This interview of Encouragement is especially meaningful to me because one of my favorite authors, Kathleen Duey, has given us her personal insights into handling discouragement as a writer. Kathleen is the author of over 70 b00ks for ages k-YA. This is a gal who has faced the dragons of defeat and fought them head on! She's my hero!!!!
Here, exclusively at Christy's Creative Space, she gives encouragement to writers both published and unpublished based on her years of experience. I hope you get as much out of her words of wisdom as I have. Since I've been researching Unicorns recently, I thought Kathleen would be a great person to interview since she has written a popular series about Unicorns, starting with "Moonsilver" which I will review in the near future.
1. Do you have a favorite saying, quote, or poem that inspires you during times of discouragement?
Quotes , wise sayings, and favorite poems make me smile, laugh, cry, and often touch me deeply, but they don’t help me write when I am discouraged. I have learned to go outside and do something physically exhausting instead of staring at the screen. I put a digital recorder in my pocket when I pick up my garden shovel because once I get out of my head and into my body, ideas always come, characters always talk, and when the chores are done (or sooner, if the ideas are breathless and urgent) I can always write. On bad weather days, I dance to loud music, indoors.
2. Do you have a story about discouragement in your own writing career?
It seems to me that discouragement is a common resting state for most writers. If we work hard, don’t quit, and get lucky, it alternates with wild and glorious writing-fever, joy when a book is acquired, praised…then we start over. Do I have a personal story of discouragement? No. I have a gazillion. So let’s talk about a story in progress:
One of my current works is the third version of something an editor I love is interested in. I was SO sure I had nailed it in both versions one and two. The editor was kind enough to give me some phone time. Talking to her, I finally realized that the parts of the project that tickled her were sidelights for me—and the core inspiration/heart of the thing for me was the “too introspective, less broad-appeal/less commercial” part for her. She wants MUCH more humor. She had said that very clearly, both times. I just wasn’t listening very well. Her last words (via an email) were: “Remember: have fun!”
Day one: Loop tape in my head: Am I capable of writing the kind of humor she wants?
Day two: Loop tape in my head: Seriously. Am I capable of writing anything anyone would want?
Day three: I loved the original version, inspired by immigrant kids I know. That was the heart/mind grounding of the story. The spark. And it had a lot of humor in it. Or so I thought. Can I even TELL what’s funny?
Day four: Maybe the truth is I really can’t write humor very well.
Day five: Maybe the truth is I can’t write humor AT ALL.
Night five: Maybe I didn’t do my homework? Wouldn’t be the first time.
Day six: I reread several very funny books for the age group that have done well in the marketplace. I suddenly saw my revisions as the flimsy compromise/ hybrids/ they were. I had added token humor to please the editor, not the child-reader—or me.
Day seven: The discouragement began to lift because I had identified the problem. It was a HUGE one, but at least I saw it clearly. I used Amazon to read the available pages of a few dozen more best-selling funny books for the age group.
Day eight: I wrote a big, multi colored sticky note that summarized what I had learned: “Self-absorbed characters are usually funnier. If they aren’t inappropriately confident, kind of oblivious, and impervious to real growth, we can’t laugh without guilt.”
Day nine: I began to write down concepts for the next version.
Day ten: I began to hope that I really can nail it this time.
Day eleven onward: I am working on it as much as I can while writing another book. I THINK it is really funny now.
3) What words of encouragement do you have for people who have yet to publish their first manuscript?
Almost nothing is fun until you get good at it and that takes time. Writing is an art, like painting, like playing the violin. Expect a long learning curve and know that it is typical. We all struggle with the elements of writing. We all wrestle words into place, fight with a tough scene for days. We all stare at blank screens, blank paper, the blank face in the mirror and know, beyond all doubt, that we can’t write, then three days later we give ourselves goose bumps writing a scene that resonates in our hearts. Persistence and Patience are your best friends, talk to them often, stay in touch.
4) What words of encouragement do you have for those who are published yet are seeking further publication?
Every writer is seeking further publication, I think. I certainly am. Learning to deal with the gaps and occasional failures and the W. A. I. T. I. N. G…… is just part of the job description. I am not saying it’s easy, I’m saying it’s inescapable and that you will get better at it with practice. Try to always be expanding your skills, experimenting, fiddling with ideas and techniques.
For me, the very best cure for discouragement is to write, to re-discover the exhilaration and of the art and craft itself, to remember how wondrous it is to take thin air and weave a story from it. On my worst days I remind myself that I am part of an ancient, disorganized guild of artists, a scattered and various tribe of people who have always bared their hearts, and by doing so, bared everyone’s hearts. We do something basic, pivotal, essentially human, something that is both loved and needed by everyone. Most days, remembering that is enough to help me nudge discouragement aside and get back to work.
Thank you so much, Kathleen, for taking this time to give us words of encouragement. I love that you find inspiration in living life and dancing. It's also great to know that even the "GREATS" like you, question themselves. It give me hope! :0)
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