Last week I submitted a blog entitled Four Critics (http://allevenson.wordpress.com/four-critics/). It was based on a simple notion and offered to writers as a new idea that might be a useful tool, to keep and use.
Several people wrote to acknowledge and thank me for the small addition to their writer’s toolbox.
My friend, and steadfast supporter of The Year on the Road Blog, Karen from Minnesota, wrote the idea was amazing, and it made her think there was no hope for her as a writer. I have spent some idle moments in the last few days considering how to best let her know she’d stumbled onto a false trail in the writers’ thicket. So this is for Karen and whoever else is listening.
What is that hopeless thing that you’ve decided is unachievable?
Before you can answer, you must ask yourself two simple questions.
Why are you writing and for whom?
This phase of my writing career—or, honestly, this latest try at writing—began a bit over three years ago. And soon after I donned the armor necessary for another joust with the Writing Satan, I was invited to join a small critique group, four people who’d met in a writing class. They were mystery writers and I was invited to bring my short stories, sing bass, and supply gender balance.
My inviter, Barbara, was a vivacious sixty-something woman, who had accumulated eighty years’ worth of husbands, children, grand children, and jokes. At some point I asked her a question about her plans to publish.
“Oh, I am not going to publish. I am 82 years old, much too old to deal with the chores of publication. These days you must schmooz up an agent, wait for him to schmooz up a publisher, who expects you to schmooz up book store owners and people of the street.”
“So why do you write?” I asked.
“Because I like to write, I like to polish what I’ve written and, I like my critique group. They are people I like to hang out with, and they help me to write better. I make progress and I try to help them do the same.”
An innocent conversation, eh? Yet I’ve never had a more important writing lesson.
In the years since, by the tiniest of baby steps, I have learned a little about craft and technique, but Barbara’s remarks saved me from the bloody self-flagellation so many writers fall prey to.
So, Karen, I am paying Barbara’s lesson forward. Write for yourself–without any expectation of recognition. If any comes along, it will be pure profit. Getting to be a better writer will be a struggle that will never abate. But you will get better.
When it stops being fun, take up something else. I am planning on the harpsichord.