The Fear Of The Red Pen: The Fear Of Submitting (Part I)

 

Image result for red marks on essays

I am of a certain age to remember when all grades were scrawled on notebook paper in fire red ink. I remember turning in papers, essays or other miscellaneous homework with the hope that the spillage of ink on those sacrificed papers would be at a minimum. It would be with deep offense when I would see something that I worked so hard on be bled all over.

If you’re honest, this may be one of the reasons why you shy away from (if not outright avoid) submitting work. To blogs. To websites. Even to starting a blog. It is that fear that someone may not like something that you worked on, poured into may not be suitable to their palette.

I am here to remind you to two things:  criticism and critique are invaluable. Here is why:

 

Criticism. Completely suggestive. Helps to build the vital thing you will need as writer:  THICK SKIN.  There are few rules in writing, and I speak of them often. They relate to spelling, grammar and those related mechanics. These are the unavoidables. These are the things you have to master in order to write or speak any language. They are unavoidable. It is the content where the thick of your problem comes. There are those whom will love, hate–or worse yet–not ‘get’ what you’ve written. Any criticism is good–people are reading your stuff! However, in the threads of this criticism, you cannot allow the negative (even hateful) portions of the criticism to take root in your heart. Not every criticism is meant to break you. Some are meant to improve upon what is already there. Constructive criticism builds! It wants you to be better! Malicious criticism tells you want you cannot do, and may never be equipped to do.

 

Critique. These are similar to criticism, but focus on what is written. Not everything is for everyone. The faith of your talent cannot rest in what other people think of it. As a woman, a writer, and a writer whom is a woman of color, I have faced this more than once–before my skin got thick. I had to remember that what I write isn’t for everyone–and that too has to be okay. It must be okay!

Feedback for writers is and will remain a touchy subject! Stephen King almost didn’t publish Carrie! Anne Rice couldn’t find a market for Interview With A Vampire right off. Langston Hughes contended with his aunt about his writing career. Laurel K. Hamilton when she began writing the Anita Blake series was criticized for her work–about how out the box it is and was.

The point being that writing is what you make it. It is art and craft. It will always be of some contention. Someone somewhere will have something to say about it, not like it, not know how to classify it. They may even hate  your manuscript as what happened to JK Rowling. This cannot stop you. The red ink cannot become a grave or a paralytic!

For the people that don’t dig your stuff, there will be someone that will. That wishes they had something newer, fresher to read. Sometimes writers have to be their own advocates. You have to toughen up, sharpen your skills and above all write.

Write. And by God, keep writing!

 

[image from Google]

 

 

2019 Writing Workshops

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Mark your calendars!

From the success of the Fall 2018 Writing Workshop, there are two workshops planned for the early part of 2019! The first will be in January! The second in late April.  will be a Spring session planned for January 2019! The cost for registration is $25, and will cover the cost of your materials, as well as a copy of the book Bend Blank Pages, Volume 1.

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Payment must be remitted before January 10th, as the January workshop will be January 12.

The venue accommodates 30 people comfortably. You can register for the workshop by emailing your name to sgwritingservices@icloud.com, as well as through Eventbrite by clicking here.

There will be some surprises as well as some giveaways!

For more information about Shekinah Glory Writing Services, follow us on Facebook!

 

 

[image from Px.here]

Why You Need A Beta Reader

There is nothing wrong with having honest feedback.

There is nothing wrong with having someone else look at your work with the sole purpose of feedback.

Beta Readers are the secret weapon in any writers’ tool kit. This army of your own enlisting help you to weed out what works, what’s boring and what you need more of. The best analogy I can give comes from a process my grandmother did while baking.

When she would bake cakes or pies, she would make what she called a test cake. When she would do this, she would like a few taste the cake. The purpose of the process was to figure out if the cake needed anything added or taken away: more sugar, less vanilla, don’t cook it so long.

It was the feedback coupled with her expertise made what she created all the greater!

