One of the best things about being a writer is that we can always learn and become better storytellers. Today, I happened upon two insights regarding character motivation (wants vs needs, and choices) that were worded in such a way that I immediately spotted what was wrong with my work-in-progress. What I read wasn’t new to me, but information doesn’t always sink in the first (or second or fifth) time I come across it. Today, things clicked. And that makes this writer very, very happy.
Art can’t be taught;
passion can’t be taught;
discipline can’t be taught;
but craft can be taught.
And writing is both an art and a craft.
~ Elizabeth George
Yesterday I sent off the manuscript for the first book of mine that will be published. It’s a short work-fore-hire book about composting and how to build a compost tumbler. (One of my critique partners (yo, LP!) is a nonfiction goddess who guided me every step of the way as I applied to the editorial company. Thank you, friend!)
One of the hardest parts of that writing process was switching from my fiction brain to my nonfiction brain. Plus there was the research that triggered my ADD tendencies, writing to a lower reading level, explaining complex concepts in a simplified format, footnoting and formatting, glossary terms and pronunciation keys . . . Suffice to say there was a steep learning curve and a few tears of frustration.
But I put my head down to push through the doubts and nasty voices, and I prevailed. Plus, I (mostly) kept to my promise to myself and worked on my middle-grade novel revisions every day. I learned to bounce from fiction to nonfiction and back again. And it felt like a real accomplishment to hit SEND when I emailed my manuscript yesterday.
This morning Zippy and I went out for our run on the trails. As we took off, I mentioned how I wished we could take a different route out there in the open space. I love the trails and they’re kinder to my body than pavement as I pound out the miles, but lately I’ve noticed my mind wanders when I run. And my mind shouldn’t wander when there are rocks and knapweed and eroded trail segments to navigate. But it wanders because I’m comfortable with my route; I’ve run it so often I can close my eyes and visualize exactly where the rabbit brush stalk sticks out onto the trail and how far up the trail past the turn-off it is that I need to side-step a cluster of partially submerged rocks.
So today Zippy took the lead and he mixed it up. He took us on side trails and detours, but the biggest change was we ran parts of the route in reverse. Which meant I was running downhill where I’m usually straining to run uphill, and struggling up the steep inclines where I’m used to flying down the trail.
Talk about a learning curve. I thought my brain was going to explode! (Not to mention the other very real concern that I was about to barf up a lung).
Well, I eventually made it home and recovered enough to have today’s deep thought:
It’s good to step outside my comfort zone because doing so allows me to learn new skills and expand my muscles (whether brain or brawn). Becoming more flexible ain’t always pretty, but it’s necessary.
In honor of massively computer-challenged Me learning how to use Scrivener for Windows
(writing software adored by oodles of writers), here are some glimpses into my journey:
image from morguefile.com
1) Yesterday I shed tears of frustration and pulled my hair. Literally.
2) Today I teared up a tiny bit when faced with something I absolutely did not understand,
and then wiped away those tears and told myself "You might not even need to know that."
3) My mantra: Even if I master only a tiny percentage of what this program can do,
that tiny percentage will be huge in comparison to what I knew about Scrivener last week.
4) The thought of writing with a "corkboard" and "index cards" has kept me going, and sure enough,
those are the features I’m "mastering" and will be able to use right from the start.
5) I’m sure it doesn’t count for anything but I feel better prepared to learn this software
having read Melville’s Bartleby, the Scrivener
in my sophomore English class.
Anyone else out there have an emotion-laden time learning this software?
(For those who mastered it without a problem, it’s probably best to keep that to yourself.)