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Advice for Authors: Enduring the Feast or Famine of Writing

How does an author handle the feast or famine moments ?

I write this during what I call a feast time. The feast time in the life of an author happens many times. It is a moment, perhaps only an hour long, where words come faster than mortal hands can type, or in my case, write. All reasoning escapes authors during this moment. We become excited, yet emotionally unstable. We embrace this time all while knowing deep in our soul that the feast-moment is fleeting. We fear the feast time almost as much as the famine. What if we can’t capture the words as they tumble through our brain? What if the characters hide and leave us with few words and even less hope.

Last week while suffering from self-loathing and immense self doubt I was certain, absolutely certain it was time to return to the “real world” and get a “real job.” My husband is certain of this as well, all the time. We have a son in college and a daughter waiting her turn. If you’re seeking sunshine and the words everything will be fine I’m not that kind of author. Writing is difficult. The journey, slow and methodical. If you are in this business for financial reward…well, (don’t stone me) you might be disappointed. Ten years ago I abandoned the corporate world, moved to Atlanta and “got serious” about writing. My journey from inspiration to publication transformed the confident women I’ve always been into one who anguishes and wrestles with words. Those awards I’ve won…well, somehow they make me more nervous than confident.

Let’s not talk about the past; let’s talk about today.

Today, I have two, yes two works in progress. Why two? Because the muse, that silent and elusive wench whispered another storyline in my ear at the precise moment I locked myself into the writing room bound and determined to either write, or die trying.

I create in a room without technology…if not I’ll spend all day on Facebook and blow every ounce of creativity I possess. I’ll end the day with self-loathing and spend the afternoon polishing my resume’.

Have I mentioned that I recently diagnosed myself with ADD? I didn’t have that before I became an author. Nope. I could sit for hours on a single project. Spend hours writing court briefs. Those days are long gone. Today I think about writing while folding the laundry, vacuuming, walking the dog… just to name a few. I write on sticky notes, used envelopes, my hand. I am a mess.

Meanwhile, back at the notebook, I consider actually writing. Pieces of pulp pressed flat, lined, and bound together with glue rest in my lap. I sit pen-perched ready to launch my protagonist, Carole Anne, on a certain course when this new idea descends in a tsunami of words. For a moment I fight the new idea. I am certain this new plot is a distraction sent from the evil one whose intent is to stand between me and certain success.

Did I mention that becoming an author also made me paranoid? The paranoids were never after me when I held a job in the real world.

Knowing that if I moved a muscle, if I eased out of my seat to grab the recorder two rooms away, my muse would give my story to someone else (writing also makes you superstitious). I did the only thing possible, I wrote. Fast. Using tiny strokes of the pen that consumed the least amount of energy, I wrote, and wrote joy filling my heart, while Carole Anne waited patiently, her story−for the moment−less important.

Carole Anne understands. She arrived the same way as the current story.

For the planners among us, those who must outline, or perish, that methodology is also acceptable. I’m not trying to tell you how to write, merely explain that the ebb and flow of writing (for me) looks like a train wreck mixed with a tornado.

After writing three front and back pages I had pressed enough of the story onto the pages for the Muse to reveal an outline. Oh it is a beautiful thing, this outline. I have never written an outline before. I would share it if not for the above referenced superstition. My muse does not like me sharing her secrets. The more I talk about my work in progress, the less she reveals. The less she reveals, the less progress I make.

Grammar kind of goes out the window during the feast time as well.

Now I need y’all to insert smack-dab in the middle of this word-flood an approaching critique group meeting. This meeting, designed to encourage multiple-personality writers like myself, takes place at the Book Exchange in Marietta, GA. Writers submit five double-spaced pages of their work in progress. We read, bleed upon the pages in a loving way, discuss characters, and (hopefully) make each other’s stories better.

I will probably miss the meeting. Prior to the first meeting we voted on the rules. My (now) fifteen pages of handwritten curled-up-notebook-page prose does not meet the pre-established typed (and for the love of humanity, printed) protocol. Nor do the tiny sentences written three lines high per each line. My writer friends understand. They know that I can’t stop, can’t interrupt the flood, the flow of words. They know that next week, the tide will probably subside and a famine arrive. Perhaps that is the best time to meet with my colleagues. Perhaps their support will sustain me during the famine.

When the famine comes, it arrives bearing nothing but self-doubt, loathing and a plethora of want ads for which I am qualified.

Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love & Tomatoes and Stress-free Marketing: Practical Advice for the Newly Published Author. 2014 will see the release of In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. She loves to hear from you. Visit her at www.reneawinchester.com.

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