Today I am hosting author Donna Russo Morin who writes historical novels for Kensignton. She has some great advice for aspiring (and published!) authors!
Make No Excuses; Take No Prisoners
Since becoming a published author, the tables have turned, and I’m often asked for advice from unpublished authors. My first tendency is to answer them as I would when one of my sons comes to me, weighed down by the challenges in their life…I want to encourage and motivate, I want to tell them anything is possible if you work hard enough and believe in yourself. All of which is true, but it’s not the whole story.
Writing (or for that matter anything in the arts) is unlike most other professions; it’s the thing we do while we’re doing something else. Some of modern day’s best sellers were doing something else while they wrote those first books…Stephen King and Dan Brown were teachers, John Grisham was a lawyer, and Mary Higgins Clark was a widow with five children who worked in radio.
And there in lies the rub. It becomes so easy to make excuses for not writing…my day job wore me out, the kids needed too much of my time, the house was a mess, the laundry, my parents, the lawn…on and on and on the list can go. And for most of us, there are often real hardships that crop up through the course of life; few are ever spared.
So my kids have gotten a bit older (20 and almost 17) and I now tell them what I’m about to tell you…get over it and work.
(I laugh a little as I write this. As the author of historical fiction, my ‘voice’ tends to be very formal and yet here I am spouting sage advice with the cutting edge of a hunting knife. But it is a chance for me to be nakedly honest, and I’m shedding my clothes with grateful abandon.)
If writing is the thing you need to do; if the longing to do it eats away at you like the lust for that one lover who haunts your dreams day and night, then get over whatever may lie in the path between you, and do the work.
While writing my first published novel, The Courtier’s Secret, my father was dying from cancer and I had just been diagnosed with Lyme disease after a two and a half year battle with undiagnosed pain and fatigue. I wrote my current release, The Secret of the Glass, while my twenty year marriage was falling apart and my condition had become a chronic auto-immune disease. And I’ve just completed the first draft of next year’s release, To Serve a King, during one of the nastiest divorces imaginable.
It was in these last few months that I actually wondered if I could write anymore. Though I have been writing since grade school, the harshness of the divorce made me hollow, perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a writer. Unlike a nine-to-five job, a writer needs their heart and soul to put word on paper, and I feared mine were lost. I had become prisoner to my own sadness and self-doubt. But I was under contract and had no time to wallow in my own dark self-pity.
On January 6 of this year, I took to my keyboard and forced myself to write. As of yesterday, the first draft of the 110,000 word novel is complete and I am thrilled with what I’ve produced. Yes, there is a bit of my angst on many of the pages, but it works. And most of all, I kicked the excuses to the curb, and released myself as prisoner.
If writing flows in your veins like your life’s blood, then let the laundry pile up, let the lawn grow, let the house fester with dust, and write. If like so many, life has thrown down gauntlets of hardship, then put them in your work, allow whatever emotion you may be suffering to add depth to your characters and their own pain and hardships. Set yourself a firm schedule of when you’re going to write—even if it’s only Friday night from 8:00 to 9:00. Give yourself that gift; silence the excuses, release the prisoner, and write.
Thank you so much for such a great post Donna! I agree with you. There will always be something! I was gping through various hardship while competing for the American Title and I forced myself to just “do it!” Everyday, willing away the negativity to focus on the task at hand. There is always something! But writers write!
For more information on Donna’s life and work, and for excerpts, please visit her website, www.donnarussomorin.com. Donna’s books are available at all major and independent bookstores and at all online outlets. And make a new friend on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/Donna.Russo.Morin?ref=profile.