Today I am so pleased to welcome Alice Archer to Joyfully Jay. Alice has come to talk to us about her latest release, Everyday History. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Writing Excuses and Antidotes
In my day job as a managing editor and writing coach at a publishing firm, I talk with authors all the time about why they’re stuck and how they can get unstuck. I’ve been working with writers for a long time, and I’ve heard it all. All the reasons, the excuses, the fear and self-doubt. All the ways we try to convince ourselves we’re the exception and writing a book is beyond our abilities.
It never is.
If you want to write a book, there’s a reason for your want – and a way to get it done. Sooner, not later.
As their final deadline approaches, authors often try to talk themselves out of writing. They’re really trying to avoid all the big feelings – fear of exposure and fear of judgment – which are so big and painful that not writing seems like a better choice.
In my experience, reasons for not writing take one or more of these forms (and I am not immune to their charms):
1. “Who am I to write this?”
Yep. I’m a straight woman writing gay male romance stories. WTF. But stories get our attention because they need an outlet. We’re a channel, someone who can receive, shape, and share. Say yes.
Antidote: “Something draws me to this story. I’ll follow to find out more.”
2. “Other people have written about this so much better than I can.”
If a story is calling you, there’s a good reason it chose you.
Antidote: “No one else can write this story because no one else is me.”
3. “I don’t have the time or energy to write a book.”
Resisting requires energy, too.
Antidote: “It takes more energy to not write than it does to feel what I’m resisting and write anyway.”
4. “I can’t finish because there’s an emergency.”
At work, we keep an informal list of emergencies authors have weathered and yet still gotten their books written on time: house burned down, kidney stones on top of terminal cancer, dying brother, moving in with the in-laws. We haul out the list for the next author who thinks their emergency trumps their ability to finish the book. I wrote Everyday History through the flailing end of an unraveling marriage, and then through loud, invasive construction on the house I was living in. There’s always a way.
Antidote: “This is the universe asking me if I’m committed to my writing.”
5. “I suck at this.”
I’ve never met an author who’s great at all the tasks we lump together when we say “writing,” which includes conceiving, focusing, organizing, barfing out a first draft, revising, copyediting, proofreading, and more. The successful authors I know are aware of what they’re great at and what they suck at, and they get help. I suck at proofreading. It requires the use of a part of my brain that prefers to sleep. But, boy, do I ever know how to hire a good proofreader.
Antidote: “How can I focus on the parts I love and lob the rest to someone who’s better at it than I am?”
In this excerpt from Everyday History, Henry’s antidote gets him through a tough moment.
I memorize the journey of Ruben’s fingertips as he roams the room touching my belongings.
I am tempted to fall for Ruben as I watch him leaving his fingerprints, marking his journey through my life. My antidote is a thought. I am nothing more than his safe way to begin.
I am Ruben’s starter kit. A short preface that will soon pale when his real story begins. An overture to the symphony he will discover beyond me, after me, without me.
I try to feel honored to perform that public service for the gay community at large.
To further distract myself from Ruben’s graceful movements, I shift my focus to two clear goals I’ve formulated, which I repeat to myself like mantras, wards against darkness, defensive spells against caring for what I will soon abandon. Use him to practice saying my worst thing. Send him away with a satisfied smile.
A perk within a pain.
A temporary holy dovetailing of our rites of passage.
Headstrong Ruben Harper has yet to meet an obstacle he can’t convert to a speed bump. He’s used to getting what he wants from girls, but when he develops a fascination for a man, his wooing skills require an upgrade. After months of persuasion, he scores a dinner date with Henry Normand that morphs into an intense weekend. The unexpected depth of their connection scares Ruben into fleeing.
Shy, cautious Henry, Ruben’s former high school history teacher, suspects he needs a wake-up call, and Ruben appears to be his siren. But when Ruben bolts, Henry is left struggling to find closure. Inspired by his conversations with Ruben, Henry begins to write articles about the memories stored in everyday objects. The articles seduce Ruben with details from their weekend together and trigger feelings too strong to avoid. As Henry’s snowballing fame takes him out of town and further out of touch, Ruben stretches to close the gaps that separate them.
Alice Archer has messed about with words professionally for many years as an editor and writing coach. After living in more than eighty places and cobbling together a portable lifestyle, she has lots of story material to sort through. It has reassured her to discover that even though culture and beliefs can get people into a peck of trouble when they’re falling in love, the human heart beats the same in any language. She currently lives near Nashville. Maybe this move will stick.