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Spring Has Finally Sprung

May 13, 2022 by in category From a Cabin in the Woods by Members of Bethlehem Writers Group tagged as , , ,

Spring has finally sprung. The sun shines brighter for longer, birds serenade us, and the very air is scented by a myriad of petals on the wind. I adore spring because of the anticipation it stirs in me. Spring means photoshoots and hikes with my children and husband. It means school is almost over and three months of sleeping in and lazy days are within view. It’s a time that is full of possibilities and potential, a time before expectations are either disappointed or surpassed.

New Challenges

It’s a time to start new things and to accept new challenges. I started a garden despite my morbid talent for notoriously killing all things green and pretty. Seriously, do you have any idea how neglectful you need to be to kill a cactus? I do. However, placing those little veggie seeds into newly tilled soil, carefully covering them up, and simply hoping for the best has been an exercise in mindfulness for me. I have no idea if I’ll reap any noteworthy bounty of parsnips, carrots, lettuce, and tomatoes, but I’m enjoying the process. My little seeds have been given good soil, plenty of room, and the right amount of sun and water according to their individual needs. The important lesson is that I can’t control the outcome beyond the work I’ve done and will continue to do. In the end, my little seeds will either grow or they won’t.

Applying my Philosophy

I’m finding that this new-to-me philosophy can be applied to various aspects of my life: I exercise and eat responsibly most of the time, but I’m in my late 40’s. The extra weight is going to come off as easily as I want or it won’t. At work, I treat my colleagues and students with respect and compassion, but that will either be fully returned, or it won’t. I can only control what I put in. I can be proud of what I put in. Sometimes that work will reap great rewards, but sometimes that end result that should be assured just won’t grow to fruition.

Should Publication Be Your Goal

The same goes for writing. Publication is most people’s end goal, but should it be? Because, let’s face it, the odds are not always in everyone’s favor. After all, authors have complete control over what they pour onto the page, but not how others receive it. So, wouldn’t completing a manuscript that you are insanely proud of–something that is honest, raw, funny, cathartic, captivating, and memorable–be a better goal? This way, no matter what happens, whether you reap the rewards your hard work should guarantee, you know that you are a success.

So, here are the things you can control:

  • Pay attention to the mechanics of writing: I’d love to say that grammar mistakes don’t matter, but that just isn’t the case. Learn the rules for subject/verb agreement, avoid dangling modifiers, keep tenses consistent, and (please, God) don’t confuse homophones.
  • Learn your craft: It would be wonderful if desire alone equaled success, but you have a much better chance of finishing a manuscript if you know how to construct a story and keep it interesting as you are writing it. If you lose your focus or interest while writing, your readers aren’t very likely to read your work to the end.
  • Experiment and find your niche: You probably have your favorite genres to read. Maybe you gobble up horror novels and short stories, or maybe romance is where your preferences lie. Perhaps you only enjoy memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies. Whatever your favs are to read, don’t limit yourself to that literary niche when it comes to writing. Experiment and have fun. Who knows? Maybe the reason you can’t seem to finish that mystery manuscript is because it needs a few lovelorn werewolves.
  • Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite: Although finishing your first draft is an important accomplishment, it probably won’t be your best draft. It’s much more likely that your first draft will be nothing more than your final story’s shadow once you finish this not-for-the-faint-of-heart step. I know I’ve fallen in love with paragraphs and bits of dialogue that I’ve realized don’t work upon a second or third rewrite. I’ve had to fight the urge to make it all fit, take a deep breath, and hit the delete button ad nauseam. I’ve even realized that I’d been telling the story from the less interesting character’s point of view all along because, it turned out, my villain was much more fun and had more to say (and, yeah, that required a complete do over).
  • Share your work: Join a writing group, set up a website or a blog. Don’t get tricked into thinking that there is only one road to getting your work out into the world.
  • Get over yourself: Be open to criticism and don’t take any of it personally. I’ve been a member of BWG for years and I’m proud of my fellow writers who have listened to group critiques with humility and open minds because those are the ones who get better. As a matter of fact, this column was started by such a writer, Sally Paradysz.

Publication is a worthy goal, but it doesn’t need to be the only one. Dig deep, be adventurous, tell the story you can’t get out of your head, and tell it well. This way, whether your words feed the souls of many or just your own, you can be proud of what you’ve planted.

Happy writing.

Courtney Annicchiarico grew up in New Jersey, where she was a high school teacher and a conflict resolution curriculum writer and facilitator. She moved to Pennsylvania with her husband and two children to be a stay-at-home mom—the best career move yet. Her story “Mis-conceptions” appears in A Christmas Sampler, and is her first published piece. Her stories also appear in Once Around the Sun, A Readable Feast, Untethered, and Fur, Feathers, and Scales

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You Can Read Courtney’s Stories in the Following Books

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Thoughts on Control Vs Lack of Control–Isabel Swift

July 24, 2011 by in category From Isabel Swift tagged as , ,

Holding on. Letting go.

Just met a photographer at a two hour batik/dye class who said she was there because she wanted to push herself creatively in areas where she wasn’t—and couldn’t be—in control. Because she knew she relished and enjoyed the control she exercised over her photographic images—it was aligned with her natural inclinations. And she knew as an artist, she needed to challenge her comfort zone on occasion.

She did watercolor for the same reason. You can’t “fix” a “mistake” with water color. You have to listen to the medium and figure out how to reimagine your vision to work with whatever happened. Which can sometimes mean heading off in new, unexpected and eye-opening directions.

Then some years ago, walking into a group of office crafters—knitting, crochet—it seemed a homogeneous gathering of like-minded souls. But mention the word “felting” and the room divides, half enthusiastic, half appalled. Because for some, knitting is about choice and control of all the variables—patterns, colors, materials, tools and talent. And felting, with its ‘lets-just-toss-that-thing-in-the-washing-machine-and-see-what-happens’ attitude is utterly antithetical to what they do, what they enjoy. Because it’s out of their control. And for others, that’s the point and the fun.

Of course people aren’t all one way or another—they usually have areas where they want and need control, and other areas where they are totally laissez-faire. Though some can be judgemental about another’s excessive (or shocking lack of) control in whatever area they differ on! But I will have to explain the Janci Curve in another post….

Do you have areas that you think are too tightly wrapped and could benefit from some loosening or experimentation? Or areas where you’re a little too experimental and need some focus and discipline?

My answer is…all of the above!

Isabel Swift

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