To Expand the Craft . . .

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   I’ve spent this weekend at a writing conference. After years of attending education conferences, this was a refreshing change. I didn’t have to be concerned about how to bring back the information or with whom I was going to share the new ideas. This weekend was all about me, and what a refreshing change!

   Comparison, I believe, is part of the human condition. We compare ourselves to others, even to how we were before an incident or when we were younger. In a ballroom with over two hundred other writers, about a third have been published by a publisher (I feel I need to begin to delineate that, as I’m published, my books are in print, but I self-publish; a different animal altogether). I spoke with a few, and picked up some ideas on what to look for in my own writing. Besides what I took away that I could use to hone my craft, I found my ego measuring what I have done, and how I think about myself and my writing, and comparing it to others who were in attendance. I tread a careful line to not indulge in “better than”, or “that’s me” or “that’s not me”. Instead, and because I choose to let go of comparison and what might be “good” or “bad” (thanks to yoga), I walked away knowing that we are all unique.

   There is much we have in common. We’re writers. We have dreams to become household names, like Nora Roberts. We respect each other and the one-of-a-kind voice each of us employs when we tell a story. Most of us write fiction, though there were a few who write nonfiction, and most of us consider ourselves romance writers, or “general fiction with romantic themes”. And do you know why we write romance, and read the genre that accounts for 51% of all books published in America each year? Because of hope. In our writing, we share a story that may include action, adventure, anger, greed, revenge, love, and sex. Why? Because we believe there is hope and this is our way to bring in a little more. When people ask me why I write the stories I do, my answer is simple: “I write a happy ending because there aren’t enough of them in the world.”

   Of course, there were many differences. The subgenres ranged from faith-based books to erotica. The age of the writers, their preferences for how and when to write, their obstacles that they worked at overcoming in order to write, and their personal goals for their writing set each one a little apart from the rest.

   In the sessions I attended, I learned some things about the craft, and began to think of my own writing. I’ve been writing weekly in this blog for almost nine months. In each post, I’ve offered ways for readers to be creative, to practice their craft, to begin a project, or to finish one. I’ve raised questions about why we create and whom we create for. This conference has nudged me to take a look at how I go about the act of writing. First, there is an enormous amount of kudos for the courage to put words on paper, peeling back the layers of myself and leaving them exposed to the world. I have been interested enough in the craft, driven enough by my muse, that I pay attention to the details of what works and what doesn’t work for me when the story comes. I believe that the words and ideas that I share through my stories and poems are worth reading. And after attending this conference, I know my voice. My desire to create is such that I have chosen to not be satisfied with mediocrity; I’ll continue to expand in the directions my creativity takes me, as well as sharpen my skills.

  I wouldn’t say that this conference was a life-changing event. What it offered, was the opportunity for me to step back and view how writing drives what I do, and how I express who I am through the words. This is not the first time that I have suggested, nor am I the first to propose, that creating takes guts. To try something different, to attempt a new experience is not for the weak. And the realization here is that creating is the vehicle by which so many step out of the shadows, casting off their shroud of “I’m not good enough” or “I can’t do this”, to stand boldly, owning who they are and what they have brought into reality. My belief firmly rests that each human being has the ability to create. The desire, the observance, the listening to that which connects us all can be heard and allowed to flow, perhaps even directed, into expressions of ourselves and humanity as a whole. As much courage as it takes to surrender to the urges to dance, draw, paint, photograph, cook, sing, sculpt, or write, I imagine the strength to keep all the incredible beauty locked up, denied life, is the same.

   There is a responsibility, however, for those of us who wish to take our creativity even a minute step forward, and that is to hone our skills. Taking a class, attending a conference or workshop, being an apprentice to someone we believe we can learn from are all ways to make what we do a little clearer, maybe a tiny bit easier. But learning from someone else is not the end of the game. We must continue to be interested in ourselves, our development as artists and as human beings, and allow those discoveries to color our creations, as well as use what we create to illuminate those aspects that prefer to remain hidden. We work in both directions simultaneously; inward, discovering what works, and outward as we expand to encompass more of what we notice and recognize in our environment, from our bathrooms to the earth as a whole.

   I know that I will be reviewing what I experienced this weekend and discerning what works for me, and what doesn’t. The ideas that spark an interest, I’ll follow and see where they lead. Your invitation is the same. Whether you’re just beginning to entertain the idea of creating something, or you’re well established in your craft, what will you do to push just a little further? Honor where you are, take a deep breath, and allow the flow to direct you. Be interested in what excites you, then question how you could make it a little better, clearer, more distinct. And if you’re feeling brave, how it makes you slightly different. If you’d like to see what else I do to expand my craft, find me on Facebook and Twitter. Visit my web site to view how I’ve pushed my own boundaries www.myjoyenterprises.com

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