Losing My Voice (and trying to find it)

I’ve always been a wordy person, in the written sense, anyway. Don’t ask me something unless you want ten times the answer you bargained for, plus all of the research to back it up. I love complex issues, and I’m a very opinionated person. Call me a woman. It’s been interesting, then, that I’ve felt very lost since I’ve decided to really try to pursue writing as a career. The first step was easy. I wrote a few articles and found a job that semi-pays the bills and lets me work on my writing (in one sense, at least, even if it is very dry.) The tough part for me has been what comes next. It’s like this huge door was opened and I’ve got the whole world in front of me, but I don’t even know where to step. Intimidation almost to the point of paralysis. Have any of you had this happen? How did you overcome it?

I’ve got a head full of ideas and I haven’t taken the first step in many of them. I started writing a novel, got about 30 pages in, then went back edited, then re-edited based on my mood du jour. Sometimes I think there’s another book I should be writing, something better or more my style (or mood) but I don’t know if it’s ok to have two books going on at the same time. Do any of you write more than one book at a time?

I think that one reason I’ve been so paralyzed is because I’ve gotten caught up in this idea “writing for others” or, er, this concept of writing for money ūüėČ I am trying to fill in gaps by thinking of articles that might sell, but between that and my side job, it takes up all my brainpower. Or maybe I’m just hiding behind articles because it’s easy and I don’t have to be too creative on my own. I’ve got a million excuses, but the truth is that I just haven’t gotten very far. What tricks do you use to get yourself writing more, for you?

I think I am going to use this blog for ramblings like this, but also for short pieces that I’ve been thinking about putting into book form. I worked for a long time at a non-profit with youth that spent a lot of time incarcerated. We taught them soft job skills such as being timely and working on a team, plus the necessities like filling out resumes and interviewing skills. I still work there part time as a mentor coordinator. I am always struck by how amazing these kids (young adults, really) are. I’ve always thought it’d be amazing to write a little on their lives, how much they’ve lived through and how dedicated and brave they truly are. The kid with tattoos on his face working at Jack-in-the-Box probably has one of the most amazing stories you’ve ever heard, but no one’s helping him tell it. I’ve struggled with wondering if this is exploitation, or a story that deserves to be told one way or another. Can I even do them justice by putting their lives in my words? By simplifying them into a series of shorts? I think I need to try.

Another idea that keeps tugging at me is writing a memoir of sorts. I live a funky sort of life. My family lives with another family in a cooperative living situation in the middle of San Diego. We have a small farm in the middle of the city, with goats and chickens and rabbits. Throw in a few dogs, some cats, turkeys, a parrot and a gaggle of kids and you kind of come close to who we are. When we embarked on this journey, we didn’t know how long it would last. We dove in head-first and it’s truly been a wonderful ride. We didn’t know we were essentially marrying another couple when we started this, but that’s really what it’s been like. Ups and downs and life altering moments that we’ve had to get through together, and it’s made us infinitely stronger. It’s been 4 years now, and I don’t think there’s an end in sight. But then I think, who would want to read all about my life and my anecdotes? This is what I need to get out of my head — I should write it for me and my community and not worry so much about who on earth would read it.

Here lies the problem. We say that we are writing for ourselves, but truth be told we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t writing for each other, too. I wouldn’t care to put it on my blog, I wouldn’t fret about where to start. I¬†do¬†care if you read it, and I care that you actually¬†like¬†it. How do we get around that?

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1000 words

This is a number I heard recently. I am not sure it’s true, but it seems like a good starting place. Someone told me that you need to write at least a thousand words to get anywhere in writing. The first 500 words are kind of obsolete — just greasing up your engines, so to speak. Have you noticed this to be true? I have. I think the hardest part is actually getting motivated to sit down and start somewhere. Once you get the words going, the rest comes easier. It’s all of the “oooh’s” and “aaaah’s” and anxiety about where to begin or where to go, or where to pick up and which direction to take it.

Here is another tip/interesting thought an instructor gave me recently: according to him, his first novel took only a couple of months to write while his latest novel has taken over 8 years. He attributes it to the word processor. He says that when he wrote his first novel on a typewriter, you couldn’t go back and edit (and re-edit, and re-re-edit) the work so easily. This helped to only move forward and not look back. He recommends turning the screen off and blind typing if you can, or even just putting pen to paper (gasp!) I think this tactic could work wonders. What about you? Any tricks of the trade?

On another note, I got two rejections yesterday. I haven’t submitted much, but these were the only two fiction pieces I’ve tried to get anywhere. It’s good for me, I am in a good place to take it in stride and keep trying to write better. I’d like more short fiction outlets, to read and submit. I will try to find some in the next week or two and post. I know I said that before and I haven’t gotten anywhere, but I swear I will one day soon. Post here if you’ve got any!

Momentum

So, I am pretty all over the place when it comes to work, in general, and what I want to do with my life. It’s really difficult to put my aspirations and life goals in a single box and label it. I can’t imagine working at the same job with the same people for a hundred years before retiring and dying. My life is just not about that. I know some people thrive on that, but it honestly freaks me out. I think that’s a big reason I am so drawn to writing.

When I chose to embark on this journey, I knew I couldn’t put myself in a box. I write web copy on one hand, and some days I am really good with that. I love researching and creating a logical flow to these articles. Other days, I never fully wake up from my dreams and I pour my time into living in someone else’s head, telling the story of some made-up character. Sometimes, I am so convicted by something happening in my neighborhood or the world-at-large that I have to rant about it on my other blog. Recently, I decided that I was going to start submitting these outpourings of things in my head to various outlets and see what would happen. Realistically, if I want to keep doing this I need to somehow make some money — my¬†husband will only give me so much leeway.

Well, a couple of days ago I got my first acceptance! My article will be published in our local news magazine. I know it’s not that big of a deal for some of you, but it was just the nudge forward that I needed to keep going with this. I needed this small pat on my back to let me know that somewhere out there, this is possible. Don’t laugh, but real published writers have always been like movie stars to me. Something awe-inspiring and unachievable.

I love that I can write something different everyday, depending on my mood. I am submitting essays, flash fiction, travel stories, neighborhood news, and working on my novel. I think I might start another novel that I can write simultaneously, on a completely different subject. I think I’ve finally found my niche, something that can keep me occupied no matter which direction I happen to be going on a particular day. I just need to find enough outlets! If you have suggestions for open submissions or queries, post them here. I’ll post what I find, too, and maybe we can help each other.

Trajectories

Life trajectories are a funny thing. You can be on a good, straight one for a long time, and then something happens to push you just a little off of your intended course. At that instant the end you were aiming for shifts.

Trajectories, by their very nature, are passive courses taken by an object that was hurled onto that path at some point. We can choose to stay on the trajectory we were pushed onto, waiting to either hit our goal or have some other force knock us off track. Or, we can choose to stop being passively rolled along our given course and choose our own direction, a different direction. I am shooting for the latter.

I’ve been thinking of starting a personal blog for a long time. I’ve wanted to be a writer of some sort for as long as I can remember. Through life’s forces, I’ve been many things but the one I’ve dreamed of. I recently quit my real job, picked up a side job doing copy writing for a huge article mill (that I won’t mention by name) and am setting my sights on doing everything I can to ultimately write novels. Why not start here? I am 100% positive that other folks out there have my same desire, maybe not to be a novelist but some other deep dark secret goal. Maybe my trajectory-changing journey will be inspiration for you, too.