Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Best of Seekerville from the Archives and First Five Pages Critique

What's Going On in Her Head? by Mary Connealy

One of my standard pieces of advice for aspiring writers is:

There are two parts of being a writer

1) The ability to sit, alone, for long periods of time, behind a computer, makin' stuff up.
2) The craft. All the skills you need to write a good book.

Now the SECOND part is huge and at Seekerville we’ve been writing blog posts in large part about that for almost three years now, THAT’S HOW HUGE IT IS.

But the thing is, you can LEARN the second part. The FIRST part though, that’s different. I think you’re either born with that or you’re not.

My mom is a really talented pianist. She’s the organist in our church. And she tried so HARD to get all of her eight children to play the piano. NO LUCK. The thing I’ve noticed about my mom is, she LOVES playing the piano. She loves it. I think people with a gift for something almost always, also have a love for it. My mom talks about how she loved to practice the piano when she was a kid.

I hated it. Poor mom.

But I love writing.

I’m so delighted that someone is willing to pay me to do it because I can’t seem to stop. I think, if all my writing contracts dried up, I’d probably still write for the rest of my life.

When people are frustrated and heartbroken and crazed because they can’t get a book published I tell them if it hurts that bad then QUIT. Just quit. Why put yourself through it? The bottom line is: Quit if you can.

Most writers can’t.

I’ve been thinking (always dangerous) about what exactly goes on in the head of a writer.
The Seekers and those who hang around here, we are all different from each other.

Some have jobs outside the home. We have city and country, metropolis and small town. Young and old. (well not THAT old, c’mon!) We have different churches, little kids, grown children, grandchildren, different number of children. Some of us have nice houses, some live in a mold-riddled, rodent infested, drafty, 90-year-old ranch house from which there is no escape (no, I’m not bitter!)
But there’s a common thread.

Writing.

So what makes a writer different than a . . . let’s go ahead and say the word shall we?...NORMAL person?

Since the denizens of Seekerville are for the most part writers, I want to spend today asking, "What makes a writer a writer?"

I really consider myself an almost completely (and boringly) normal person. I mean a REGULAR person. By that I mean, no great trauma in my childhood. Nice parents. I’m from a huge family, true there were eight brothers and sisters, but that’s pretty typical really for a baby boom era family. I’ve never had a life threatening accident or illness. Good health. I’ve got four really lovely children. A nice husband—(well maybe not during the busy season, but that’s another post altogether). Only ONE husband. We’re neither rich nor poor. I’ve never come close to starving to death (refer to my alarmingly OVAL shape as proof).

But I like to sit behind a computer and make up stories.

I don’t just like it. I LOVE it. It’s really fun. Honestly, think about it. Almost all the PAIN of writing comes from the PUBLISHING end of it. The writing is fun, it's getting published, pitching to editors, attending conferences WAY outside your comfort zone. The dreaded public speaking. The editor directed revisions, deadlines, marketing, obsessing over sales, will I get another contract.

All of that is fraught with pain.

But the WRITING, that's just fun.

I did it for ten years before I got my first book published. I was typing away before we had internet at the house. Before I discovered writer’s organizations or writer's contests or critique groups. Before the Seekers.

Those years when I labored along in mole-like anonymity, what made me do that? I mean I can sort of remember what caused me to start writing, what made me type, “It was a dark and stormy night. . .” for the first time. But why did I stick with it?



I think there is only one reason. I love it.



I like my own company (Why not? I have plenty of imaginary friends).
I am a day dreamer.
I am, despite the way I act online, extremely shy. I have it under control. I recognize it and overrule my knee jerk withdraw reflex, but it’s there. I’m just perfectly content behind my computer. ALONE!

I think that’s NOT normal. Is it? Someone please answer.

But it feels normal to me.
A lot of writers talk about ‘people watching’. Sitting and watching the world go by and getting character ideas from that.

Not me.

I’m tuned out most of the time. I'm living inside my head.

I think it might be at least somewhat a learning disability and I ’m not kidding about that. I have some strange glitch in my short term memory.

I can be asked to do something, for example, by my husband, “Can you turn the water off in the cattle tank in about an hour?”

“Sure.”

Husband:“You’re not going to remember.”

“True.”

He writes it down, on the bathroom mirror. When next I am in there, OOPS. Cattle waterer.
It's completely gone until then. But when I see the note I remember he asked.

That's not right.

Glitch.

It’s just how I am. Things bounce off my memory and I can actually almost PHYSICALLY feel things when they click over into my long term memory at which point I'm going to remember to go somewhere, do something, mail something, buy something, without making a note of it and sticking that note somewhere I will be sure to see it. (I totally get Sarah Palin writing things on her hand btw. To me it's a survival skill)

Is the learning disability a factor? Maybe my mind is uncluttered with useless information like

YOU HAVE A DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT!


