Dear Teens,

Up until now, most of my posts have centered around writing. I am a member of a very important species called “writers” and we need to stick together, to support each other through the moments of doubt, joy, elation, depression, and temporary (hopefully temporary) madness.

But as a young adult writer, I feel the pull, the need, to communicate not only with other writers, but with those most likely to read what I write. So here goes.

Dear teens,

I’m not of your generation. I grew in a world where the word terrorism was never spoken and 9-11 was just another date. And all too often today, I hear people saying that ‘kids today’ have no work ethic, they take everything for granted.

And I wonder what it would be like to grow up in a world where you’re told to be yourself, but then people look down on you because you’re not conforming enough. To be told to get good grades so you’ll get into a good college and by the way, terrorists are plotting to kill people in shopping malls so YOLO!

Life today is a kaleidoscope of paradoxes. Pursue your goals, your dreams, your ambitions, but beware of Ebola and North Korea and student loan debt.

I think my niece put it best when she was two years old and she went around saying, “Life a bitch.”

Sometimes it can be, but sometimes it can be pretty amazing.

The truth is, I don’t know you. I don’t know what struggles you go through every day. I don’t know what crap have you to put up with or how many people care about you and do a good enough job showing it.

But I don’t think you’re a generation of “kids today”. I think, no, I know, that you are as full of possibilities as any human being who has ever lived before you.

I want to listen to you. I want to cheer for you. I want to understand and I want you do know that when I write, I’m writing because a) I have to or I’ll explode! b) it’s my way of reaching out across the miles and the houses and the apartments and fields and the oceans — to tap you on the shoulder and say hey, this is for you. I hope you like it.

Beware the Muse Killer!

I don’t think writers need to be reminded of our frail egos. The validation of a personal response on a rejection letter, getting an honorable mention in a contest, having our writing group say more positive than negative things are like life support to the tiny muse who so often goes Code Blue on our shoulders.

We know writing is hard. We know that rejection is part of the process. We know that if we think we just wrote the most brilliant scene since Katniss handed Peeta the berries, that tomorrow we might read the same scene and think it could fertilize Iowa. The thing is, no matter how many down moments we have, no many how much self-doubt and how many times we have to perform CPR on that poor little muse, we don’t stop writing. We keep believing in ourselves. And thank goodness we do!

When struggling with an earlier draft of Deadly Design, I sought guidance from a bestselling author I’d met at a few conferences. I asked if, for a fee, he’d be willing to edit the book and tell me what exactly it was missing.

Commas, evidently. I was missing commas, but the remark, one of the few, that really got me, was the scribbled note on page eight. “Your character is unlikable. Who cares what happens to him?”

If my ego had been any thinner, I might have looked down at my poor, pale muse and pulled the plug. I’d have let him die with what little dignity I had left. But I stopped myself. I knew my character. I knew my story and my abilities to write and why exactly should I listen to this man who took my check but didn’t even write in my genre?

I didn’t listen. I got another person, a wonderful, helpful person to give me guidance that led to doing what I wanted to do, what we all want to do  — to make the book better. This led to finding my agent, getting a deal, and the rest, as they say, is history.

We writers may have fragile egos, but we know how hard we work. We know our passions and how much we want to create the best work we can. Don’t ever let anyone tell you to pull the plug. Even if your manuscript isn’t quite there yet, that doesn’t mean it’s terminal! You know your abilities. You know your strengths, your weaknesses.

You know how badly you want it. Take the good advice you receive and use it. Ignore what you can’t use and, just like the old cliche says, have faith in yourself. Don’t let anyone kill your dreams or your muse.

Write with Passion!

Today I read the article by Oliver Sacks regarding his diagnosis of terminal cancer. I confess that I have not been a prolific reader of his work, but this article touched me greatly. I won’t begin to try to discuss the article but rather it’s impact.

My grandfather was 99 when he died. My husband’s grandmother was 105. I know a little boy who died at the age of ten, have a close friend who’s twenty-five with four malignant brain tumors, and currently follow the story of a six-year-old girl fighting leukemia. But this post isn’t about death, it’s about life and the fact that no matter how many years we get on this earth, it will never be enough.

When my youngest was a baby, I remember holding her and just breaking down one day. I knew why I was crying. It was because I was going back to work, and she was going to daycare. I was once again going to miss out on spending day after day watching my child grow. I’d worked hard to become a therapist, and I had clients, mostly abused children, waiting for me to come back and help them. I don’t regret my relationships with them or the way they touched my life, but I wanted to be with my baby — with my last baby.

When she was two, I got a phone call during a therapy session.  My toddler had decided to take the dog for a walk and the babysitter found her two blocks away. I realize now that perhaps it was an angel who’d opened the door and ushered her outside, because I gave my notice that day, and took a part time job as a college professor.

I can’t get back the time I lost with my older children, and I don’t regret the hours spent in college or doing my internship or working in the field of psychology, but none of us is getting younger. Each day that passes is gone, and we will never get those days back.

What I took away most for Mr. Sacks’ words is that I want to really live the rest of my life, however many years that may be. That doesn’t mean I can quit my job and travel the world. But it does mean that I can laugh louder. I can keep singing in my car even when a passing driver looks at me like I’m nuts. I can hug tighter, kiss longer, breathe deeper, and I can write.

I can write and if there is one lessen for us all to learn, it’s that whatever we do in life, we must do it with passion.

