Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Serious Dreams

What makes someone a "serious writer?" Are you "serious" only if you've had a book published? Do you qualify if you have magazine credits? If you attend writing conferences? Take classes? Belong to a critique group? Blog? Dream about it?

Or is it the way in which you refer to yourself and your dreams?

I've been writing on and off ever since I was a kid. I've taken breaks to go to college, get married, have babies (and more babies and more babies), raise kids, clean the house (not really), and generally live life.

Throughout the years I've taken some correspondence courses, including a novel writing course through Writer's Digest, a creative writing course at a local college, and a few online magazine writing courses. I've attended conferences, joined email lists, and participated in critique groups. I did all of these things long before I ever had anything published.

Before my picture book, Grasshopper Pie, was published, I never told anyone about my aspirations to be a writer. I barely admitted it to my husband. I thought people would look at me and say, "Is she kidding? She's a great poopy bottom cleaner and a fabulous snot wiper, but a writer? Yeah, right." And then I imgained they'd spend the rest of the day laughing at my insane idea of being a writer.

I was still a little shy about admitting my "secret desire" after my book came out. Looking back, I think my insecurity prohibited me from being an effective marketer for that book, but at the time, I'd blush whenever anyone asked me about it. After I sold a story to the Friend, I still felt the same way. I was sure the editor only bought it out of a sense of pity. "Here's this poor woman who thinks she can write and I don't have the heart to tell her she can't, so I'll buy this story from her to make her feel good about herself." Isn't that what editors do?

Now that I've sold several more stories to the Friend and other magazines, and even seen some of those stories in print, I can admit: "I'm a writer." In fact, I'm a "serious writer" because that's how I see myself. I'm no longer afraid to admit that I love to write and I dream of being a novelist. I think that being a "serious writer" has much more to do with the way I see myself than anything else. Many, many people are serious about their writing but have yet to find the right home for a manuscript.

I've learned that before anyone else can take me seriously, I have to take myself, and my dreams, seriously. Being a writer isn't some silly pipedream, it's my dream and I'm serious about it.

And my dream of being a novelist? Let's just say, I'll keep you posted.


G. Parker said...

That's my husband's contention - if I were a serious writer, I'd devote a certain amount of time to it every day. I would be submitting, I would be DOING! lol. So...I guess I am, but I'm not. We're in this together.

Annette Lyon said...

Great post, Rebecca! Since the world is chock full of closet writers, it really does take guts to say, "I AM a writer" and to take yourself seriously as one. Kudos to you for being one of those real writers!

ali said...

Rebecca, I love your line "it's my dream and I'm serious about it." That is awesome. You go girl!

I related a lot to your story because I haven't ever had anything published and I wonder a lot if I'm a 'serious writer'. When I was at University for Vocal Performance, I heard several students snottily say that you aren't a MUSICIAN until you're being paid for it ... until then, you're just a singer, tuba-player, whatever.

I thought the same held true with writing. But lately, I think not. And reading your blog, I think not.

I AM a serious writer as long as I take myself and my writing seriously.

Thanks for the reminder AND the permission to think as I do!

Ritsumei said...

I find this very encouraging! Thanks for posting it. And thanks for the reminder that I need to get back to submitting and writing. Not that there's anything else going on in my life right now, what with an 11 month old that's just learning to walk. I guess I'll just have to squeeze out a few minutes here and there. =D

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

You are definitely a writer. Whether you ever publish or not, you are still a writer if your write. If you're paid, then you're a writer who's been paid. But a writer, is a writer, is a writer. The size of lack of paycheck just doesn't factor into it.

Stephanie Humphreys said...

I am a serious writer, but it has taken my husband to convince me of this. It really helps to have someone who believes in you.

Karlene said...

Here's something to think of too. You posted this blog and 7 of us thought enough about it to leave a comment. If you weren't a good writer, none of us would bother coming back here to read your stuff.

Also, I just busted up when I read "I was sure the editor only bought it out of a sense of pity. "Here's this poor woman who thinks she can write and I don't have the heart to tell her she can't, so I'll buy this story from her to make her feel good about herself." Isn't that what editors do?"

Tristi Pinkston said...

I'm chuckling because I tried to publish children's stories in magazines before I submitted my novel. We're sort of opposites there! However, I've no doubt at all that someday, I'll publish children's stories and you'll publish a novel. It's the persistence that's the thing, and we'll both get what we want.

(Which is not to say that I think historical fiction is bad . . . I love it. I just want to do children's books too.)

Davis Bigelow said...

A fabulous snot wiper? Well, I have probably been called worse, but nothing so creative! When I first began writing in 1999, I put up a poem at work (a factory with about 200 non-gentlemen working at it). The next day, the paper was littered with graffiti and some of my words were not as polite as when I penned them. For weeks, co-worker snickered behind my back as well as in my face. If I had listened to the ominous groans of discontent and derision of those days, I would not have arrived at this red letter day. Today marks the incredible event when my finished manuscript will be put into the hands of my publisher. For a writer, I expect there are sweeter moments yet to come, but this one will most certainly do for new.
The morale of the story is: don't believe anyone if they tell you that you cannot succeed. The truth is, 'what the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve'. And that applies to you!

Jenna said...

Loved this! Could have written it myself. Even though I've been published twice and sold articles to the Ensign, I have always been shy about claiming the title 'writer'. My blog is actually helping me to do just that, and so do posts like this one. Here's to your future novel!

C. L. Beck said...

I have to agree with Karlene. I loved your line, "I was sure the editor only bought it out of a sense of pity. "Here's this poor woman who thinks she can write and I don't have the heart to tell her she can't, so I'll buy this story from her to make her feel good about herself." Isn't that what editors do?"

You are a writer! And a good one. Among other things, that terrific line proves it.

As Candace said, the size or lack of paycheck doesn't enter into it.

Anonymous said...

hi rebecca, my first time here.

i saw you on the LDS blogs (i just registered for it, too).

i like what you said here. good attitude from you even if you didn't feel that way at first. you sound like you have grown into it. but we are always growing and progressing in some way. baby steps. good for you. i bet you will acheive what you set out to do.

and i really liked and agree with candace's(aka nora) comment, too, to you. very encouraging. i like her blog.

blessings to you and your clan this day from anchorage alaska,

Rebecca Talley said...

Wow, thanks for everyone's comments.

I'm excited to meet new people!

Here's to everyone's success as serious writers who obtain their dreams!

iZING said...

I flunked nearly every English class I ever took but that didn't stop me from wanting to write. There is a creative side to me that is yet to find a way out. I enjoy reading your blog. You and others here, give me hope.