Shyness--short term memory hard-wiring failure--daydreamer?

What is the common denominator between us?

What makes a writer a writer?



Mary Connealy writes romantic comedy with cowboys. She is a Christy Award Finalist, a Carol Award Finalist and an IRCC Award finalist. She is also a 2011 RITA finalist.







This post first appeared in Seekerville September 6, 2010.



Don't forget...

Today is the last day to be considered for our weekly critique.
More info here.

27 comments :

  1. Can't wait to hear more from New York!

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  2. We must be the same kind of "normal" Mary. I would much rather be at home by myself in front of the computer than anywhere else.

    It's not that I'm anti-social, I'm just lots of fun to be with and nobody gets me like I do.

    Just started my first real romance novel today for Camp NaNoWriMo and would love, love, love to get a critique on the first five pages.

    I'm targeting Love Inspired, so I know you ladies could tell me if I'm headed in the right direction.

    See ya around Seekerville!

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  3. I have that same memory glitch. Last night my husband asked me to fix him something to eat. I put water on to boil, then cleaned and reset the coffee maker (which turns itself on 10 minutes before my alarm goes off). I tootled around for a few more minutes, then decided to go in the living room and curl up on the couch to watch TV. Just as I got comfortable, Hubby looked up at me and said, "What about that food?" I realized I had never put anything in that boiling water. Sheesh! I've yet to figure out the trigger that will help me remember things like that.

    An old friend says, "I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter. I get here and wonder what I'm here after." ;)

    This is a great post.

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  4. Cows need water?

    Who knew?

    Mary, I love this as much today as last year, because it's true. The common denominator (because we're ALL SO STINKIN' DIFFERENT) is that we love it....

    AND:

    We don't quit.

    Like you, if no one else ever wanted my stuff for hire, I'd still write. It's what I do. What I've always wanted to do.

    Hey, tell us about the Rita/GH ceremony, gals!!!! Let's hear it!

    Coffee's ready. French Toast breakfast with fruit topping or maple syrup. Sweet rolls from the Jewish bakery on the east side. And cupcakes from the Magnolia bakery in Manhattan.

    Grab some food and we'll finish up this Big Apple week in fine style!

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  5. I thought cows just drank from ponds..and ate grass for food. guess it's a good thing I don't have any cows..well not unless I count the freezer. ONe of my uncles had them for years - used to go out to the farm to count them - still not sure why he kept counting them - not like they were going anywhere with a barbed wire fence. I think he just wanted to get away from the house! That's what Joann's and Hobby Lobby are for!

    Susanna

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  6. I laughed my way through your post. I think I fit in the same category. I am just getting started in the "business" end of writing but I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. So far I have short stories published, but I'm getting closer to having my book represented. I agree with the money angle. It will be nice to get paid to write, but I do it anyway. I can't help it.

    Just wanted to say "Thanks!" to Seekerville for all the tips and encouragement. It's a great place to be!

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  7. Congratulations to all the winners and finalists!

    http://www.rwa.org/cs/2011_RITA_GH_winners

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  8. Great post, Mary (hmmm...I must've missed it the first time around). ~ Looking forward to more news from New York!
    Blessings from Georgia (where the temps are UP and my air conditioner is sick...), Patti Jo

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  9. Patti Jo!!!!

    Ohhhhhh.

    Sorry. Here. Have some sweet tea, Schnookums. NYC must be sleeping in or dashing to airports.

    Slackers, the lot of 'em! :)

    I could send a really hot, hot, hot HAC guy your way. I am a romance writer, after all.

    Or come here and help me clean the attic.

    Naw.

    First option's waaaaay better.

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  10. I must have short-term AND long-term memory loss, because I don't even remember READING this the first time around!!!

    Oh my!

    I could have written this myself, down to the "turn off the water in about an hour".

    It's our hubbys' faults, Mary! Nothing to do with US!

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  11. Writers write.

    And go to writers conferences.

    Hope you are having a blast!!!!!!!!

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  12. Writers write.

    And go to writers conferences.

    Hope you are having a blast!!!!!!!!

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  13. Your normal is my normal, Mary. LOL! Memory? My family has been writing things down for me to remember to do for them for YEARS! I can relate to that waterer thing. Our critters have looked for higher ground MANY times.

    They (my family AND the critters) still love me. That's the important thing.

    I attribute it to living in multiple worlds at the same time.

    Do you think a normal person could do that??

    I like to think not.

