Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Qualifications, Lists, and Rules. Oh, my!

In Terence Blacker's latest column, he asks "Are you really, truly an author?" And like all those nifty question and answer things I remember from college classes and slumber parties, his "indicators" were much too tempting and juicy for me not to participate.

Since Blacker drags along his experiences as a reviewer, publisher, and published author to his Endpaper columns, I can both trust those scars and savor his outside-the-box style and dark wit.

Most of his "indicators" are pretty standard, but the one that made me pause longest was this:

"You are alone. When you started out, you might have gone on a creative writing course which peddled the myth of teamwork, consultation and 'feedback.' You have discovered, as you grow as a writer, what nonsense that is. Yours is a private project. If anything, sailing your rackety little boat as part of a flotilla actually increases the chance of it sinking."

I have attended two writers' conferences. One had me sailing out the door by the end of the week ready to tackle the publishing world. The workshops pumped me up and my new writing friends padded my writerly muscles. And good, bad, or ugly, I came home and wrote like a madwoman, feeling for the first time in my life that I was truly a writer.

The second conference offered the wisdom of some of the finest bestselling authors out there. Again, I left with a number of writerly friends, but no wind beneath my sails. If anything, I left feeling numb.

Terence Blacker's column finally helped me understand why.

In those years between conferences, I had written a number of short stories and had seen them published. I'd written reviews and news and worked conventions and websites and written, written, written. I've even finished a novel. My personal story as a writer is no longer a right-of-passage experience.Yet, while I've grown up, I'm convinced my best work is still ahead of me.

But it's me in my little boat. Alone.

While I've found I require writerly friends, I know what I'm doing now. I see the devil for who she is.

Yes, I am really, truly an author.

Which means I need to hoist the sails of my current story and catch the wind...

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