Isn’t it funny? The word “home” conjures up a picture of the place we grew up, where we were loved and protected by our families. It’s a “place” we curl into during our dark moments or during our greatest happiness. We seek that “home” when we’re lonely, needy or emotional.
For the past few days I’ve been trying to get ready to move my ninety-three-year-old mother into Assisted Living. It’s been a bitter draught to swallow. Until recently, I believed my mother was invincible. She’s in perfect health, more healthy than I am, for sure. She takes no medicines, walks with the speed of a running sewing machine and gardens with a vengeance.
It’s the last of the three “good traits” that gets her in trouble. She has a huge bed of day lillies. She weeds them herself. Not such a problem, right? Wrong. It’s a plot of about 50 X 50. She squats down until she looks like Chuck Berry doing his famous “duck walk” and goes between the rows weeding. I couldn’t do it. Not in a million years. Oh, my aching knees!
The gardening in itself isn’t bad. She’s as limber as a teenaged gymnist and can duck walk with the best of ’em. But, in addition to the day lillies, she has hedges. She trims these hedges about every three weeks. That’s right. My ninety-three-year-old mother climbs a ladder, trims the hedge (with the old-fashioned hand clippers) and then comes down, moves the ladder and off she goes again. We can’t keep her off that ladder. Gardening is what she does. Year ’round–regardless of the weather.
She’s getting a bit afraid to stay home alone, too. She’s obsessed with security. Face it, we all fear something, don’t we?
Is it the fear of not getting published? Being thought a presumptious fool for thinking we could be writers? Or, is it the fear of getting published and then getting bad reviews? Both of these are real fears for writers, both emotional buttons that get pushed too often for us to become content with who we are.
I don’t know of a single writer who is completely confident in his or her career. Every writer faces the dreaded uncertainty of a blank computer screen or the dread of pressing enter when we’re either querying an editor or agent or submitted a requested manuscript.
So what can you do to overcome that kind of cripling fear that can cause ulcers or writers’ block or, God forbid, a house cleaning spree?
Write your best every day. When the words flow from your fingers to the keyboard (or paper, if you’re of the old-school) and onto the screen, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I don’t think any writer can jot down his/her words for the day (hint: write every day) without having to edit. We all have to do it. Every book or story needs an unbiased pair of eyes. Sometimes that’s a critique group. At other times, it might be the agent or editor. Somebody, besides YOU, will eventually have to read your manuscript. (I don’t mean your mama or spouse.) So write your best–and then polish it until it shines.
Notice I said “polish it until it shines.” I didn’t mean polish it until all the sparkle and shine is gone. Once you’ve edited/polished/revised so many times, the book or story loses its freshness. It’s almost impossible to recover that freshness, so don’t over-do the revising.
And make your office (or wherever you write) your haven, your “home”. Your writers’ room should be a place of safety, of warmth, of freedom to create and be yourself. Make it special, even if you can only afford a couple of small items placed on that rarely used dining table your computer lives on. Put something that has meaning for you. Play music–your music. (Some writers use a specific sound-track or type of music to add atmosphere to their writing room.)
For me, it’s rocks and candles. I’ve got a great collection of rocks. I’ll show them to you one of these days. I come into my office to write, light my blue, yellow, orange, pink, green, purple and white candles. (In that order.) Just doing that same “ritual” day after day helps launch me into my “alpha state” where I am most productive. It will work for you, too.
Home. It’s a place you can go to write, where nothing too bad can happen to you. It’s a place that will see you through your most unthinkable lows, but will also bring you your most exciting highs. Think of my mother, ninety-three and still climbing that ladder and whacking off stray twigs and limbs. Climb your own ladder. Make your own “writing” home.
Your next step will be to find a publisher or agent “home.” That’s a place (really, a person or people) that will help you on your way. This “home” represents your cheerleader, your best opportunities, your comfort zone. (Ahem, Gilded Dragonfly Books would like to become your publisher “home”.)
And most important of all? Come “home” every day and utilize that wonderful space you’ve created where you can excel at what you do. Your muse will be expecting you. (Just like Mama.)