Thursday, June 18, 2009

Marble Palaces

There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.
~~~~~Edward Gibbon

When I was a kid I loved my Barbies. For hours I'd play in my room with them, enacting dramas of my own creation, building imaginary marble palaces for them out of plastic desks and shoe box furniture. Scraps of fabric from my mom's sewing collection became sweeping gowns of the most precious silks and velvets, perfect for those ballroom scenes. As I got older, the worlds became more elaborate, the plots more involved. I had good Barbies and bad Barbies and only one Ken. Yeah, things got complicated, making "Dynasty" look like a "Dora the Explorer" cartoon. I didn't realize at the time I was sowing the seeds of a writer. Those hours of solitude with just my dolls for company were molding my brain for writing.
My purpose is to entertain myself first and other people secondly.
~~~~John D. MacDonald

My first ventures into writing were little short stories I wrote about the places I saw on road trips. I didn't intend to share them but occassionally I would read them to my folks. They thought they were funny and I recall them encouraging me to write more. I moved on to stories heavily influenced by what I was reading. Those I didn't share at all. But they entertained me, just like my Barbies had years earlier.
The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can't help it.
~~~~Leo Rosten

In college I finally got the urge to write as a profession. To be honest, I couldn't have picked a worse time to make such a decision. I took a creative writing class my freshman year. While my classmates were writing angsty stories about alienation and the darkness of their childhoods, I was writing about dating, about being jealous of a roommate, about a man whose office chair explodes and sends him hurtling out the window. I felt self-conscious about my writing and denigrated my own choice of words. My teacher thought my writing had merit, but as a student, I felt the lack of importance of my work. I should have been writing mighty protest novels or feminist essays. I should have been trying to change the world through words. Sigh...we do tend to get bloated with hot air as college students.
There are many reasons why novelists write – but they all have one thing in common: a need to create an alternative world.
~~~John Fowles

I didn't start writing again seriously until I was 32 and my second child had been born. I wish I could say why it happened. I picked up a WIP I'd started ten years previously and devoted myself to it. It wasn't good but it was a marvelous teacher. But I finished it, edited it and started submitting. I didn't have any success, but it drove me to keep writing. Those years were the golden years. I loved writing, loved the worlds I created. And I kept submitting, with a bit more success on my one manuscript.
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.
~~~~Cyril Connolly

I landed an agent. She shopped my book. It didn't sell. I didn't quit writing, but my focus had changed. I worried about marketablility, I tied myself up in knots wondering what exactly it was that editors wanted. I quit writing for myself and tried to think on another level, a level that doesn't exist. Everything I wrote pretty much sucked. I'm a good writer, I have good pacing, great dialog, etc., so nothing I produced was bad per se, but it lacked the soul and the heart which makes a book great. It was obvious I writing without passion.
Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.
~~~~Melinda Haynes

It's summer and I watch my kids play. They don't have Barbies right now since they got cleaned up and put in storage. But the six year old can pick up a stick and immediately be in outer space fighting some monster or the nine year old can put on an old tie and carry a big tote bag and pretend to be a trial lawyer. Their minds are ripe with images only they can see, worlds they have created with only their imaginations. They remind me of those years I spent with my own toys, creating worlds out of almost nothing. And they remind me why I am a writer and how I too can create marble palaces out of thing air.

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