Posts Tagged ‘why I write’
Folks, I’m going to take a time-out on my book promotion activities with regards to CHANGING FACES (if you want a copy, just follow the pages backward and you’ll be able to get one) and talk about one of the things that motivates me, it being Monday and all.
So, without further ado…what motivates Barb Caffrey as a writer?
So many things, actually. I want to tell stories with heart, that matter, that feel real, that have empathy, that maybe shed light on the human condition in new ways…of course, all of that sounds quite profound, doesn’t it?
Really, I write for me.
(Picture my big, evil grin here.)
Seriously. I write for me. I’ve done this since I was small, on and off…I wanted to read stories that I didn’t see anywhere, but knew had power and resonance. And the only way to read those stories, under the circumstances, was to find a way to write them myself.
I think a lot of writers are that way, actually. We have a need to read stories that aren’t out there yet. We get a germ of an idea, and we keep going until the idea is finished.
Yeah, it seems to take me longer than some novelists to finish my ideas. (If I had to judge myself against my friend Chris Nuttall, for example, and how fast he can write a novel, I’d quail at ever writing another word.) But I’m not the only one out there who takes a bit of time with a concept to get it right.
For example, I know two writers very well who have had to take long periods of time to finish a novel, albeit for different reasons. In one case, my friend needed to take time out for health concerns, but she had a third novel in her in a series and she wanted to tell it. It took her a number of extra years to do this, but she didn’t let her health concerns defeat her; in the end, her novel was published, to wide acclaim, and now there is hope that she’ll have a fourth book (or at least novelette) in the series available soon.
In the other, my friend tried for years to get his novel to come clear for him, but for whatever reason it didn’t quite feel right. He published several other things, including a couple of acclaimed short stories and several co-written novels along with some other solo works, but he kept coming back to this particular novel because he needed to tell that story and wanted to get it right. And now, that book is out, and he’s got a contract for a couple more in the series, with readers saying, “More, please…” and not understanding he has a day job.
But I digress.
Or am I?
This is Monday Motivation, after all, and me talking about two of my friends and how they’ve persisted in telling the stories they need to tell does matter. They didn’t give up, and they got out books that readers love, that are helping to build their names and careers, and are continuing on with their efforts to write more stories that they absolutely have a burning need to tell.
Good for them.
I know I have tried to do that, too. The Elfy novels took over ten years to find a publisher, but I didn’t give up. CHANGING FACES went through at least five major revisions and a late-round revision and updating I’ve gone into multiple times in the past year before it finally came out earlier this month, over fourteen years after it was started.
See, if you have a story that is inside you, you have to tell it. Or you aren’t being true to yourself.
So write for you. Tell that story. Don’t give up, no matter how long it takes, nor how many revisions you need to go through, nor even whether it seems like it won’t matter ’cause sales aren’t brisk and you aren’t making a dent.
Do it anyway.
Do it for yourself.
Folks, the above title — “keep trying, no matter what” — is my personal philosophy.
But sometimes it’s much harder to do that than others. When that happens, I have to realize that I’m human, fallible, mortal, all that…and try again the next day, and the day after that. And the day after that, etc.
What’s caused me to write this blog at this time is very simple. I’ve struggled now for about a month with an illness that started as a cold and flared into something akin to bronchitis. My asthma is acting up, and my energy is much lower than it should be.
I try to be positive, as much as I can, but I’m not into this nonsensical “happy happy joy joy” stuff, either. I am a realist. Right now, being a realist, but also being optimistic, means I have to say, “OK, today I can’t do much. But tomorrow, if I am careful, I can do more…so I will be as careful as I can.”
Of course, this isn’t the only thing I’ve got to deal with. I have a number of physical limitations that I deal with daily that I work around, including bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis bad enough in my back and knees that I walk with a cane, and more.
But I get up every day, and I deal with it the best I can. I try to think about what I can do. Not what I can’t. Because thinking about what I can’t do is self-limiting and self-defeating.
And thinking about what I can do is life-affirming. It reminds me that as bad as things can be, as lonely as I am and have been since my husband Michael died, there’s still something I can do that’s creative and fulfilling.
Besides, something in me says about writing, editing, and music, “Yes, you should do it.”
Why? Well, it seems to me that even if the world seems against me, even if no one else seems to care, I have to do what’s inside me or I’m not being my best self.
Why does that matter? Well, as a creative person, I try hard to be my best self. It’s where the words come from, I think…or maybe the music of the words, if my late husband was right. (Michael, as you might recall, believed that I thought music first, and then only translated those musical notes and chords into words. And who am I to say he was wrong, especially as I do compose some music as well?)
I want to be attuned to whatever it is that makes me a creative person. It may not be easy to be creative. (In fact, it’s often as difficult as all get-out.) But I know who I am, and I want to keep doing whatever I can to maximize my talents and abilities the best I can.
So, the journey has been tough. (That I’m still struggling, due to the recent illness, to concentrate well enough to wrap up the last little bits for CHANGING FACES so I can turn it in to my long-suffering publisher and get it placed firmly on the schedule drives me batty, too, I must admit.) It probably will not get much easier, either.
