A writer is a writer is a writer, no matter what genre we practice. We all suffer the ups and downs with creativity, inspiration, and despair.
I say this with all confidence, although some may argue that literary fiction writers are different than those who are journalists, nonfiction authors, and freelancers.
Rubbish. We all have our great moments of inspiration or times when we can’t find the right word to save us, and we feel like failures. There are other moments when the muse is with us and know we are brilliant.
When I’m in demand as a freelancer, my confidence soars. That is the best time to market myself as I have a self-assured swagger.
Building on confidence
As I’m writing this article my calendar is full. I’m not sharing this moment in a time of desperation. Being in demand allows me to look over the ups and downs with perspective. While I’m in the nonfiction side of things, I’ve surrounded myself writers of all genres, the largest group being literary fiction writers. I’m a member of the San Francisco Peninsula California Writers Club. Most of the members write literary fiction. While not my genre, we all have the same issues—the writer’s quandary.
When I was working on my book, I formed a critique group with members from the club. We would meet every couple of weeks to review our latest attempts at writing or rewriting–another chapter. I learned to listen to criticism and not let it defeat me. Not easy. I was sure no one could understand my genre, creative nonfiction, but I was wrong. I learned how to write a scene and that “showing, not telling” mattered even in my work.
After my book was published, I was sure I’d write another. I thought I was supposed to do this. I began research on a current issue and even got so far as to complete a nonfiction proposal. However, my fervor wasn’t the same as it was in my first book.
I felt like a failure. Was I just a one-book wonder? How could I have gone the distance with my first book and then just stop? I achieved what many writers seek, I landed a literary agent and had a two-book contract with a commercial publisher. Geez. How could I let that go?
Not an author at heart
I realized I never saw myself as an “author:” One who writes books. It was never my ambition. I remember saying to Sara Jane Moore, the subject of my book when she asked me to write it, “I don’t write books. They are too difficult and take too long. I’m a journalist. I write stories.” My book was one of circumstance. Taking Aim at the President: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Shot at Gerald Ford, became a book because I had 30 years of knowing Sara Jane along with her letters. It was an opportunity to connect the dots and set the record straight, according to my former editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.
I had a fire in the belly to write this book. There was so much misinformation out there that I could correct. What an amazing mission for someone who likes to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” as journalists like to do.
Research always has—and still is—my passion. I will dig, and dig and not stop until I get an answer. It’s intoxicating. The more I researched, the more I realized there was a history that had never been revealed -about the radical groups and the FBI—that had been concealed along with a lot more misinformation out there.
Research is the juice that puts me on the positive side of the writer’s quandary.
Unfortunately, the passion for another book just didn’t exist this time and I’m OK with this. I had to make peace with myself about not writing another book. What matters to me is that I’m still a writer. I still suffer the writer’s quandary with my work for clients or my blogs. I’m still a research fanatic, which is ever so exhilarating.
What really matters is that I continue to suffer the writer’s quandary. If not, then I’d have a problem. But, so far, I will remember to enjoy the ups and downs of the writer’s life.