Thursday, February 14, 2019

Is it love or infatuation?

By Cheryl Oreglia

Sometimes I feel as if I beat to a wildly different drum than that of my peers. Have you ever felt this way? As a creative person I'm drawn to solitude, quiet, even boredom in my search for inspiration. I'm partial to natural environments such as lakes, mountains, and the ocean. A cup of coffee within reach, simple keyboard at hand, maybe a book or two as my muse. I'm happy to lose myself for hours in this way, there is no remorse, I lose track of time, motivated by a unrequited longing to write. I'm not searching for mere words but a meaningful story structured to transfigure the reader.
Agape love is...profound concern for the well-being of another, without any desire to control that other, to be thanked by that other, or to enjoy the process. Madeleine L'Engle
I admit it, when I'm writing I want to brush up against that sacred hem, I'll crawl on my belly if I have to, brave the restless crowds for a singular moment of clarity. Madeleine L' Engle says, "to be an artist means to approach the light, and that means to let go our control, to allow our whole selves to be placed with absolute faith in that which is greater than we are." There is no other way to explain it or justify this wayward preoccupation with the written word. It's one of the most radical vocations I can think of pursuing. Yet I do.

The purpose of this work is to either shift the view of the reader or connect in a profoundly intimate way, as if a textual binocular, one that magnifies, broadens, or at the very least focuses ones view. If not, then what is the purpose? Stories, good ones, are what we pack for the journey, they turn our feet in new directions, give one courage to take that first step into the unknown. 

I'm adept at stalling, as if a clogged catalytic converter, or one who lacks power when attempting to accelerate. Why do I think I must have all the answers before I begin to write? Some of my google searches are absolutely insane. What the hell is that all about? "There is no denying that the artist is someone who is full of questions, who cries them out in great angst, who discovers rainbow answers in the darkness, and then rushes to paper, "claims Madeleine L' Engle. 

I have shelves all over the house, shelves that not only hold books, but trinkets, items that when cradled in my hand "spark joy in my heart." I like to rearrange these things on occasion. I call it putzing. This is the same thing I do when writing. I search for order in the chaos, a rhyme to the beat of a defiant drum, the perfect simile to right the disorder, to clarify some obscure concept, one that "sparks joy" when I find the perfect word. Am I the only one who can hear this persistent beat, as if the words are creating their own rhythm? 

Writing requires discipline. Damn. If I only work when the feeling strikes there would be no blog to speak of, no body of work to look back on, no conflict with my time. I have these rituals I use to settle into the work. I check on my social media accounts, repeatedly, bouncing back and forth from the blank page to twitter, from the desk to the coffee pot, from the fork to the refrigerator. 

Then I decide to file my nails, heat up some soup, grab a sweatshirt, start a load of laundry, scour the kitchen sink. You get the picture. Eventually I run out of distractions, settle into the work, and before you know it I find myself walking on the surface of the pond, panicked, overwhelmed, when something takes my hand, and I'm rescued from a sure drowning. I lose track of time more then I'll admit, I forget to think, and instead I start writing what I hear. It's extraordinary.
At this time in my life, I cannot afford to be sidetracked by the trivial. If I am going to write about people, there needs to be some depth, some honor, something bothering on nobility. And that's what I found in the lives of [people] whose love for others propels me to love deeper. Phil Callaway
The morning after one of these obscure writing sessions, I start looking around for an exorcist, only to be dumbfounded by the words that landed on the page. "The impossible still happens, often during the work, sometimes when we are so tired that inadvertently we let down all the barriers we have built up. We lose our adult skepticism and become once again children who can walk down their grandmother's winding stairs without touching," Madeleine L' Engle. For me, that's as good as it gets. 

How about you? Add a few "confessions of a writer" in the comments. Is it love or merely infatuation?

When I'm not writing for Across the Board, I'm Living in the Gap, drop by anytime, we'll rearrange the trinkets on the shelves. 

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The world is ending. Quit your day job? Or not?

I've gravitated away from Twitter in the past few months, but every once in awhile I scroll through to see what the latest drama is in the book world. This week, I scanned through the Dan Malloy scandal, although stopped short of reading The New Yorker article. Then I saw this gem:

I don't know how many replies this has, but based on my very scientific method of how long I had to scroll, it's a lot. Some people are all like, "Hell, yeah. Do what you love." Most people (including me) are raising an eyebrow saying, "Um...hang on just a second."

Not that I disagree with this completely. I think in an ideal world, I'd be the first to sign on this dotted line. But...I like to eat. And pay my mortgage. And, and, and... (I live in the UK and don't pay for healthcare, but if I lived in the US I'd add that to the list, too.) The truth is - I don't know many people for whom writing pays enough for them to throw their heart and soul into it, unless they have a spouse who earns, a trust fund, or a mysterious benefactor whose sole interest is in their gorgeous prose. (Also, if anyone does have a mysterious benefactor, I want to know more about that because it would make a pretty awesome book, yes?)

I'm lucky to be writing more or less full time right now, although it happened more through a conflux of circumstances than me flinging myself into it with abandon. And I couldn't do it without my husband's very good job. More importantly, I wouldn't want to. If my circumstances were that I was the sole provider for my family all of a sudden, I'd be hitting Linkedin faster than you could say resume because relying on this writing income? It's stressful! And undependable! And seemingly at the whims of the big companies who control much of the distribution and the advertising. Does anything kill creativity faster than having to scramble through a technical glitch of your book not uploading or your ad account suddenly being suspended? I just had a new release this week and I can say with certainty that even though I had NEITHER of those things happen to me, I did spend way too much time on the phone with Amazon customer support. And when I finished (even though they resolved my problem) I tried to write and it was rubbish. I ended up deleting it all, which was a luxury. (Also a necessity, but that's another thing.)

Working a day job isn't "selling out", in my opinion. It's not giving up a dream because it doesn't have to be either/or. I sold my very first book when I was working full-time. I self-published my first series while I was working the most stressful job I've ever had. Did I dream of the day when I could write full-time? Sure. But I also knew/know that publishing income is not the same as day job income. At least not for me. Yet.

What are your thoughts? I saw some Twitter responses from a few of the contributors to this blog and I'd love to hear what you think, too!

Monday, February 4, 2019

#AuthorLifeMonth is back!

A post by Mary Fan
Hey everyone! Mary, your resident Instagram addict, here!

It's February, which means it's #AuthorLifeMonth on Instagram. What is #AuthorLifeMonth? It's a photo challenge for writers and bookish folks started by Dahlia Adler in 2016. Basically, there are daily bookish/writerly prompts for the month of February, and you post a photo to go with it. Click here to read more on Dahlia's website.

Here are this year's prompts:

Personally, I love #AuthorLifeMonth because it fills my Instagram feed with pretty pictures of peoples' books, coffee tables, and more. It's also a great way to connect with fellow authors. And if you're new to Instagram, a wonderful introduction to the platform.

More than anything, though, it's just plain fun. Here are my posts for this year so far:

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