Okay, here’s the thing: the new normal is crazy busy, can we just agree on that? When did the rule become shoehorn 30 hours work into every 24? These days, don’t you feel like Maggie Smith on Downton Abbey when, genuinely puzzled, she asked, “What’s a weekend?”
Such a quaint concept that these days – a weekend – sounds kind of like an urban legend, doesn’t it?
It’s like that when you’re writing a book – there’s no time off. And while I’m utterly delighted to report that Story Genius is finally, 100% finished, for real – it was a longer time coming that I thought. Because every time I thought I was finished, it turned out I wasn’t. It was like that recurring scene in The Sopranos, where Sil is doing his impersonation of Al Pacino in the Godfather, Part 2 saying: Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!
Ditto! When you’re writing a book, every time you think you’re done, your editor has one more thing for you to do, one more change that – she doesn’t realize – changes a whole lot of other things too, because they’re all connected. And then there’s your copy editor, who notices things that your editor missed, so there are those changes to make. Changes, I might add, that your editor then – very kindly – asks you to tweak.
And then, finally, after a year of work . . . it’s really truly done!!! And – you firmly believe – you can celebrate, kick back, relax, try to remember what a weekend is. Ah the cruel irony.
Because then there’s even more work – all those things you let slide while you were writing, rewriting, tweaking – that suddenly needs to get done, basically yesterday.
If you’re lucky – and I admit I am very lucky – you like what you’re doing, and so while it’s exhausting, it’s still . . . fun.
But -- and yes, there’s always a but -- there are so many things that don’t get done regardless, so many areas of life that clamor for your attention and don’t get it. Places where you feel like a big fat failure, even as you succeed in another area.
As the brilliant writer and book coach Jennie Nash always asks: if you’re serious about your writing, what are you prepared to give up to do it? Because, the real truth is, you can’t squeeze 30 hours work into 24.
It just feels like you should able to.
For a clear eyed, inspiring and ultimately uplifting glimpse at what it means to put in the work and succeed, check out Shonda Rhimes’ – creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder -- 2014 commencement address at Dartmouth. Her most profound, and painful, takeaway is this:
LESSON NUMBER THREE is that anyone who tells you they are doing it all perfectly is a liar.
Why is this so uplifting? Because it means that that voice we all have that says, “You’re not doing enough, and everyone else is!” is, um, often that liar. Do you have to give up a lot to write? Yes, you do. Is it worth it? Well, only if you want to change the world, because that is exactly what books do.
Change the world, how?
And the literary giant we lost this week, Harper Lee –she changed the world in the most profound way. To Kill a Mockingbird is often cited as a major reason for the success of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
In fact, a 1991 survey by the Library of Congress Center for the Book found that To Kill a Mockingbird was rated second, behind only the Bible, in books most often cited as making a difference. Oprah Winfrey calls it “Our national novel.” Former First Lady Laura Bush said, “It changed how people think.”
How did a novel do that? By changing how they felt.
Because the only way to change how someone thinks about something, is to first change how they feel about it.
That’s why writers are the most powerful people on the planet, and why making the sacrifices we make to write our stories is worth it.
Which, in turn, is why I love my work so much, because there’s nothing more exhilarating than helping writers perfect their craft, and so wield their power.
So with that in mind, here are some of the places I’ll be speaking in the upcoming months. If you don’t happen to be in these locations, I’ve listed some online possibilities for learning more about story, as well.
California Writers Club, March 5, Woodland Hills, CA – Redifining Backstory
Ventura County Writers Club mini-Conference at the Thousand Oaks, CA Library, April 9
The Wild, Wild Midwest SCBWI Conference, Naperville, IL April 29-May 1st.
If you’re writing memoir I can’t recommend Jennie Nash’s The BookStartup for Memoir course enough. It starts March 9 and goes six weeks. Jennie is my book coach, and in my experience no one knows more about zeroing in on the heart of what your memoir is really about, and how to then get it onto the page.
Jennie and I will be offering The Story Genius Writing Workshop online again in May. We are just finishing up the beta run of the course and it has FAR exceeded our expectations. Here’s what current students are saying:
“This has been more helpful than my MFA program by a zillion percent ... & about a zillion percent less expensive .... (& I loved my MFA program). I can tell you specifically why: the Third Rail -- the breakdown of how the internal struggles fuel and are impacted by the external events. Followed a close second by the guidelines for how to know where to actually start the dang thing. I have read or taught pretty much every craft book in the universe in 25 years of teaching writing and never have I found this laid out so clearly and 'do-ably'. I have been just blown away.”
– Larraine Herring
“I've bought a bunch of courses and tools over the past couple of years and this is one of the very, very few that I have loved. I'm such a fan. You are amazing teachers, and this online group is fabulous. I barely participate in these things, usually.”
– Maya Rushing Water
“I just recommended the Story Genius Writing Workshop to all 30 women at my writers' group! I'm loving the experience, wise guidance, and individualized feedback. Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash, you and your editing team are doing a fabulous job!”
– Carol Van Den Hende
“I just told my career coach that I've found the single most amazing writing class EVER online -- better than my MFA program, sorry [nationally recognized writing program]”
Seats are limited for the course so be sure to get on the interest list to be the first to hear when the doors are open in May.
Finally, I’m in the early planning stages of putting together a live workshop with Jennie in LA in September right after Story Genius, the book, comes out. I don’t have a link set up, but if you’re interested, stay tuned here for info.
And if you would like to pre-order Story Genius, the book, you can do so here.
Here’s to the power of story – yours!