This week, it’s my honor to host a great blogging and real-life friend, Kate Wicker. Since today’s Friday, she’s sharing her final thoughts as 7 Quick Takes. (Visit Jen from Conversion Diary for more fabulous takes in quick form.) (In case you missed our discussions earlier this week, Kate shared thoughts on motherhood and writing, her inspiration to write, blogging, and priorities.)
Kate, as we wrap up our week together, talking about motherhood and writing, what advice would you share?
Tip 1. Learn to let go. I used to hate to cut anything from my writing. I was so attached to my words that slashing them was like severing a limb. However, I learned that it was easier for me to edit my work than for it to either not sell or for an editor to change it so much that it didn’t even seem like it was mine any longer. It may hurt a little at first, but take a deep breath and let go of any words and sentences that aren’t absolutely necessary, especially if you have a strict word count to meet (750 words means 750 words). If you’re fond of a particular image (“the trees reached up to the sky like gnarled hands”), then jot it down in a notebook and save it for another piece. Sometimes a sentence or idea may not work for a particular publication (or audience), but it may be perfect for something else.
Tip 2. Never lose sight of why you’re writing. Do you have a good idea? Is there a point of view you want to promote? Do you want to convince someone to think as you do? Do you want to comfort someone, inspire them, reassure them, horrify them, urge them into action or maybe make them laugh? Whatever it is that you (and the editors – you can never lose sight of their needs) want to accomplish, use the language that will get the job done. That’s all that matters. Anything else is like contemplating your navel.
Tip 3. Finally, don’t take yourself too seriously. Sometimes I get in these ridiculously contemplative moods. I might fill a page with a wordy description of one, stinkin’ leaf or I might ponder socialism, vegetarianism, antidisestablishmentarianism or some other ‘ism. When I’m writing about it, it all seems to make sense. Yet, sometimes I have to take a step back and say, “Whoa, wait a minute. What is this? Will others really enjoy reading this??” If the answer is no, then it’s time to move on. If the answer is yes or even maybe, then I can try to sell it. If it sells, hooray! Bring out the champagne. If it doesn’t, que sera, sera. There’s always another market, another editor looking for the right query, another day, another leaf and another ‘ism.
At the end of the day, if I’m not enjoying what I do and am sweating over every single word or rejection, then it’s not worth it. There are too many writers out there who end up sequestered in a little cave with a row of empty gin-and-tonics with an “almost finished” novel and queries that never made it to the outbox. Even if I can’t always write exactly what or how I want, I don’t intend to join that society anytime soon. Neither should you.
Kate’s top 4 books for growing as a writer:
- Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
- If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland
- Word Court, by Barbara Wallraff
- Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg