I returned yesterday from an Advanced Craft Retreat at a monastery in Conception, MO. I went to get help with my writing. I have ALL these ideas, and have read a lot, but still had a murky idea of what my good/great/successful writing would look like. My ‘point of view’ writing, ‘tense’ writing, and character voices were all over the map. Undisciplined, unfocused, scatter shot. I KNEW this, but had no clear way to work past or through those limitations.
The fine people at Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators hosted this Retreat and found a fantastic professor to anchor the weekend of critique and focused writing sessions. Most of the other 7 writers in attendance were much farther along the path towards excellence in writing (it’s possible I ignored the “Advanced” part of the retreat title – wishful thinking, maybe). They all had stories of editors, agents, and publishing to tell. I listened in fascination because all of that is still ahead of me.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know. How many times have YOU heard that? Lots, is my answer. I realize, now, that I can’t ‘turn in’ this novel of mine like I turned in the majority of my papers and essays in high school and college. I have to work at it. Success has usually come easily to me, but this ‘writing thing’ is going to take some effort. Some skin. Some blood, sweat, tears. Now I know.
The privilege is that I get to keep working at it. I get to meet my characters (one of the attendees said ‘take each one of them out on a date – get to know what they really think and who they really are’). Being a ‘people-pleaser/golden retriever’ personality, it is scary to think that I am the only one who chooses my setting, my time period, my character motivations, my good guys and bad guys.
It’s liberating to know, though, and I thank each and every writer who found new ways to tell me that last weekend.
I GET to be the storyteller.