It’s a Long Way …

Every couple of weeks, Mrs. Blackwelder and I take the Young Blackwelders to the library.  YB One is a competitive reader and generally tries to make sure there is no middle grade fiction left on the shelves for anyone else.  She shoves armloads of books into cloth shopping bags to see if she can make them bust open at the seams.  Seriously.  I’ve seen her sweep a seven-book series off the shelf directly into her bag.  While she preps for binge reading, I generally pick through the 808.xx to see if there are any writing books that catch my eye.

I read a lot of writing books in my quest for the elusive DIY MFA.  I find myself reading far more non-fiction books than fiction.  At times, this makes me a little sad.  I used to be like my daughter and grab anything I could find and get lost in those worlds.  Now, I read fiction for the same reasons I read non-fiction — to help learn craft.  Gone are the days of reading strictly for pleasure.  Maybe someday, but not where I’m at right now.

I skim most of the non-fiction books and quickly put them in the return pile, but one caught me up short recently.  Maybe it was where I was at emotionally. Maybe it was just good.  It made me cry.  Full on tears-streaming-down-cheeks crying.  I didn’t hit the blubbering stage, but it was definitely beyond the manly, stoic I’ve-got-something-in-my-eye cry.   The book is Seven Steps on a Writer’s Path by Nancy Pickard.  This is not a book that gives helpful, vague writing tips that I’ll never really understand. This book is full-on self help for writers.  If you’re feeling down or alone or in a creative funk, give this one a read.

I’m not going to go into all seven steps, but I did want to touch on Step Four: Wavering.  On Page 103, Ms. Pickard says:

Wavering tends to arrive when it’s least expected and least welcome. Certainly, you’d never willingly invite it, but surprise, here it is. Such as when you’re forty pages into a book and you thought it was going to be smooth sailing from here on out, but now you’re stuck. Or like when you’ve submitted your poems to magazines and you’re feeling really good and hopeful about them–and the rejection letters start coming in. Or like when you’ve arranged to write for a couple of hours every day, and then other responsibilities crop up, just when you thought you had them beat down.

I’ve run into every one of these so far, and I bet some of you have too.  I would like to add one to the list: Or like when you’re beta reading a friend’s manuscript and it’s so damn good you want to stop writing.  The humor is spot on and the author has a marvelous sense of his own voice and you know you’re not this good and maybe won’t ever be this good. Yeah.  That.  I’m looking at you Shannon.

This is going to date me, but the 1989 Gin Blossom’s song Hey Jealousy has been running on a loop in my head for the past few days.  “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.” I’ve been blocked and haven’t been doing much useful writing because of my own stupid, fragile ego.  Had I been more self aware, I would have recognized it sooner.  Mrs. Blackwelder helped me see it and, now that I’ve identified it, I can let it go.  I love my writer’s group and I know that their successes have already inspired me to push myself and do more.  Which just happens to be Step Five on the writer’s path–Letting Go.

Rather than letting that Disney song loose in my head, I’ve decided to close with a little AC/DC.

I tell you folks
It’s harder than it looks
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll
It’s a long way to the top
If you wanna rock ‘n’ roll


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