the workshop back in February. She goes on to say she has had more luck with placing her writing since she put up her website in October 2002 than when she was doing the send a copy and SASE for File 13. Makes sense, especially since the Internet is the most effective and quickest way to research a lot of people in a very short time.

Stop the presses! (I always wanted to say that.) Publishers are actually looking for talent on the net in blogs. I guess they get tired of reading and giving obscene advances to celebrity autobiographers after all. Sites like Book Slut and Arts and Letters Daily started out as personal blogs and ended as some of the most visited sites taken seriously. Iraqi wo/men are blogging and telling the story of their lives and the realities with which they live every single day. They are the real correspondents behind the lines and in the thick of battle. Of course, the Iraqi parliament has been threatening to shut down or limit Internet access for a while, but I doubt that will happen, even though they were handed the reins of power yesterday (two days ahead of schedule), while the coalition forces are still there. They still want to appear to be forming a democratic government despite the fact that historically they have been either a monarchy or a despot-controlled government. Just because democracy works for us doesn't mean it will work for their centuries' old traditions. They have been around a lot longer than we have been.

Even the Chinese have figured out that baby steps get you where you want to go a lot faster and safer than begging to be shot in Tiananmen square. Young Chinese have decided that quiet revolution is best and focus on worming their way thru the apple instead of taking a big bite and finding a bullet or a razor blade in their mouths. One such Chinese changeling is Mian Mian of Shanghai whose first book, Candy, was banned. She wrote about sex and debauchery, which came from her own experiences, at the end of the 20th century but has switched to promoting music, writing a newspaper column about relationships, depression, and her views on life, embracing the media she once turned her back on. Mian Mian also writes about fashion and is quite the clothes horse. Her parents, who spent their lives under Mao and his successors, are proud of their daughter and her revolutionary ways even though it seems they really don't understand her. Mian Mian is just one of the new revolutionaries taking their country back by millimeters and changing the world by being the change.

I also read an article by another Erma Bombeck conference attendee who styles herself a life coach who works mainly by phone. Lynn Colwell says she helps her clients see they can have the writing dream, if it is really their dream, something for which they would sacrifice everything, if they want it. She says most of her clients would be happy being able to write one hour a day. I don't agree. I do agree that it is something for which you must be willing to sacrifice yourself and some of your normal every day choices, but I don't agree that it can be satisfied by one hour a day . . . at least not for me. I write more than that in my journals every day. I do agree that you must make some sacrifices, but it can be done by nibbles instead of in gulps. If you really want to write and you want it more than anything else, give up 30 minutes of television a night. Just 30 minutes. Shut yourself away, tell your spouse/partner and children (if you have them) they are not to disturb you for that 30 minutes for anything less than the house burning down around their ears and only if it is headed in your direction. Take that 30 minutes, put on music that fits your mood or the tone of what you're writing or just something you enjoy but that does not interfere with your thinking or your writing, and write. It doesn't matter if at first all you end up with is gibberish. What matters is that you are building a habit, one that will take you where you want to go if you are really read to travel the writing path. Free write -- write whatever comes into your head. Loosen those mental and physical writing muscles and keep going no matter what. Use a timer if you like, but keep writing and don't stop for anything. Make sure to go to the bathroom before your trip and have everything you need at hand so you don't have an excuse to get up and look for something. Prepare for the writing journey the way you prepare your bag for that all important labor and delivery trip to the hospital. Don't be caught with your pencils unsharpened, not enough paper, or games on your computer. Set a timer if you must, but apply your butt to the seat and keep it there for 30 minutes.

After that 30 minutes, resist the urge to immediately critique your work. Leave it for the next morning or during your lunch break when you want something to read. During those 30 nightly minutes do nothing but write. In a way it's like a clandestine date with your muse and if you treat it that way it will be easy to build the writing habit.

It takes six weeks to form a habit and three months to make it permanent. So what are you waiting for? Choose 30 minutes of television you can do without. Don't worry about the laundry or the dishes or anything else. Just write. You'll be surprised how much you can get done in 30 minutes and how good you will feel about your choice and yourself. If you decide writing isn't for you, you'll find out soon enough, but give it a chance. Live your dream and see where it takes you.

In the meantime, I have a ghost story to write for an anthology and some romance to dig up or invent for [info]kaiberie.

I'll shut up now.

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