Live with passion. Consume words and food and music with passion and write with passion!

Savor every word, every character, every conflict and resolution and every tear and smile the words bring to us.

Write with passion!

Writing Naked, Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone!

We write, picking each word carefully. We highlight/delete, chose more precious words, rewrite and rewrite and then after months, years, maybe even decades, it’s still not everything we know it can be.

We might start working on something else, thinking time and distance might give us new perspective, and while that may be helpful, we might also want to get in touch with our inner Freud. What are we over looking, not just in the story but inside ourselves?

I’m currently doing revisions and having that feeling that the story could be great. Not just good, but something really special. But it’s missing something. My agent was able to put her finger on it.

Overtime, I’ve gotten too close to my main character and too protective. Characters in stories get hurt. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. I’d built a safety net beneath her, and I was making certain she stayed over it. In short, I started controlling the character instead of letting her go where she needs to go, even if it’s somewhere I’m not particularly comfortable with.

As artists, we have to be honest in our writing, and that means letting the characters tell their stories. They may go somewhere we’re not comfortable. We may have to strip down our barriers, our emotions, maybe even our values, to keep it honest and real. We may have to write naked, figuratively speaking — especially if you have children or nosey neighbors!

In short, we have to lose ourselves enough to let the muse use us, to let the characters use us. But we also have to know where our comfort zones are, and we have to be wiling to step out of them, if that’s where our characters take us.

Why We Write?

Right now, I’m supposed to working on rewrites of a novel I promised I would have to my agent before January 1st. Well, it’s New Year’s Eve and I’m not quite done, but I wanted to take a moment to talk about why we write.

Some say writers write because they have to. Because we’re wired with so many thoughts and emotions that if we don’t release them, we’ll explode, but instead of our bloody guts oozing down walls and clinging to the ceiling fans, it will be emotions — happy faces, sad faces, anguish like even Van Gogh couldn’t capture — painted on the walls and the ceilings.

I don’t know if I totally agree with that theory, although I love the romanticism of it. The idea that no matter what, we writers will find the strength and the courage to write.

Knowing why we do something is important. Life is short. We are sadly reminded of that fact each day. Another plane goes down, a friend dies unexpectedly, a relative gets a tough diagnosis. Or maybe we do.

So why do we spend what precious time we have on this earth, writing the stories of people who live only in the realm of our imaginations?

Is it because of our mortality? Is it because if our dreams come true, someday when we’re long in the ground, someone will be scanning the books on a library shelf and pick up the bound pages we created? They will read our words and somehow our thin, decomposing lips will curve into a smile.

Is it because, and God help us if it is, we believe we’ll make a lot of money. That our books will sell and we’ll have enough money to buy our freedom from the mundane lives we feel trapped in, lives spent behind desks or in front of classrooms or chained to factory or fast food counters?

I remember thinking that I’ll get published and I’ll be able to stay home with my babies and write. Hmmmm. My babies aren’t babies anymore. By the time I got my book deal for Deadly Design, my youngest was already proficient in “that’s what she said” jokes.

Why do we write?

Maybe it’s all the above. Maybe it’s none of the above.

Maybe it falls in the same category as why humankind felt compelled to learn how to fly or why people risk their lives to climb Mt. Everest. Maybe there’s just something in us.

Maybe it doesn’t matter.

All I know is that the world, even for all it’s beauty, would be a dull place if it weren’t for the stories. Awww. The stories. Maybe we don’t write because we have to write or because we dream of fame and fortune. Maybe we write because the stories have to be told.

Well, speaking of stories, I should get back to work. There are so many stories forming like new galaxies out in the universe. So let’s all get to work.

May 2015 give birth to many, many stories.

That terrifying moment when you have time to write!

The deadline is looming. You drive to work yearning to turn around, go home, and get to work on the job you really want to do, which is writing. But you have responsibilities. You need that pay check. So you drive down raining streets, dry streets, snowy streets, seeing your characters in your mind. Engaging them in conversations and coming up with new plot twists.

The ache is real and intense. You NEED to work. And you will. Just a few more weeks in the semester or before that next brief break and you’ll hit it like a sailor on leave hitting a …….well, you get the picture.

The time comes. For me, that means finals are finished and semester grades are turned in. Finally, I can focus on what I really want and need to. SO WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT!

I recently tried to find the original writer who compared writing to slicing open a vein. To my surprise, there have been many such analogies by many writers throughout history. Is that why it’s so hard? Because writing is like tearing open an artery to your soul and letting it pour out on to the page?

Maybe it’s fear. If I were trying to create a masterpiece out of marble, I might work hundreds of hours only to leave it unfinished for fear that carving just a little bit more might leave my Venus de Milo without a nose or my David without his big toe. In other words, fear of screwing up!

What if what I write next isn’t as good as what I’ve already written? Or worse yet, what if I finish it, send it out into the world and no one likes it? Yikes!

The truth is writers are human. We screw up and that’s why we have a delete button and why the great Stephen King told us to “kill our darlings.” We’re going to make mistakes, and not everyone is going to love everything that we write. But that yearning is there. That desire to create. So we suck up our insecurities and we get to work

Besides all of the sayings comparing writing to self mutilation (of the highest form I might add!), there is the saying that if writing was easy, everyone would do it. It’s not easy, but if we silence our fears and jump off the proverbial cliff, well…the view is pretty damned amazing. So time to stop procrastinating and get to work.

Happy writing everyone!