Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blog Chain - Nurture vs. Nature?

Michelle is the first link in the chain this round, and she posed a question that brings to mind the whole Nurture vs. Nature debate:

Do you choose WHAT you do because of WHO you are? Or is who you are determined by what you do?

First of all, I'm not embarrassed to say that I do believe in fate. I think that everyone has a path laid out before them and they are subconsciously pulled in the direction they need to go. As for me, I believe that I am meant to write because I am by nature a story teller. I've always had a more than vivid imagination and I am also a self-proclaimed drama queen. I'm a daydreamer and fantasizer and often find my mind wandering while I play out mini scenes and scenarios; pieces of stories (or short stories) while I'm driving, doing dishes, folding clothes.....

I think that because of who I am: a daydreamer, I could have followed the path of theater, or art or music. But, my life took twists and turns that took me away from drama. I can't draw or sculpt or paint. I don't dance anymore. I don't play an instrument and my singing is probably just above average. So, I have come to the conclusion that I was meant to be a writer because it is the artistic outlet that I excel in.

Now, I suppose there are those who would say that I have nurtured this artistic talent one way or another and it has nothing whatsoever to do with my nature or "fate". But I wasn't nurtured in an artistic household. Neither of my parents are artistic per se. I have loved music, art, dance, the written word for as long as I can remember, with no coaxing, or outside influence from anyone. I honestly believe that I was born this way. I was born to create, and I was led to writing. I didn't choose it. It chose me.

I could go all philosophic and address the choices we make. Do we make these choice by free will, or are we pre-destined to make these choices? Everything happens for a reason. Do we lead the way, or are we led? Every event in my life, from my love of old musicals at age 6 to my pregnancy at age 16 led to my writing. If I hadn't been pregnant, I wouldn't have immersed myself in books. If I hadn't developed that love of reading, I wouldn't have been prompted to write. This was not the path I would have chosen voluntarily, but it is the path that was laid out before me.

Check out Kate's post before mine, and look for Sandra's post tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What Writing Has Given Me

Well, it hasn't given me an agent or a publishing contract..... yet. But I've had a rather emotional couple of weeks and times like these cause me to do a lot more thinking than I usually do, and let me tell you--that's a lot of thinking.

I had to do something last weekend that was really hard for me. I spoke at my grandma's funeral. We were pretty close, and I'd helped to take care of her during the last few years when her health had declined rapidly. She was an amazing woman. Strong, forward thinking, a modern woman for her generation. She inspired a matriarchal family and no one, (not even my grandpa) complained.

When the pastor asked my mother about the eulogy, she didn't know how to answer him. She didn't want to read it, but who would? "I'll do it," I answered. "I'll read it."

Relief washed over her features. "Thanks Mandy," she said. And I know she meant it in a very real, very deep way.

I wrote the eulogy, certainly I could read it. But as the week wore on, I wondered if I could really do it. I gave myself many a pep talk, and as the moment approached I talked to myself out loud in a low murmur, "You can do this. You can do this."

I did it. I read it and then some. My voice didn't crack, I only shed a tear or two. I can't tell you how that made me feel. I can't tell you how that made my family feel. I wondered all day and the next where I found the strength to do what I did. I can't even speak in front of a school assembly or public hearing without a quavering voice and sweaty palms. Just last year, addressing the parents of my volleyball team sent me into a state of near shock and mental shut-down. So how in the hell did I get this done?

Writing. Writing has given me the gift of strength. Strength I didn't know I had; strength that was hidden away so deep that it would never surface. Writing has empowered me in a way that nothing else has.

I am a different person than the woman I was last year. I AM stronger. I AM more confident. I AM more comfortable in my own skin. It just solidifies my belief that writing is what I'm meant to be doing. I may never land an agent. I may never see my book bound in cardboard with a shiny dust cover. But I know that despite all of that, I'll keep writing, because writing has given me an invaluable gift. It's given me a piece of myself that I didn't know existed.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I can't draw. Not even a stick figure. I sing all the time, but I'll never sign a record deal. Play- dough remains a lump on my table no matter how I mold it and though dancing speaks to my soul in a way that words can't describe, the last time I took the stage, I was twelve years old.

