A few weeks ago, Kara Leigh Miller let me know that I was chosen to co-author a book with her through Anaiah Press. The news of this was very exciting and a little nerve wracking. How do you co-author? What if you disagree? Who writes what? Who gets the good scenes (the kissing ;))? What if your styles don't mesh? What if your pacing doesn't mesh? If you think that's a lot of questions, you should see how many pop into my head for something that requires me to interact in person. Or if I have to go out for the evening. Another story. It turns out that all of these questions were a moot point (not moo- though I, like Rachel, see an odd sense in Joey's thoughts).
Kara and I mesh very well. Our pacing aligns, we split the kissing scenes, we both write the parts we feel strongly about and the parts in between, and so far, a little bit of conversation back and forth allows for us to resolve things we see differently. It is a very unique experience to co-author with someone. I think it is similar to sharing a classroom. You feel a certain sense of ownership and protectiveness that you have to let go of. This is not an easy thing to do for teachers or writers...or women...moms...I may be in some serious trouble here.
Actually, I think I'm sitting in a pretty good spot. I am slowly learning that by releasing a bit of the need for control, I am becoming stronger in my writing. That process started some time ago, by taking advice from critique partners, agents, and industry professionals. By looking at strong examples of writing, particularly in areas I found were my weaknesses. Though writing is often said to be a solitary activity, I have not found that. Particularly when I have Facebook and Twitter open while I'm writing. Or if I write while my kids are awake. Good writing requires connecting with others, being open to opinions, criticism, feedback, change, and growth. Again, kind of like teaching.
Even when you spend your time planning how things should and could work out, they often don't follow the outline. This speaks to both writing and life. While I had my thoughts focused in one direction, I wound up on another path. This one is leading me to something I never anticipated and I truly look forward to seeing how it turns out. It doesn't change what I want for my own writing, but it has opened a different door that I think will make me a more versatile and well-rounded writer. That, and maybe it'll distract me while I wait for those other doors to open as well.
I haven't blogged in a bit because I've had nothing to say. I've come to my edit screen, typed words, erased them, and closed down the computer in frustration. It's okay to have nothing to say...in fact, my husband quite likes it when I'm silent, but it was less nothing to say and more too many thoughts jumbling around in my head falling over each other and not forming coherent thoughts. In the past couple of weeks I've fallen back a bit from all of the social media because, while it can make you feel linked and connected, I find it can also make you feel lonely. You start to evaluate your day by who liked your post or re-tweeted your thoughts.
The other day I told my husband that Jennifer A Nielsen responded to one of my tweets (I was quite pumped up about this) and he said, "Wow. That's awesome. I have no idea who that is." So I got a chance to tell him that she's this amazing author who wrote The False Prince, The Runaway King and The Shadow Throne. But it occurs to me that a year or so ago, I would have come home and told him about the amazing book rather than framing it as, "I got a bit of attention from someone super cool." It is an exceptionally cool thing that you can reach out to authors and people you admire and connect with them. This is not something to be taken lightly, especially when I tell my students that you can use social media for this great way of interacting with people that you look up to (you should see how happy it makes me when Rainbow Rowell responds). It makes this great big world seem very small. It's important to remember though, at least for me, that the real connections, be it face to face or actual emails and phone calls, texts, anything that is more than 140 characters or summed up in a GIF, are still vital. I see how kids fall into traps on the internet as easily as they fall into the wrong crowds at school: the acceptance feels great, especially if you're feeling a little out of your element or low on confidence. On a day where I'm feeling particularly bad about my writing, a 'tweet' or 'favourite' from someone I aspire to be like is a pretty big mood lifter. The flip side is when my words or thoughts are not recognized on a day I'm feeling down, I let it get to me, push me into believing that there's a reason (and it's not because these people have lives and jobs...no it's more personal than that...it's got to be something about me.) This is when I have to back up and realize that I'm focusing on the wrong things.
Life is not measured in "retweets" and "likes". Yesterday, I instant messaged with a friend for quite a while. In that time, she was supportive, helpful, insightful and it was all in a private chat. No outside recognition even though she's someone I admire. And later that day when I realized she was having a bad day, I was able to reach out and make her smile a little. Again, no public declarations of 'look at me', just two friends being there for each other. So this is the beauty of internet. It can allow me to be friends with someone hours and hours away and establish a real bond, a friendship. But if you focus on the wrong things,, it can swallow you up and make you feel alone. We need to teach our children this along with how to balance our desire for recognition. Recognition is wonderful. Attention is great. Especially when it's something you have every reason to be proud of. But the best validation doesn't come from the outside, it comes from within. Even knowing this, it's easy to forget.
I'm not sure this post had any real point. It might just serve the purpose of seeing how many people re-tweet it or like it. Or it may seem that way. But for me, it helped me organize my thoughts, settle something inside of me about writing. It's not everything and it's not nothing. It's somewhere in between and every now and again, I need to remind myself of that.