Sunday, August 18, 2013

Free at Last!


Last week I bemoaned my inability to decide if the manuscript for The Reluctant Spy was ready for publication despite the email from a friend who’d read the story and found it “fascinating.”
         This week, while tracing the arc of my writing life, I’ve pondered that word. In 7th grade I won first place in the Kansas City diocesan essay contest. I can remember Mom’s broad smile as I returned from the podium with my prize—a prayer book.
         In college I was one of twenty finalists in the prestigious 1958 Atlantic Monthly essay contest. At the time, my writing mentor, Sister Scholastica, tried to impress on me that in this nationwide contest I’d excelled among thousands of entries. But I, preparing to enter the convent, had little time for such foolishness.
         During the next twenty-seven years I became a nun, taught, and found a new life after leaving the monastery. Then, in 1985, I became a freelance editor, copyeditor, and curriculum developer. Suddenly writing became important again.  
         Four years later, the cat I’d loved for nearly two decades died. Dulcy immediately began to channel through me the story of our life together.


         Late that summer, I told a friend about this strange phenomenon. “Well, it’ll all be trash,” she said with surety. “You’ll just have to throw it away.” Her words stunned me.
         A few weeks later another friend, a published writer, read the first draft of Dulcy’s story. “Put this in a safety deposit box,” he recommended, “and don’t look at it for five years. Then maybe you’ll find something worth keeping.”
         His wife’s take on the book? “Bor-ing! Bor-ing!”
         When I expressed doubts about my writing ability to an acquaintance, she said, “Well, Dee, maybe you can’t write. Maybe you just don’t have the gift.”
         With that, my thoughts jelled: I wasn’t a writer. I couldn’t write well. I was a hack. Dulcy’s book being published made no difference. After all, she wrote the book; I simply edited it.
         I knew two things: I could edit; I couldn’t write.


         The years passed with me crafting sentences, seeking to find the cadence of words. Because no agent was interested in representing my writing, the belief that I was a word-dabbler rooted deeper and deeper into my psyche.
         Then in 2011, I began to blog. Several readers commented that my writing was good and so I’ve come to believe that I can write a 600-word story. Yet that realization hasn’t expunged my belief that I’m a rank amateur with regard to writing longer stories that demand well-drawn characters and extended suspense.  
         Recently a psychic told me that in this life I was meant “to let go.” Not of specific things—like the convent or a dysfunctional relationship with a couple who’d been friends for years or a home in Stillwater. No. She meant the mega things—those beliefs that arc my life from beginning to now. During this past week I’ve examined the belief that I’m a charlatan.  

       
         Now here we are today. I’ve mulled the past, recognized the belief, and read that wonderful word fascinating. It has broken through the bars of my conviction that I can’t write a novel.


         Fran’s word has, literally, freed me from a way of thinking about myself that has shackled me for years. Today I want to thank her for helping me let go of that old belief about myself and my writing. I can write. I can write a novel that will, perhaps, be published. But whatever happens, I will be grateful to this friend for freeing me.
         Peace. And Hallelujah!



14 comments:

  1. And those of us who know Fran know her brilliant mind, so if she says fascinating, it simply has to be. See, it's never too late to free ourselves from the shackles we carry around throughout our lives. Congratulations, I am so happy for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Inger, for me, one of the joys of growing older is having many years on which I can look backward and see patterns and then I know, from experience, that I can choose to change things. I just need a spark to get the flame of change going. And Fran gave me that spark. Peace.

      Delete
  2. I love you, Dee--both you & your writing are FASCINATING!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Fishducky, thank you. Peace.

      Delete
  3. If ever I have known a true writer, my friend, it is you. Write, write, and write like you're on fire. You'll be fulfilled, but the world will also be a richer place with your writing. Write!!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Dear Shelly, your words mean so much to me because I so admire the way you write the stories you share on your blog. This week's musings have prompted me to devise a schedule by which I can not only blog and post but also, as you say, "write, write, and write" like I'm "on fire"! Peace.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Writing is an integral part of who you are. As are the dreadful and unjustified misconceptions about yourself you have been hanging on to.
    Fantastic is a truly accurate description. Of your writing and of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear EC, thank you. I'm grateful to Meg, the psychic because I'm now examining my beliefs and trying to discover, which are true, which are false, which are helpful, which hold me back, which deaden my spirit, which give me life. So many beliefs. We all have them and sometimes they simply destroy all belief we have in ourselves. Thank you again for your kind words, Sue. Peace.

      Delete
  6. You are such a good writer. I hope you know how I love Dulcy's story. The people who made unkind comments about it obviously wouldn't know a great book even if it fell from the sky and hit them on the head.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Janie, the ms. they read hadn't been seen by an editor. When Jane Maera read six sample chapters she told me to take out anything that wasn't about the relationship between Dulcy and me. In doing that, I cut 20,000 words so the ms went from 42,000 to 22,000. I think my friends couldn't see the diamond in the rough! Peace.

      Delete
  7. I think that's the only thing that has kept you tinkering endlessly with your novel--all the second guessing--a lack of confidence. You are a writer. A writer is good storyteller, which you are. AND you already know how to edit. You just haven't been able to see your own work objectively because of that lack of confidence in yourself. You are never going to please everybody. Please yourself with all your heart. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Rita, and what I think is that you are exactly right. So I'm going to copyedit and look for an agent or a small publisher. Pleasing myself is appealing! Peace.

      Delete
  8. I'm so glad you're now beginning to accept what your followers have been telling you for ages - you, Dee, are a writer and a good one. It can be hard to let go of wrong ideas, about ourselves and others, but having begun to do this, I'm sure your confidence will grow and that too will be reflected in your writing and editing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Perpetua, thank you for coming here and reading this and for your kind words about my writing. These fortify the new belief I have in myself. It's a wonderful feeling. Peace.

      Delete