The same is said for beta readers! These people are the secret ingredient to what you need to make your work–before the prices of editing!–as reader desirable as it can be.

A good rule of thumb is after a draft is complete is have a small group of readers (friends, family, classmates) to look over your work purely for feedback! You can do the mechanics and other clean up later.

As Nora Roberts said, “You can’t edit a blank page.”

[images from guardian.ng and findbetareaders.com]

Submit Or Not To Submit: Do You Dare?

Image result for submitting work to a publisher

 

There is something to be said about writing, and then letting other people read that same writing.  This brings me to the subject of submitting your work.

Hold on. Let me get the smelling salts.

Get off the floor.

Remember, I’m hear to help.

Writing is a great hobby, and is also a competitive sport. The idea of sending off a thought to someone else to get validation (or publication) is horrifying. It’s horrifying thinking someone can read what you have researched, conjured and written–and with a blink call it nothing.

There is so much that goes into writing that submission seems like that last thing on your mind. It seems the scariest thing is to let someone else read your work! However, let me help you again.

Two things:

1.) Writing is a craft, art and a profession.

2.) On some level, all writing is subjective.

 

This means there is an  audience for your work, and you have to find it. And if there is n audience, they deserve to read it. They deserve to read your genius, your suspicions and your recorded joys. Someone wants to see it. What you must confront is why you won’t let anyone to read what you’ve created.

There are things you may be working on that no one may ever see. There may be things you are working on where you may just need the confidence to allow it to be seen. Writers can be some of the biggest control freaks on the planet! We want everything to be perfect. From grammar. To syntax. To content. Asking a writer to submit something?

Man. From writer to writer? It’s hard.

It’s hard enough to be a writer. Having a writer give glimpses to their work? Monumental. It doesn’t make you less of a writer if you don’t submit your work. It doesn’t make you an elitist as a writer to have your work submitted and published!

There is no grand moral. No shaming. No swift kick in your writer’s butt.  I leave you with encouragement. Keep writing, dear ones. The first audience is you, the next is the world.

 

[image from Google]

 

 

For My Grandmother, Arceal Williams

Today, this morning marks 5 years since my grandmother has passed. Here is what I would want:

I want to go over her house today at 4221 Prairie Avenue, with the swinging gate that creaks. I want dogs to be barking as soon as the gate shuts with a metal clanging protest. I want to walk up the brick walkway—looking at the lush magnolia tree. I want to talk up the gray stairs to her front porch. I want to knock on her front door with the ‘family knock.’

I want her to open the door without her walker, glasses and eyes bright. Her gray hair pulled back. I want the smells of Lysol baptized floors to greet me. “What made you come by!” I want to kiss her cheek, clean and smelling of Nadiola cream. I want to smile at her, betraying nothing. “I just wanted to see you.”

I want to sit in her front room, on that same cream colored couch, inviting and warm. “Did you eat?” I smile, stomach rumbling. “No ma’am.” I want her to laugh loud, her drawl evident and soothing. “Come getchu something den!”

I want a plate she’s make me; making me full with her presence, strong with her whit, ready with her strength. “What’s been goin on baby?” I want to kiss her face again with the plate of leftovers in front of me on her dark oak table. She would sit across from me, snapping beans or wiping counters. Bleach and lemons steadying me.

I want to tell her I’m writing. I want her to know I took her advice. I want her to know the girls want to know how to sew in the Spring. “That’s good, Jennifer.” She never did call me Jenn. “Grandma, I finished my first novel!” I want to drink her sweet tea, watching her reaction. “I knew you could do it! You was always so pretty and smart!” I want to study her favorite red house dress. The paisley pattern making her look more regal than I ever thought. Her hair coifed and short. Her hand would be on her hip. She would look at me, giving me future and past. The one standing as the ten-thousand Maya Angelou spoke of.

As I finished my plate, she’s come close to me and just hug me. She was never one for words. But in her love, in that embrace, her love would soothe the jagged parts. The parts that wonder how, why and keep me dreaming. “So proud of you, Jennifer. And bring me a copy of all those books to put in the China cabinet.”

