All By Myself . . . Don’t Wanna Be!

Welcome Scribe fans!  Suze here.  Now that I have Eric Carmen singing in a continuous falsetto loop in your heads, let me tell you my story.

Like probably everyone here, I always wanted to be a writer.  Over the years I wrote a few bad short stories, several bad first chapters to different novels, some OK poetry and some intentionally dreadful stuff (“A porkpie hat settles effortlessly to the ground . . . “). That last was just for hahas.  Or was it? Now I understand it was a clever ploy to avoid actually, um, writing.  I never took classes.  Never tried to learn the craft.  In fact, I didn’t even know you could learn the craft.  I always thought “real” writers were born knowing something I didn’t, had some innate ability to put words on a page and have them make sense.

I never got past writing the first few pages of those novels.  Because if I went any farther, I might fail.  Confession time:  I’m Suze, and I’m a Recovering Perfectionist.

Suze, you say.  It’s good to be a perfectionist.  Who wants to read crappy poetry or novels?  It’s the American Way to strive for greatness.  If you’re not a winner, you’re  a loser.  Coming out on top is all that matters.  Well, I’m here to tell you that perfectionism is limiting and destructive.  It holds us back from trying new experiences.  It certainly held me back.  If I couldn’t write Pulitzer Prize worthy stuff, right out of the box, I wasn’t even going to try.

Then, one cold December, I saw the words “Writers Group” on the calendar at our local library.  And I realized it was now or never.  Time to you-know-what or get off the pot.  I told myself I would just go to the January meeting. That’s all I had to do.  When the night of the meeting came, I grabbed a notebook and a pen and walked the block from my house to the library, took a deep breath of frosty air, then another, and opened the door.  I said to myself, Suze, you’ve given birth.  You can do this.

There were half a dozen or so people at that meeting, and I didn’t know any of them.   I sat next to J Monkeys, and as I listened to her talk about her WIP (she had just come off NaNoWriMo in November), I recognized something in her.  She had the same kernel of need in her belly as I — the need to write.  I found a Kindred Spirit that night, a Diana Barry to my Anne Shirley.

I’d had an idea for a novel kicking around for years.  With J cheering me on, I sat down to write it.  And quickly realized that the story I was writing was very different from the story I’d envisioned for so long.  See, I always thought I would write dark, literary, Joyce Carol Oates kind of stuff.  And it turned out that the story that wanted to be told was in fact a light-hearted romantic mystery.  Once I gave myself permission to let the perfectionism and pretensions go, I was able to put a whole novel into words.  The night I typed “The End” on a manuscript, I cried.

When Casey Wyatt joined us, we found another Kindred Spirit.  And it became increasingly clear to us that we needed more than the library group could give us.  The group had gotten a bit unwieldy and we were never able to agree on a focus.  Enter PJ Sharon, who told us about RWA and CTRWA. Once I joined CTRWA, I knew I was where I was supposed to be.

Now, I never miss a CTRWA meeting if I can possibly help it.  The energy in that hotel conference room is nearly palpable — energy that comes from a whole lot of people with a common goal: to write our stories and make them available to readers.

Suze‘s advice to you?  Let go of your perfectionism.  Don’t worry you’re not good enough.  Be brave.  Join a group.  If you can’t find a local group, why not start one?  If you really, truly live out in the boonies so far that you can’t get out to meet other writers, I’ll bet you can find an online group (if not, contact me.  It’s that important).  You’ll never regret it.

Now for you, Dear Readers.  Tell us how you felt when you finally typed “The End” for the first time.  Who helped you get to that point?


18 thoughts on “All By Myself . . . Don’t Wanna Be!”

  1. Great advice Suze! The first time I finished a book, I was so elated. It was the best high ever! I did it by myself, but I knew I needed to let the book go to others if I ever wanted to publish it. I’ll be addressing my journey tomorrow. Thanks for the excellent post.

    1. Can’t wait to read your story tomorrow, Casey! Oh, wait. I’ve already read it. Well, come back tomorrow everybody for Casey’s turn.

    1. I know what you mean. I get all choked up when I read my 13 year old’s essays. And he’s got fiction in him. I know he does!

  2. I love your story, Suze! Thanks for sharing.
    I could make something up, but I honestly don’t remember the moment of first time I wrote THE END. (It was back in the early 80’s!) But I do remember feeling accomplished and that I needed to do more. I totally identify with your life-long ambition to write and the many, many, many false starts.
    Where can I get one of your books–I don’t find too many lighthearted romantic mysteries out there and I’d love to read one of yours!
    Stephanie Queen

    1. Hopefully it won’t be too long before Bonaparte Bay (and since I’m dreaming big here, the 2 sequels) is out there. I’m preparing another round of submissions to go out in the next few days. And I haven’t ruled out indie-pubbing at all. Decisions, decisions!

  3. Thanks for being so candid, Suze. Many of us are in that recovering perfectionist group. It’s a good group to be in! The first time I wrote “The End” on a manuscript was Valentine’s Day, 2006. I laughed, I cried, then I opened a bottle of wine and sat staring at the words wondering “what now?” I started the next manuscript the same night. LOL

    It was then that I realized this wasn’t going to be a passing fancy or a hobby. I was hooked and hungry to learn how to improve my writing. RWA was my means to that end–along with my English teacher friend who agreed to trade massage for editing services and instruction in grammar. Who remembered misplaced modifiers from high school? She still busts me on my lack of variation in sentence structure.

    Writing is a process of discovery for me. Every time I sit down to write, I learn something new about myself and about the craft. It’s hard work, but as any writer will tell you, getting it right and writing “The End”…is bliss.

    1. Red-rum, baby! I love that movie too. I have met more wonderful people and made more friendships in the last year than I have the last decade (and that includes you of course, Katy!). I am so grateful and blessed.

  4. Hi Suze,
    When I typed the words “The End”, like you, I cried. Then I turned to my pugs and, still sobbing mind you, I said, “now mommy can finally go to the grocery store.” Then I laughed at myself as I recalled the opening scene from “Romancing The Stone,” where the author cried when she finished her manuscript.

    1. The poor pugs! Hope they weren’t TOO hungry 🙂 I wonder how many of us will turn out to be members of the crying circle?

    1. Hi, Avery! Thanks for stopping by. Who knew there were so many of us? I never did until the last year or so, and it’s such an amazing feeling!

  5. I finished my first manuscript four years ago. For some reason I didn’t really react. I just thought, “Now what?” Now I know what to do now and am with you for getting ready for the next rounds of submissions. We will be published very shortly! I can feel it.

  6. Finished, the end, done…what is that? I am still trying to do the first 500 words. I got my Red Pencil crit from Mia today. I have to begin again. Hard work, but those synapses keep stretching. And I thought I had a few chapters. Taking Mia’s advice, I must edit again and revamp.

    1. Keep at it, Gail. You will get there! Contact me anytime if you need encouragement. When will you be on Mia’s blog? I’ll watch for it and be there to cheer you on!

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