Friday, March 17, 2017

Throwback: "The Why"

Previously seen on Katie Klein Writes....

I first began to take writing seriously--as something I could do forever--in college. (I blame Dreamland by Sarah Dessen--a book I needed SO MUCH in high school but didn't have access to at the time.) But . . . I didn't think I had it in me to sit down and write an entire novel. Because, when you think about everything that goes into creating a full-length work, it can be paralyzing. Character development. Plot. Dialogue. Scene development. Story arcs.

What. The. Heck.

I did the reading and I did the outlining, and I realized NONE of it mattered if I couldn't get 50,000 words onto paper. It seemed like such a huge task. I didn't believe I had what it takes, because every time I sat down to write, I just couldn't get to "the end."

But then, just before my last semester of college, I realized I had to scrap the details. Characters and scenes and description could be fixed later. I needed words. I had to prove to myself that I could do this.

That summer, I wrote my very first book. It was pretty bad. I'm sure it will never see the light of day. But I wrote it, and it was all mine, and I realized that I could tell a story in 50,000 coherent words. It was possible. After that, I never had trouble with word count again--characters, arcs, description--those still frustrate the hell out of me, but never word count. I've got that covered. I beat that block as soon as I wrote that first "the end."

But what I've learned along the way is this:

If you want to do this--if you REALLY want to be a writer--you have to find the "why."

Why do you want to do this? Why is this important? Why do you feel this pull? Why do you think it matters?

You're going to need to know the answer, because it's not going to be easy. You're going to start all determined, and then you're going to hit the "messy middle" and you're not going to know where to go. You're going to want to give up. 

If you don't want this to happen, it's going to come down to the "why."  

Why do you need to tell this story? Why do you need to write it right now?

Why do I write?

I write because I have stories in my head that need to get out. I write because I want to make a difference. I want to create characters that speak to readers--characters they can relate to. I want to take readers away from the world for a little while. Make them squeal with joy. Make them cry. 

I write because I don't see the world in black and white. This annoys some of the people around me, but I see gray--things that aren't so easily defined. No one, simple answer. I like playing devil's advocate. I can find the humanity in anyone--remember that we ALL have stories, no matter who we are or what we've done. I believe anyone can change. I believe anyone can make a difference.

I write to offer a new perspective--to try to make sense of the world we live in and who we are as people.

The "why" is one of the most important parts of my writing.

If you want to be a writer, if you're already a writer and struggling--if you're not a writer but there's something else you feel compelled to do--sit down with a sheet of paper or a new computer document and spend some time working on the "why."

You'll need this.

Your "why" is your motivation.  

And knowing this is just as important as getting that story out of your head and onto paper.

Be Brilliant!


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Three Life Lessons from Helen Keller

I just finished reading The Story of My Life by Helen Keller. I knew her story, or so I thought. She was the bratty little girl who threw tantrums because she couldn't see or hear, until Anne Sullivan came along and taught her how to communicate.

(And really, I shouldn't fault her for throwing a fit because she lived in darkness/silence, because I can't even fathom what that must have been like. No judgments here.)

What I didn't realize, though, was how motivated she was and how hard she worked to accomplish her goals.  

I mean, the girl worked her ass off. By the time she headed to college, she could already speak(!) and read multiple languages, AND she could do geometry. I had 20/20 vision (with contacts) and I couldn't figure geometry out (shapes! angles! numbers!).

But seriously: If a blind/deaf girl from the South can learn to read and speak French, there's no excuse for the rest of us.

So, here are three takeaways from the life of Helen Keller, and the quotes that inspired them:

1. Be Optimistic

2. Take Risks

3. Give 100%, and Stay the Course

And always: Be Brilliant (just like Helen). ;)


P. S. It goes without saying that I highly recommend reading her autobiography if you haven't already. After the temper tantrums subsided, Helen became a kind and generous soul determined to open doors for children like her, and to change our attitudes towards and understanding of them.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

On Winning

"Winning" isn't about impressing others.

Largely because it's impossible to impress all of the people all of the time.

(If you're a reformed people-pleaser--like me--this is a tough concept to wrap your head around.)

No, it's better to write your own definition of success: what it means to you. 

Because if we're doing important work--the work we're called to do--we should give zero f*cks about what the people around us think. 

Define success in your own terms--what it means to "win"--and start aligning your progress accordingly.

That is all.