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  14. Andrea, I'm laughing over the boiling water thing. Back in the day when you boiled bottle nipples to sterilize them -- do they still do that? -- I'd set them in the pot to boil and completely forget about them until the smoke alarm reminded me.

    I used to attribute my awful memory to the having-baby- hormones-syndrome......that's been many years ago. Don't think that excuse still holds water, LOL!

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  15. Loved this time just as much as the first time I read it.

    Please enter me into the 5 page critique.

    Connie

    bcountryqueen6 at msn dot com

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  16. While I was reading Mary's post, my dear husband came in the room and said, "We need more almonds" and left. He should know better. I hope he remembers when we get to the store...

    The sitting behind the computer making stuff up thing? It's addicting, isn't it? I lay in bed at night wishing it was morning so I could do it. When the laundry needs to be changed or the dogs let outside I drag myself away, even though I know I need that short break. All of my routines are out the window, all the chores neglected, just because of my addiction.

    I know I can share this with all of you because you won't try an intervention...

    Thanks for breakfast, Ruthy. You come up with the best menus! And if I were there I'd help clean out the attic. After all, who knows what you'll find there?

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  17. I love this post. I felt my jaw drop thinking, Wow, I figured I was the only one! Glad to know I'm not. :)

    I'd love to be considered for the critique. I've never had anyone look at my work outside of family and it's probably time I face my fears and find out what someone else thinks.

    Thanks so much for the post, Mary.

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  18. Well Mary, if you 'aren't right', than neither am I! :) Although it sounds like a lot of us have the same malady. :)

    I laughed when I read this, because I just told my husband no more than five minutes ago that "I can't not write." We were discussing balance for the summer while our youngest son is helping with camps, etc. Working on cleaning up the house vs. spending time at the computer.... I'm going to try and get some things cleaned up but know too, I've gotta write!

    As for the short term memory thing, my guys are constantly teasing me about that...at least I think they are! Ha! Ha!

    Hope you're having a great time.

    Blessings,
    Jodie Wolfe

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  19. Jan:

    One dead mouse. Mostly flat.

    Old yearbooks. (they were kind of flat, too)

    A HUGE box of medals, ribbons, Varsity letters, etc... With spiders.

    Derek Jeter Starting Line-up Guy.

    Another mouse, VERY DRY, possibly prehistoric.

    4 empty containers of mouse poison. Which means more funerals.

    I think I saw an episode of House about a woman who got sick from inhaling mouse droppings dust...

    If I come down with a serious and mysterious illness soon, remember the attic and tell the medics, okay?

    Pictures. How can one attic have so many pictures????

    If dust mites created a kingdom with birds, which would take over the world?

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  20. What a fun, DELIGHTFUL, SO true post! Giggled all the way through. THANKS Mary!

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  21. I am in Philly...home Sunday. Much fewer people here. Wonderful.

    Absolutely wonderful.

    New York was like the end of a concert when everyone tries to get out the narrow doors at the same time. Every day it was like this. How do poor natives stand tourist season??

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  22. Hi. Home from New York. I put more pictures up on Facebook.
    It's so QUIET here.
    I got to see my Seeker Sisters.
    I tried to talk my husband into a romantic ride around Central Park in a horse drawn carriage.
    He said, "Horses smell terrible."

    This is an occupational hazard of being married to a rancher. The thrill of horses and cattle are pretty much gone.

    Wonderful time.
    So nice to be home.
    What a huge city. Just overwhelming.

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  23. So glad to see the weary travellers trickling back in!

    We missed you guys!

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  24. I enjoyed reading your thoughts! For me it was a good way to check myself...do I really love writing? Am I passionate enough about it to keep moving forward and keep doing it even if I never get published? Considering I started writing stories as a child and have always had some sort of story floating around in my head since then (I'm a daydreamer, too : )), I would answer yes! It felt good to realize that. : ) Glad you had fun in NY! Blessings~Stacey

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  25. I'm a little too familiar with all this forgetting stuff, too. Though I can tell you the make, model, and license plate number of my dad's car when I was a kid. I may or may not know that about the car sitting in my own driveway.

    I tell my hubby I use his brain as a flash drive (no comments...). There's a limited amount of RAM in my own brain, and I 'need' to store that old license plate, so anything that I probably won't need if hubby isn't around, I just store in his brain. This includes tree and bird identification, just for starters.

    I, too, can audibly hear the click when some bit of trivia lands in long-term storage.

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  26. I never knew I was an introvert until I started writing at age 30. Until then I wondered why big groups of friends wore me out and why my friendships got fewer and fewer as I got older. I finally discovered I could not handle well large groups of friends and writing. I preferred being alone and working with words to going out. So glad to know others feel the same way. Keep writing, Everyone!

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