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Archive for December 12th, 2009

Bonnie Dodge: Six Things I Learned About Writing
Saturday, December 12th, 2009

Welcome Bonnie Dodge, whom I’ve just met! ~DD

When I worked for a commercial bank, I thought writing would be the perfect job for me. I loved words. I loved to write. Doing something I loved to do had to be easier than driving to a job I dreaded every day, right? Then I left my (paying) job to write full time and discovered that I had a lot to learn about writing. I have been writing professionally for several years now and here are a few of the things I have learned.

1) Like all jobs, there is a learning curve. Just because my English teacher gave me A’s and said I showed promise doesn’t mean I am the next Ernest Hemingway. In order to become a successful writer, I still have to do the time. I have to read voraciously. I have to attend seminars, workshops, and conferences and hone my craft. I have to network. I have to study people and be alert. I have to write, write, write until my fingers ache. I have to read, read, read until the words on the pages blur. Then I have to work and work and work until my story starts to resemble something someone besides my grandmother is willing to read.

2) Even when I have been over a draft a zillion times, I will still miss an error. It doesn’t matter how many times I or my critique partners have read my manuscript, the minute I submit it the errors will pop out like zits.

3) Perfection belongs in the dictionary, not in my office. Yes, I would like my copy to be perfect. Yes, I want every query letter and synopsis to shine. But striving for the perfect query letter or the perfect story blocks my progress. It’s admirable to strive for perfection, but it isn’t realistic. On good days my words sing. On bad days my work sucks. In the name of progress, it is better that I have an attainable goal—I will write 300 words today. Tomorrow I can worry about making them perfect.

4) I’d better love the story I’m telling because it creeps into my bedroom and becomes more intimate than my lover. It follows me to the grocery store and into the bathroom. It talks back to me while I’m waiting in line at the Post Office, and in some very real ways drives me crazy. So the time I spend with it better be worth it.

5) It never gets any easier. No matter how many stories I have finished, won contests with or had published, the process is still the same. When it comes time to create something new, all the same doubts are there to great me—this idea sucks, there isn’t enough conflict. My characters won’t do what I tell them to do. My hero is wimpy. The only way to climb the hill is to just start writing the story. I can always revise tomorrow.

6) The pay sucks, but there is joy in the journey.

Submitted by Bonnie Dodge, author of Miracles in the Desert: Essays celebrating Twin Falls, Idaho, and 100 years on a high desert plain, and co-author of Voices from the Snake River Plain