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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On Pens and Swords

"You've got to check your ego at the door."

I was at a party the day I heard those words. My friend's partner was having a birthday, and they'd just moved in to their new place together, so the event doubled as a housewarming. Or rather, "Housearming". The happy couple both study swordplay, something which I *finally* got to start doing myself in February. Since then I've been blessed to take lessons at Academie Duello, a school for western martial arts. Currently I'm learning the rapier.

The speaker was talking about swordfighting, of course. Most of the partygoers were from the Academie. And what she meant was that it can be easy to be too overconfident, or to think you know more than the rest. Of everything I've learned, that line has stuck with me, and for one reason: it's true.

And it prompted a vital realization: I love taking sword classes. There's a fantastic fitness element to it and I am sure it will work its way into my Fantasy writing. And I won't deny that it's fun to say, "Well, in sword class the other day..."! But what I think I like best about it is that I am a beginner. I am still learning. And I am completely okay with that.

With writing? Not so much.

When I comment at Magical Words, I try to take an attitude that I'm a student and I'm learning, for no other reason than the fact that I don't want to ever get the attitude that I've learned enough about writing and I don't have to learn any more. I'm sure we can all name authors who seem to be phoning it in after awhile. I want to keep learning. I want to be a publishworthy writer.

But that doesn't mean I've been able to check my ego. Writing is something I've been doing for as long as I can remember. Being a storyteller (which very early on, translated in my mind to getting published) is something I want to do as my job. Over the years, I've learned more and more about the craft, and each new novel or rewrite shows that growth. And then I turned twenty, and I started to get impatient. I wrote and rewrote a few times more, but each time, I felt as if I was done, as if I was ready. I started going to SiWC. And anytime I was around other (unpublished) writers, I had this kept-to-myself feeling that I was somehow smarter and better in some way.

(A horrible, horrible thought, I know. But it was there. And as I've said about my experiences in Pen Name Hell, to deny its existence would be wrong.)

Now I'm nearly thirty. I've been writing for more than two decades, now. I'm acutely aware that there is so much I have to learn. I would *like* to finally feel that my writing is "good enough", and maybe I'm starting to feel that way again, at last, except that now I'm bracing for not being "good enough" and having to start over, again, because I haven't reached the right level.

And this time, if it's true, I'm okay with it.

Confidence? That's good to have. Self-confidence especially. You've got to believe in yourself enough to pick up that pen or that sword in the first place. But there is no place for cockiness on this path. Check your ego at the door. And get writing!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Happy Birthday #amwriting

My husband and I are filkers by nature. We are both carry earworms and pass the songs back and forth with such ease, it's a good thing Pontypool is just a movie. So maybe it's natural that we love to change the lyrics of songs. I've done it for a number of circumstances, including birthdays and going away parties.

For the life of me, I cannot remember how I chanced across the #amwriting hashtag. The early days of my exposure to Twitter were unfolding, where I was learning how to use it and figuring out exactly what everything meant. I know that it was more than a year ago. So maybe I was stumbling blind when I chanced upon it—in fact, I think it was the very first hashtag I ever followed. Maybe it was just a natural instinct that caused me to gravitate to that section of the Twitterverse. And maybe I was simply drawn, like a moth to a flame, except this flame when touched did not burn. Instead it exploded into an array of coloured light, and I stepped into a vast community of other writers, there to share the spirit of writing (and sometimes some great solutions, too).

And with that, I am delighted to wish the #amwriting hashtag and community a happy second birthday with (you guessed it) a filked song:

Hashtag, #Amwriting
To the tune of: "Truck Stop In LaGrange", originally by Grady, covered by Dale Watson and then Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash (where I heard it)

Writin' alone at four a.m., I was totally stuck on my plot
I'd been up all night tryin' to finish that goddamn scene
I was beginning to think I couldn't make it, but I did so I'm here to say...
Thank God for that little bitty hashtag, #amwriting!

With a damn good group of writers, and a well of inspiration
And that community soul ... partner, it's a mighty fine thing.
I asked for some help with my plottin' woes, and they helped me on my way.
Thank God for that little bitty hashtag, #amwriting!

So if you're sittin' at your desk, bangin' your head, and your writin' ain't goin' your way
Just stop on by. Tell 'em Laura said "hi"!
And they'll help you (or commiserate) ...

With a damn good group of writers, and a well of inspiration
And that community soul ... fellas, it's a mighty fine thing.
I asked for some help with my plottin' woes, and they helped me on my way.
Thank God for that little bitty hashtag, #amwriting!

Happy birthday, #amwriting!

And folks, don't forget to stop by Marian Allen's blog for more #amwriting birthday celebration fun. We're having a blog party!