I would hug her back, “Yes ma’am.” I’d squeeze her once more. I’d help clean up, and she’d tell me how I’m not doing it quite right. I’d ask if she needed anything. She’d lie and say no. Fiercely independent at almost 90. Don’t wait so long to come by!” She’d pat my hand, kissing it. “I’ll see you later, Grandma.” I’d say. She would smile at me, and I’d hug her again, going towards the front door. Leaving the solace of her warm green kitchen, the sleeping watch dogs to go face the world again.

*Note: This image was taken on the actual front porch of my grandmother’s house here in St. Louis, MO. It was also used for the cover of my book, WriteLife. If you would like to purchase a copy, click here.

The Eerie Infinity: Is It The Death Of Words?

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Genre. Troupes. Ideal. Retellings. Protag. Antag. Plot.

Falling action. Rising action. Climaxes.

It can be utterly maddening and terrifying to be a writer. There are so  many opposing forces at work which would drive you to burn everything in your immediate vicinity which would would lend yourself to writing!

There are certain things about writing which indeed are immutable. Grammar. Spelling. Syntax. Punctuation. Spacing. Margins. Just like with breaking the fourth wall, it can feel sometimes as if writing is less an exercise in creativity and more like a practice in regurgitation. It can be scary to go into a traditional genre, or specific character troupe and feel that you cannot draw an audience.

From that doubt, it is easy (or even expected) that here is where you quit. Here is where you decide whether or not you will trust your talent and imagination. Here is where you will be told that you don’t have what it takes to write, to pursue this as a career. Or, as Anne Rice was told,

“What makes you think you be a writer?”

Let me tell you, it is this fear that kills writers. It rips words and will out of you…giving nothing back.

As a writer, as an editor, I cannot prevent this from happening to you. This is the fear every writer, everyone that desires to write must overcome.

 

Word by word. Letter by letter. Thought by thought. Contend with the doubt, so that you may know it, and overcome it.

 

[Image from Google]

Trying To Break The Fourth Wall

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The trippy thing about writing is when you get sucked into you own worlds.

 

Has this happened to you? I know it has, at least once. In the creating of a story, mastering of a world, you will be sucked in. That’s how you know it’s good. This is the thing you do with a good book–when you have to orient yourself to where you are or even when you are.

This is the goal. This is the high. This is why we write.

This is the fourth wall.

 

Being able to bring the readers into something you have created is beyond amazing. It is a testimony to power, skill and crafting of your story. Margaret Atwood describes it this way in her MasterClass. She says the goal of writing any story is to keep the attention of the reader. Then she gives this saged wisdom. She reminds her pupils that you want to keep the reader enthralled, engaged in a story–‘even though you both know its fiction.’

This is breaking the wall. This is what we all strive for. To be lost in a world you have created…and leave the door open for other people to follow behind you…even when they don’t know what happens.

 

 

[image from Fight Club]

When The Dam Won’t Break

There is nothing more stressful to see the words in your head and can’t get them to your hands. Don’t confuse this with writer’s block. This is what I call The Hitch.

The Hitch differs from Writer’s Block in one way:  accessibility.

Writer’s Block is the drought; there is a drought. There are no words.

The Hitch is when there are words, and somehow, someway, there are none.

Think of it in the case or form of the above image. The water is representative of the writing talent, the mastery of words as it were. Sometimes in all our rush to create, we don’t take time to listen to what the waters of talent are saying. We don’t pay attention to whether this is a drought or a hitch.

The Hitches I fear more than Writer’s Block. Why? You can almost explain it or explain it away if necessary. The Hitches are assassins. They rob you of cohesion to thought, creative insight and mock you when you try push through.

The Hitches are imps of the creative process.

In including this quote from Stephen King, it is your inoculation against The Hitch. It acknowledges, and identifies yourself as you are:  a writer. A slayer of words and pages. You have worlds to create and people to direct! You must break the dam!

