Today we would like to welcome author, Christy Potter, joining us with her women's fiction book, OH BROTHER!
For someone who has spent nearly all of her life calling herself a writer and 25 years getting paid to put words on paper, it seems a little late in the game to say I am finally beginning to understand the craft of writing.
Yet that’s exactly what’s happened to me in the two years since I shifted my writing career from full-time journalist to author. I don’t mean, of course, that I wasn’t a good writer before. I won awards for my news coverage and weekly column. I loved my job and I got such a rush from seeing people reading something I’d written in the evening paper.
But as a journalist, words weren’t writing as much as they were column inches, a byline, a paycheck. For a reporter, words are also a minefield. My opinion, any hint of bias, even the slightest slant could land me in court. Flowery, overly descriptive writing would earn the scorn of my fellow reporters, if it even made it past my editor. And forget about time to get creative if I wanted to – deadlines were always looming.
With that background, I think you’ll have a pretty good understanding of why, on my first day as a full-time author, I just sat and stared at the blank screen. I could write anything I wanted, I could sprawl my rosy prose across pages and hours and days if I wanted to. I could create characters and dialogue, I could tell my readers exactly what I thought. The shackles were off! Creative freedom was mine!
I was terrified.
Oh, don’t misunderstand – my writer’s ego didn’t let that stop me. After the first few moments of shell-shock, I pounded out page after page of dry, factual, quote-heavy writing. It wasn’t until I went back and read it all later that the truth began to peek into the windows of my mind: I needed to re-learn how to write. Newspaper-style writing in novels worked for Hemingway, but it doesn’t for most of us. It definitely didn’t for me.
So, as though face to face with an old lover who had returned, I began to rediscover writing. The passion I had as a child for bringing stories to life began to stir in me again. I remembered creating characters I would fall in love with, describing scenes as I saw them in my mind, the feeling of my heart beating a little harder when I wrote a tense scene or neared the ending. It all started coming back to me, and moving onto the page. I had to remember who I am, as a writer, and be willing to put myself into what I was writing.
In my latest book, “Oh Brother,” the protagonist, Ariel, was coming across as flat and colorless. I could feel it every time I sat down to write. In page after page, Ariel just skimmed along the surface of the story, her real self – personality, problems and all – hidden from everyone, including me. I knew I had to fix it or the book would be a dismal failure, so I tapped into some of my own life. After years of keeping myself out of what I wrote, it felt odd to bring myself into it again, but it worked. Ariel came alive, an angry, crying, drinking, laughing, loving woman. When readers tell me they related to Ariel on a very deep level, it always makes me smile.
It’s still a struggle sometimes, I won’t lie. It’s hard to undo 25 years of daily practice. But I read, voraciously, writers I admire. John Updike, Philip Roth, Jonathan Franzen, Nicholson Baker, Susan Sontag. I let the beauty of their writing carry me along until it deposits me back into my writing chair with a little pat on the head and says “There. Now you try it.” And I write. Every day, I write. Sometimes it’s great. Other times, not so much. But I find that the practice of writing, the very act of sitting down in my chair every day and facing that page, is making me stronger.
I love writing. I loved it when I was a journalist, and I love it now. It’s just different. When people ask me if I’m a new writer, my answer is always the same: “No, I’m an old writer. I just have a new voice.”
Christy is giving away one print copy of Oh Brother to one reader and one print copy of her creative non-fiction, The World Was My Oyster But I Didn't Know How to Cook, to one reader. Open to the US. To enter, just leave a comment for her on this post and then fill out the rafflecopter below. Good luck!
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