But I will do it. I will get up every day, and keep trying.
No matter what.
See that you do the same.
Folks, this past week was extremely difficult.
Why? Well, part of the story — as per usual — is not mine to tell. What I can tell you is that I had a bad allergic reaction and also had to deal with a family health scare…both are resolving well, but at the time they were both major obstacles.
It’s hard to be motivated, after you’ve been run ragged for a week to ten days. (Yes, even for me — “Mrs. Persistence Herself,” one of my friends snickered a few years back — I sometimes run straight on into a brick wall.) Sometimes, all you can do is rest, think about your stories, and prepare to meet your commitments as soon as you can with a whole heart.
“But Barb,” you say. “I thought CHANGING FACES neared completion. Is that what’s getting you down?”
I want CHANGING FACES to be done. (I wanted it to be done months ago.) But I also want to put out the best quality book I possibly can, well-edited of course, and readable and interesting. (That the subject matter is a bit controversial — dealing with a male/female couple with both ending up transgender due to a fantasy/spiritual element — only adds a bit of spice to the broth.) I hope people of all sexes, genders, races, political persuasions, etc., will read CHANGING FACES and find some truth in it…because my main, overarching message is that people should see souls. Not bodies.
I want CHANGING FACES to read well as a romance, yes. But I also want it to be something people of all sexes and gender expressions can relate to, because most of us, if we’re honest, feel different. Maybe we’re not as different as Elaine is at the start of CHANGING FACES, as we’re not transgender/gender-fluid. (By the way, language is evolving on this issue. In a year or two, it’s very possible people may just say “gender fluid” for someone like Elaine. I hate to have to point this out, but not everyone reads the time/date stamp on blog posts, and some, when you use “inappropriate” or less than up-to-the-minute terminology, jump to conclusions and assume you’re trying to be disrespectful. But that’s another subject for another day.) But we all do have some difference, something that makes us unique and interesting…something that makes us, at least at times, wonder if we will ever be understood by anyone, loved one or no.
It’s all of this that gives me motivation despite an incredibly difficult and taxing week.
I don’t know if the way my mind works is similar to any other writer’s mind on the planet, of course. But my own mind does work this way, and it’s telling me now to do two things:
- Rest, dammit!
- After you’ve rested, get up and work on CHANGING FACES.
So, that’s what I intend to do.
Thanks for staying along for the ride, and do let me know what you think in the comments, if you are so inclined.
Folks, before I forget, I wanted to let you know that author Sally Cronin featured my books A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE and AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE over at her popular and very busy blog, Smorgasbord Invitation, today. She has a series going called “Christmas Grotto,” where she points out books she thinks her readers might like — I couldn’t be happier that she did this. (Thank you so much, Sally!)
Now for the other observations.
This past week was frustrating for me on a personal level, because my computer was down. I was using my mother’s computer during off-hours, so I could maintain a web presence to a degree and also get a little editing done. (I couldn’t do heavy stuff, but at least I could do a little bit to keep myself from going stir-crazy.)
Fortunately, my computer was repaired on Friday afternoon by the good folks over at Milwaukee PC in Sturtevant. (Well, it technically might be Mount Pleasant. Either way.) It came in exactly at the price they told me it would — no surprises — and it got done a little faster than we’d hoped.
But my transitory personal frustration was dwarfed to near-insignificance when I found out about the latest mass shooting in the United States, this time in Southern California. (Since it is my policy not to identify shooters in such events unless I feel them to be mentally deranged to such a degree they might be seen as pitiable figures, I will not be identifying the two known shooters here.) I don’t understand why anyone would shoot and kill fourteen people, wounding twenty-one others, at a holiday party.
There are hints, perhaps many of them, that this mass shooting was caused by people who may have been radicalized by elements of ISIL overseas. I can’t speak to that, but I will say that a shooting at such an innocuous place is scary — which, of course, is exactly what ISIL wants. (Why else take up such a stance in the first place?)
Which brings me back to two subjects — why I write, and why I think reading something funny right now might be in order.
Look. I write because I have stories to tell. (Not just in the Elfyverse, either, though certainly many of my stories have been or will be set there.) Plus, I like to make people laugh. I like to divert people for a little while, so they won’t think so much about their problems.
The two books Sally pointed out to her readers, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, are both funny urban fantasies with romance, some mysterious goings on, and some ghosts. (Hey, when I write a book, I put my all into it.) There’s a lot going on in the Elfy duology, but at its heart it’s a simple love story between two misunderstood teens — Bruno the Elfy, and Sarah his mostly-human girlfriend. They come together because they have common interests, because their minds call to one another — and only after that do their bodies start to call to one another, too.
That is my type of comfort book, which is probably why I wrote it in the first place. (Though trying to psychoanalyze yourself after the fact is an exercise doomed to failure, isn’t it?)
I know I’m proud of my Elfy duology, and I’m glad they are both out there for people to read. I hope during this time of great stress in the world that maybe reading a funny book will help you feel a little better.
Because somehow, we need to remember that life contains good things, too. (Or as my late husband Michael used to put it — “Enjoy yourself, live your life — and spite the bastards.”)