I consider myself an artistic person. I have a deep and reverent love for all things creative and I think that my ineptitude in the previously mentioned departments is the reason why I write. I was talking to one of my dear friends the other day about this emotional roller-coaster of a journey we're on and she said... "Let's be the ones who see this to the end. Let's not be the ones who quit after a few months or a few years..." Of course, I agreed right away. But why? Why was I so quick to agree? Why was there no pause, no moment of thought to weigh the pros and cons of what I was about to agree to? Why such faith in my response?

Dancing really does speak to my soul. When music and body movement come together to convey an emotion, an idea, a story, my chest swells with emotion. I cry. Literally. I think that dance is one of the most beautiful things in the world. I dance in my kitchen, I wiggle in my car seat, I sway and move without even knowing that I do it. I feel the same way about writing. It sort-of plugs the hole that nothing else in my life can fill. If you asked my family, they might say that writing is the only love of my life, but that's simply not true. After not writing for so many years, I guess you could say I'm in that teenage stage. You know the one, the first-boyfriend stage where he's all you think about, he consumes your thoughts and all of your time. Sort of like a new love. Writing isn't the only thing that makes me feel whole, but it's the creative outlet that I need to make me feel like I'm following a path, that the ebb and flow of my life is right where it's supposed to be. That I'm where I'm supposed to be.

Writing is my art. The keyboard is my paintbrush and my fingers are my legs moving to the beat. The words are my lump of clay and pallet of color. The white screen is my canvas. I won't ever have an exhibit in the Louvre, and American Idol can count me out next season. I'll watch the dancers from the audience and the play-dough can just be what I squeeze to relieve stress. My pencil sketches notes rather than still-life and even though my words haven't found the public stage yet, I'm going to see this to the end. I won't be the one who quits.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blog Chain - Taking and Breaking the Rules

Kate started the chain this round, and she really threw me a curve ball here. The question she posed was running a loop in my head when I woke up at 3am this morning. Wow, I'm really going to have to use my brain !

What writing rules/advice - whether it was a matter of cannot or will not - have you broken?

I think I may have broken them all at one point or another and I have to say that I think everyone should break the rules at least once as well. Now, I'm not encouraging sloppy writing or disregarding the guidelines that everyone pretty much follows. But what I am saying is that you learn from your mistakes and if you don't break the rules, you won't know to follow them later.

Like Kate, I've written run-on sentences that were small paragraphs and no matter how many times I read them--they sounded just fine to me. I've thrown caution to the wind and infused my sentences with as many "ly" words as I could type, thinking that rather than violating a huge rule, I was spicing up an otherwise bland sentence. I've told and not shown, opting to shrink a large chunk of narrative into a Reader's Digest-sized bite of information. And I've violated POV so many times, I'm sure my crit partners were banging their foreheads against their keyboard.

But by breaking the rules, I became a better writer. I learned how to craft my run-ons into more manageable sentences. I've discovered that the occasional "ly" adverb is okay, as long as every sentence doesn't end in one. I know now that telling is fine in certain circumstances and the reader does not need to be led by the hand through every--little--detail. And I've discovered that violating the POV..... okay, it's NEVER alright to violate the POV, but like I said, breaking the rules taught me some valuable lessons.

My first novel is FULL of broken rules, and has been revised more times than I can count and is about to go back to the "crit pool". But what I learned from all those broken rules helped me with my new WIP and the result was a cleaner, tighter chunk of writing that needed less critique, less revision, and less work.

It's like I tell my volleyball team-- "This is how we learn." By making mistakes, violating rules, we become better players. We learn what does and does not work for our team and individual players. It's how we hone our skills and excute those skills to the best of our ability. And by testing the waters, the players know when it's okay to break form and go for the emergency dump. Or never, never under any circumstances, recieve a serve with one arm.

I say break the rules at least once! And then, once you've learned your lesson, you can decide whether you should break them again. Check out Sandra's post tomorrow to find out what rules she does... or doesn't break!