The SCBWI Summer Conference in Los
Angeles is only a few weeks away. I’ve attended this conference every summer since 2009 and it never
ceases to inspire me. Here are a few quotes I’ve collected over the years.
"Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. Let go of the outcome."
"Take care of your writer self." -Gennifer Choldenko
Maybe it’s because I have a three year old, but I’ve been
thinking a lot about pretend play. As a writer, it’s my job to pretend. Day
after day, sitting at my desk, I pretend my characters are real.
I also pretend my writer self does not exist.
Instead of a writer, I think of myself as an actress. I live
in the skin of my protagonist. I dress like her. I eat like her. I talk in her
voice. I keep a journal as if it were hers.
After that, I pick up a new profession. I’m a gardener and I
tend to my words with patience and care. I trim the story where my garden has
overgrown. I pull out weeds and I keep planting new things.
Then, with a first draft in hand, I turn into a surgeon. I
cut open the manuscript with precision and confidence. I use my tools. I ask
for help from other professionals. I remain calm. I finish the job.
Finally, when the writing day is done, I take a bow, dust
off my hands, hang up my white coat, and go back to calling myself a writer.
I should start by saying I’m a neat freak, so
when I receive an editorial letter from my super smart agent, my immediate
reaction is filled with anxiety. I don’t like when things are messy and I want
to hide all of this messiness in the bottom of a trashcan. Honestly, I picture
throwing my manuscript into my blue recycling bin and never looking at it
This, as it turns out, is my work as a writer. To
see that mistakes aren’t really mistakes, instead they are indicators of where
I can dig deeper.
However, as I begin to dig deeper, I feel vulnerable
and because I feel vulnerable, I have a tendency to rush through a rewrite. I
cut out entire scenes with one swipe of the delete key and I quickly write new
scenes just to fill the missing space. This technique does not work for me!
When I rush, I end up with a story that is hollow.
So how do I keep from rushing? The moment I get
an editorial letter, I remind myself I’m grateful for the feedback. Then I step
away from the computer. I let myself feel uncomfortable. And, I wait. I do not
go anywhere near my manuscript! During this waiting period, which usually takes
a few days, the notes begin to move from my head and into my heart.
Here are a few things I tell myself while I’m
I will listen.
I will trust my process.
I will not throw my manuscript in the trash.
I also have this sentence tacked above my desk. I
look at it everyday.