This is done by confronting whatever it may be that has stopped you from going forward. This can be defined by three topics:

  • Fear
  • Doubt
  • Exposure

 

Fear. Margaret Atwood says fear comes to writers because we indeed are afraid of something. What are you scared of? The worst thing that could happen is either people not read what you wrote, or they read everything you wrote.

 

Doubt. This rears its ugly head when you think what you  are creating isn’t good enough, or not worth your time because ‘someone else wrote it.’ This may be true, but you haven’t done it! You haven’t created it. The people in your head haven’t lived it! Let the people in your head out!

 

 

Exposure. There are things, stories, appetites that writers roll around which may be alien to what you may be used to writing. That linguistic trepidation  is normal. The choice then becomes–will you chase after the thoughts? Will you indulge the strength of your imagination? I’ll give you a hint:  YES. This is the beauty of a free write and other writing tools in your tool kit.  You can write down what is in your head–and never show it to another living person. Then, when you are ready, you can take that file or those pages and make an entire world. Which people will read.

 

Your blank pages are waiting on you. Don’t keep them waiting long.

 

 

[images from Google; screenshot from YouTube Channel, BioGraphics]

From The Crates

LEAVING:

(c) October 2015 JPHarris

The voices are aging. The forebarers that lit the path through the igniting of thought are leaving towards the same light that sent them.

In contemplation, I find myself going to these people: my mother Bessie Bush, Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. It was my mother whom introduced me to the worlds books hold, and the solace they provide. In my darkest moments, she would ask me, “Are you still writing?” I would answer her as my situation dictated. I recognize there will be a day where I will no longer have benefit of her voice on the other end of a phone. Despite past contention, she has been graced to be my mother. I will need her until the Lord will need her Home. I thank her for being my mother when it would be easier not to be.

Anyone that knows me understands my love for the other 2 aforementioned women. With the nation losing our grandmother Oracle in Maya, I grappled with that sense of loss-I have enjoyed her work since age 9 when my mother gave me her copy of I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS. All we, yes we, have left of her, is what she left: her letter and voice.

Toni Morrison is 84. The same age as my grandmother whom would be 86 this year. I found Toni Morrison in high school and was rapt with her tone and description of anything. I knew then, this gift of words and being a writer, was indeed a craft. Indeed a craft. There will too be a day where the world will only have her letter…and voice.

The Word of God says “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” In this space, I commit these intangibles back to Him seeing as He is the giver of all good gifts. In that process, in the beginning of the becoming and faith in its end, I believe a portion of my legacy will be left to treasure in letter and voice.

See mom, I am still writing.

When The Paper Is Empty

Think of writing as an ocean, ebbing and flowing. There are times where there is a lull in writing. There is a time where the words aren’t coming or won’t come.

The paper or screen lays there like a blank, whitewashed catacomb. It is the scariest thing to a writer. It’s not writer’s block. It’s a quiet, the lull…the ocean moving away from the shore.

The ocean is your talent, gift, the ability to create with pen and paper. The shore is the connection of idea, talent and availability. Creativity flows in cycles be seasons. There are times when the flow is seamless and writing is easy.

The tidal waves are what I live for! The ideas that flow and crash. The ideas that come out of nowhere and everywhere! There is the calm, soothing waves after you finish a work.

But the lulls? As hard as that is, they are scary and quiet. They are these desolate places where you try and push back to the shore. And if enough time has passed, you look for the shore. You look for anything that has life to it or shows life on that shore.

The scarier part still, during this lull, you think you may never get back to it.

Fight the lulls! You do that with rest, time and learning to swim, as it were. Not everything is a novel, or a blog post. Some things are just meant to be noted. Recorded. What you catch during the lulls crafts your ship, which will always take you back to shore.

Sometimes, you have to tread water…even in the ocean. What you catch will keep you afloat.

[Image screenshot from YouTube Channel, BioGraphics]