Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Love is in the air, so to speak. Love is an inexhaustible topic and much has been written about it. From clichéd greeting cards to Gone with the Wind, there’s room for romance. People are fascinated by complex and volatile relationships. The love triangle, a concept as old as the hills, is consistently successful in stories but with variations.
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In the interest of conservation, I pull out the same Valentine’s Day card every year and put it on the bureau to show I remember my husband every February 14th. I reduce, reuse and recycle.
Writers share a bond merely in that they choose to write. I make time for another activity other than writing and that is my art. I began to paint long before I started sending out writing submissions. These two creative outlets are closer than one might think. In painting, I choose a subject or an object and draw a thumbnail sketch or I might work from a still life or model. I might sketch it first with paint or graphite on stretched canvas to arrive at the best composition. As I add color, I intuitively change and alter the piece. I rarely take breaks but I do spend time to retouch areas days later.
Writing is similar. I start with an idea, word or premise and think about possible scenarios, outcomes, and directions to take the story. In certain cases, I might use an outline but often the story grows from the initial hook. As the story develops, it may take on a life of its own. I write fast and furiously to get down all my ideas. I choose a protagonist and antagonist based on elements of people I know or out of my imagination. Like reworking a canvas, I edit and edit again. I work hard at it, rereading it over and over.
I find that art and writing both need to breathe like fine wine. I need to put the writing or painting away for a few days, come back and assess it objectively and fine-tune.
To write or paint, I like to be in “the zone.” Mental preparation is part of the process. Being in the zone means I reach a heightened meditative state during which I can be very creative for hours or over a number of days. Afterwards, I may be depleted from the level of concentration and energy needed for a task. Thus my creativity goes in cycles of low to high productivity.
I would also add that art proposals are similar to writing submissions in that they have to catch the eye of a curator or editor. Art proposals must include a unifying theme and curriculum vitae outlining one’s education and exhibition history. Likewise, a well-written query letter including a list of published writing serves the same purpose of showing past success and professionalism.
If your work is rejected, don’t take it too personally. There’s more than one variable when a work is rejected. I received a rejection letter from a journal, which received 4000 submissions per year at that time. It stated, “While we are sent a great deal of excellent writing due to space constraints we can only publish a small percentage of what we receive.”
It’s one thing to have talent but marketing one’s work is a whole other ball game. However by applying ourselves, we learn the ropes and pay our dues. Practicing one’s craft is vital. One hopes the “cream will rise to the top” and dedication will pay off.
Every step of the way, we are learning. If a work is rejected, send out another submission. Improve on past mistakes. Build a professional attitude. One must separate oneself from one’s writing. Remember a rejection of your poem or story is not a rejection of you. It’s a decision based on something you produced which you may want to go back to and re-edit. Writing is a process, which needs time and effort to develop.
So I leave you with this idiom of the month, “labor of love.” Writing is a labor of love. There are those among us who are lucky enough to live off their creative endeavors, but for most it doesn’t pay the bills. We write because we want to. It’s hard work but we do it because we enjoy it. So in this month of February, I hope you pay attention to your heart and write for the sheer joy of it.