Last Thursday, I was part of a panel at SoulFood Books with ten other local women authors, most of whom were primarily self-published. It was a great evening and a healing experience on many levels. It reminded me that yes, I am perfectly legit as a self-published author: my experiences of writing and creating are very real and valid. I think it’s easy to question yourself as an artist at any point in your creative life: the voices in the back of your head start playing up, saying stuff like, “Is she for real?” and “Well, this has worked out so far but I’m sure it’s a fluke” and “Well, it’s not like she’s properly published except in literary journals put out by colleges and those don’t count because…” etc etc. In her excellent book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott calls this Radio KFKD and has some great tips for how to tune it out. Going and hanging out with a group of empowered women authors was a pretty good one, I have to admit.
It was interesting to hear what everyone had to say…one thing that surprised me (not that it should’ve, given that it was a new age bookstore and deep in my wormy little scientists’ child heart I know more spiritual truths than I am willing to admit) was how much everyone talked about the experience of writing as a spiritual experience. There was a lot of talk about being a conduit and having the writing naturally flow through you, of writing as a spiritual experience.
There was also a goodly mentioning of how hard writing is, which was important…otherwise I was starting to wonder if these enlightened and self-empowered ladies ever have days like I do when they can’t even muster the courage to roll their faces across the keyboard, much less write down actual words or sentences.
But at the end of the day, I admit that there is a very important spiritual component to writing. For me and fiction, it’s about surrender. Getting some words down means not obsessing over each one, means not standing on the edge of the abyss and quietly freaking out, but rather diving in and thrashing about until I get somewhere. I am not afraid to write bad prose, and I think that is one of my biggest strengths as a writer. Because if I can write a terrible piece of connective tissue binding two decent scenes together, then I’m one step closer to getting that second draft of the novel. I have faith that my bad prose will eventually turn into good prose, with pruning and revision and dear trusted friends telling me when they don’t care about my characters or have no idea what I’m saying. In the meantime, every day that I sit down and turn to the page is a good day. Nothing bad can come from me writing. It’s a lesson that’s easy to forget (especially when there’s laundry and commuting and sleep to be had).
So. Today counts as a success then.
Also, the video from the SoulFood event will be available soon on ustream….I’ll keep you posted!