Mar 28

They Don't Want You to Write

Am haunted by the women who sought me out after Saturday's talk at "Celebrating Women Over 50." I'd said that as new writers they should expect overt and covert opposition, especially when they seek solitude -- because the woman who shuts herself away to do art threatens those who think she "should be" a voluntary slave to her family, friends, job, house. I had said, "They're just jealous," because in an hour I couldn't to explain everything about it: that "It's not that they want you to care for THEM. It's that they can't stand seeing YOU taking care of YOURSELF." There'a discussion about exactly this in the book The Artist's Way (pp. 198-200). Author Julia Cameron calls such relatives and friends "Wet Blankets." I recommended writers' groups for support. But opposition should have been the topic of the whole workshop. It hit a major nerve.

One woman described her husband getting nervous and suddenly needing her when she tried to shut her door to write. "What would happen if I called HIM at work and told him to come home immediately and take care of MY emotional needs?" she asked. Of course, short of illness or death in the family he would tell her to take a flyer, and rightly so. Another woman described her husband's verbal abuse. It was classic:

1. Horrible verbal abuse occurs regardless of the seriousness of "what's wrong." (Crooked miniblind is as enraging as a wrecked car or an IRS audit.)
2. The abuser denies that it is abuse.
3. The abuser declares that if anything, the abused is the abusive and crazy one.
4. Verbal abuse never occurs in the presence of witnesses (except children, whose testimony is easily discredited).
5. The abuser denies that abuse occurred, even when there is proof, such as a recording.
6. To others the abuser is affable and reasonable and socially is the better-liked of the pair.

To anyone out there with this problem, let me save you five or ten years of trying to fix it: There is NO cure short of separation.

The people to hang out with, live with, be with, as you begin to write, are the people who support your efforts, and if you haven't got them at home, join a writers' group.
Feb 10

When Three People Show Up...

Wednesday night when it was 9 degrees outside I and two other audience members got to question the heck out of Bobbi Smith, author of 54 books with over 5 million copies sold. Her story about the best writing advice she ever got: She wrote her labor-of-love first novel in her basement and writing it had been so much fun it made her truly sad to come to the end. At work (at a bookstore) she was shelving psychology books while crying about this. Her boss asked her what was wrong. Bobbi told her. The boss said, ""Write another one, stupid!"

Wearing her trademark rhinestone pin saying "Bobbi," Smith sat with us, read us some early efforts and told us she writes Westerns because NYC says no romance fan wants to read about the Midwest, or even any Western state except Arizona or Texas. Wyoming does not cut it. We talked about digital, about vampire books, about agents. I don't think I've ever been so close to someone so creative as to invent 54 full-length novels, even if they're not the lit'ry kind I read (exclusively, mind you!). She said a romance-writers convention had once held a Hunk Contest, and the winner got to be on the cover of a romance novel, and it happened to be Bobbi's, and she did her book tour with him, drawing tons of fans smitten not with the novel but with the Hunk.

Above all, she said, "You have no control." Luck. Publishers' and agents' whims. Audience whims. Cultural and technological shifts. Her new book is digital only, and not by her choice; by her publisher's.

If you have ever sought an audience, doubtless the little-to-no audience has happened to you. I have seen a poet at a bookstore bravely reading to empty chairs. Once I read poems in a restaurant on a night raining cats & dogs. There were no diners. The audience: a friend from work and a man who had a crush on me (note: I later married this guy). I have given "workshops" on the topic of, say, writing tone and style, and had two people show up. I have taught classes of two (who stuck with me after others dropped out). Each time I doggedly went through with it. Slightly sick at heart, but it was my own expectations that did that. This happens at last to everyone. But show up and do your job (or your show). We can control only what we do; we can't control results.