Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Romeo’

[Editor’s note:  Yesterday, on her terrific blog about writing, writer/editor Lisa Romeo talked about Louise DeSalvo’s piece in this space and added some tips of her own.  Thanks, Lisa, for giving me permission to post them here as well.]lisa romeo blog

Just the other day I was passing along tips to some writing class students who have school-age children and were explaining (that is, complaining) how little time this leaves them to write. Then today I came across this tough-love post by Louise DeSalvo.  To her advice, I’ll just add a few of my own tips; some are different, and some amplify what she advises:

  • No (more) volunteering for school activities that take more than an hour or two a month. Or how about just: NO.
  • Accept that you will have a dirtier (or at least a messier) house than you probably would like – OR hire someone to clean it.
  • Write anywhere. A lot of my stuff has been rough-drafted on the bleachers at baseball games, in the car waiting for kids to finish up at an activity, on the patio while the kids (when little) were playing nearby, even in the ladies room at insufferably long school and family functions!
  • Decide what you can slice out of your parenting life in order to get a writing life. Five years ago, when my youngest was in first grade, I decided I could do without the daily chats with other moms while waiting for our kids at pick-up time after school. I still had to arrive 15 minutes before the bell rang to get a parking space, but I decided to sit in my car and write – bingo, an extra hour or so a week.
  • As DeSalvo says, ALWAYS call it “work.” I realized this important distinction when asking a non-writing relative to watch the kids; and get the kids used to that terminology too. Mom’s working. Period.
  • Break free of the idea that you always have to write…at the keyboard, in your office, seated in that great armchair, with your favorite pen.
  • Get a writing accountability buddy – another parent writer who will exchange daily emails consisting of just one line about how many words or pages you each wrote that day; no venting allowed.

Now – what are you still doing here?

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This week I did a guest post for Lisa Romeo Writes, a terrific blog about writing and the writing biz.  (One of my favorite features on the blog is Lisa’s Friday Fridge Clean-Out, a weekly roundup of interesting and newsworthy links.)

birthday cakeI wrote about what I learned in the process of writing Bird in Hand — not about writing, but about life.  You can read the post here.  An extra incentive to click through:  Lisa is giving away a copy of Bird in Hand in a random drawing.  I know you already have it, but isn’t someone’s birthday coming up?

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Literary essayist, editor, and writing coach Lisa Romeo writes:

Writers tend to think of rejection as something done to us by outsiders. We paint it as something we cannot control, as something to be feared and avoided, when in reality, rejection begins with ourselves.  Early on.rejection-blog

Even before we start writing, we reject our own creativity.  We dismiss our ideas, our skills, our imagination before we give them a chance to work themselves out on the page. We squash the excitement that might otherwise go along with beginning a new project.  We self-censor before we have words to delete.

Pre-writing — that period from the moment an idea first enters our consciousness until we put words on paper — takes many forms.  It can be notes scribbled on the edges of a calendar, a photo we keep fingering, dialogue that springs into our minds just before we wake in the morning.  It is the sometimes mysterious, occasionally frustrating, often exciting or scary time when we are reading, thinking, imagining, and mentally tinkering with a writing project.

It can also be debilitating.  Because rejection is a big part of pre-writing.  Not the formal rejection associated with a “no thanks” email notification, but rejection that comes from having one-sided conversations with ourselves:

… Nah, it’s been done … so-and-so did it better than I could … it’s silly (stupid, dumb, derivative, old, weird, unusual, boring) … no one but me would want to read it … I don’t have the skill/craftsmanship/knowledge to write it the way it should be done … I’ve never written in this genre before … who would care? … I’ve written about this too many times already … I’ve never written about this before … my agent/last editor/mentor/MFA adviser/writing buddies won’t like it … this will take too long  … the reviewers will hate it … what makes me think I can pull this off? … I’m not the right writer for this … it doesn’t fit in with the rest of my writing career or goals … I’ll never earn any money with this … I’m not even sure how to begin ….

I once thought of myself as a workmanlike writer of the light, straightforward personal essay:  good enough for some markets but not nearly good enough for certain literary venues.  Then one day, swimming in grief and loss and angry with the world, I sat down and started what turned out to be a long, braided, literary essay. I’ve written and published many since.  So much for all the self-rejection banter previously bouncing around my brain.

We need to think of rejection as something organic to the writing process, something we can manage.  Popular advice to writers on handling rejection runs along the lines of growing a tough skin, ignoring it and moving on, learning from it, and – if you like symbolism and ritual – doing something tangible like printing out and lining the hamster cage with all the “no thanks” emails. Many writers have talked about the positive impetus provided by agent or editor rejections, an “I’ll show them” mindset.

But what about self-rejection?  Try this:  the next time you contemplate a new writing project, instead of entertaining that idea in a hostile atmosphere (see list above, and add your own mean-spirited recriminations), why don’t you consciously nurture a different kind of mental environment – an incubator of sorts, a place where ideas come to be nurtured and not nixed?

This shift in perspective can help us put rejection from the outside into a different context. If we recognize that we are constantly in a push-pull with rejection, that rejection is something inherent in and inextricable from the work we do, that it is something we can positively control during a major segment of the writing process, then the whole specter of rejection with a capital ‘R’ loses its power.  Imagine what could happen with your writing if only you stop treating yourself with the kind of harsh, frequent, and final ‘No’s’ that come from the outside.

Go. Write. Do not reject.

Lisa Romeo has been published in the New York Times, O-The Oprah Magazine, literary journals, and several essay anthologies.  A freelance editor and writing instructor, she is also at work on a memoir of linked essays. Her blog, Lisa Romeo Writes, has more on topics of interest to writers.

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