What Do You Do When No One’s Looking?

Post Date: June 2nd, 2011

“Champions are made when no one is looking… To me it means that if you want to excel, you have to do a lot on your own, outside the limelight. Over the years, I have learned how to work away from everyone else.”
–Justin Smith, NCAA championship golfer

Don’t call yourself “writer” if you ain’t writing new stuff or destroying old stuff in the quiet of your room and the chaos of your brain.

It’s easy to think writing is editing fully-formed pages, fanned out before an impressed audience that never believed you’d write that book. It’s easy to think that writing is submitting finished pages to a critique group or an editor, or that it’s querying. Some believe writing is taking down copious notes, even on the worst comments you get. But none of this is writing. These are the business tasks, the communication tasks, the prettying tasks–and all of them dependent on audience and human interaction. Writing, in its purest sense, is creating brand-new pages and ripping those up while you, one, remain the loneliest number.

When summer hits, when leaving the bed in the mornings is like bench pressing 50-plus pounds, when all you want to do is slouch through the heat with a margarita, you ask yourself, When will I find the energy to write? Will I ever write something new again? Do I want to write something new again? And even if I think my pages are crappy, do I dare rip them up

It’s hard when the limelight is off you–when no one remarks on your blog, when the agent is deep in your pages but not able to respond, when the submissions are in literary magazine inboxes but no

After six months of writing a novel and a year of revisions, I let HOW WENDY REDBIRD DANCING SURVIVED THE DARK AGES OF NOUGHT take a breather in the hands of agents and readers. I let my short stories on submission and my collection in the hands of the University of Georgia’s Flannery O’Connor contest rest there. And I make myself get back to work.

The sequel to my novel is already rearing its mischievous head. It wants to be all exploratory scene and snappy dialogue but devoid of character want–that hard yearning after ONE THING that makes a story race and carry its readers along.

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