Dear Jane…letters to an aspiring writer-

Dig in to Find Your Best Writing

Dear Jane, Are you hiding? I know it’s not easy to go back to that draft for, what is it the fourth time? Cursing me, or that voice in your head, (or maybe we are now one voice), telling you to re-work it again.

"I just want to finish this book and go on to something else.”

Of course you do.

Isn’t that what we all want when we are close to a breakthrough--to avert it? When we veer dangerously close to that twist in the road where, once we turn the corner, we will see a new horizon and never again perceive our world the same?

When you read a piece of writing that moves you, there’s blood on the page. The author did not leave you traces of paper cuts. That’s blood from the heart. Well-oxygenated, nutrient rich, and it feeds your spirit to read it.

Our best writing impulses urge us to go beyond the superficial, obvious choices that our ego wants to make, “Please, please, reach for an image that’s honest and true," and, for the first time, have the courage to stay with the image and excavate the words to describe it—dig like you seek a buried treasure hidden for millennia deep under Egyptian sands…unless you would rather settle for surface rocks?

I have faith in you. I believe you will get out your shovel and dig.

I know, in the movies, they make it seem so easy. The writer bangs away at a keyboard. We perceive the elapse of time as a montage runs over meaningful background music.

And here you sit alone. No music. No montage except the slide show of images running in front of your mind’s eye, asking to be chosen for this next line, and you, rejecting one after another. Like a director seeking the perfect lead actor for a debut play, you think it’s make or break.

It is and it isn’t.

Know this. It matters not which book you are writing. You can dig for your best now, or you can wait for later and find your treasure then. But I can tell you, wherever you retreat now, at whichever point you let yourself off, you will reach this same crossroads on the next one, and the next, and the next, until you push through.

And once again, you will have a choice, hide or dig in.

Treasure, anyone?

 

Welcome to a new feature on my blog called Dear Jane…letters to an aspiring writer. The concept came to me in a moment of inspiration while making toast. I hope you will find it insightful and encouraging as you develop your writing gifts.

What makes a writer good?

Welcome to a new feature on my blog called Dear Jane...letters to an aspiring writer. The concept came to me in a moment of inspiration while making toast. I hope you will find it insightful and encouraging as you develop your writing gifts. Dear Jane,

As you sit and type the first tentative lines of your earliest attempt at writing a book, if you’ve got one iota of sense in you, there’s one thing you’ve realized already—you suck at it.

Congratulations and welcome to your first breakthrough. Horrifying as this moment can be, it is one that all the best and worst writers have faced, the main differentiator being that the worst ignore the realization and proceed ‘as if’ their writing is great, the best fall into some combination of insanity and obsession that urges them to pursue literary excellence like a hungry wolf chases a rabbit, and the rest (who don't chicken out and quit) settle for a level in the middle--competence.

All I ask of you is that you seek that place of competence somewhere near the upper middle of the writer’s hierarchy. For I could no more coach you to be an obsessed literary genius than I could train you to be a wolf. Some writers are born with extraordinary gifts and possess the will to devote their lives developing them. But for most, mere competence will buy you a ticket to take your writing wherever you want it to take you.

What is competence? Competence is more than the ability to produce works free of grammatical errors, although, for an editor, such a manuscript is nice if you can get it.

A competent author:

• Picks a structure for the book and follows it.

• Chooses language that’s both easy-to-follow and surprising.

• Writes with the reader in mind and

• Wastes no words.

That, in my opinion, is all it takes. Simple, but not always easy.

Think about that for a bit, and I’ll explain more in my next letter.

All my best,

Robin

PS: Any Questions? Post them in comments.

Robin Colucci-Hoffman, the Get Published Coach helps coaches, speakers, and consultants write their books and get published by Random House, Doubleday, J. Wiley & Sons, Hay House, and others, many of which won awards and/or became bestsellers.

Robin has researched and/or written freelance articles for The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine and Newsweek to name a few. She has a BA in Journalism from The George Washington University and an MA in Spiritual Psychology from The University of Santa Monica.

Look for her book: From Expert to Author: How to Write a Book that Sells coming soon.

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