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Friday, February 10, 2012

Are You Living the Life You Want??

How many of us can answer "yes" to that question without stretching the truth just a bit? So much of what we do every day is for others, or for the future, or "because it's good for you--or someone else". Not that you can't be living the life you want as you do for others. Many of us find fulfillment in philanthropy. I suspect far more of us get mired down in a daily grind, though. It's hard to plan for a more fulfilling future when there's not enough time, money or personal resources to go round.

Another almost universal truth is that every silver lining has a cloud around it. I love writing. It nourishes me and fulfills me. But I discovered early on in the process that the thing that makes salable fiction is a combination of good writing and careful editing. I'm not nearly as fond of editing as I am of writing, but I take the time because my name is on what I write and I don't want people who read my stories to see me as lazy or slipshod.

I'm reading a NY Times Bestseller. It's genre fiction, which is my preference. I'm only about a third of the way through and so far the book is full of unnecessary uses of "that" and it uses lots of passive constructions that distance the reader from the story. I practically choked when I was reading last night (same book) and found several egregious point of view glitches. I suppose I  could live with all the technical snafus, but the plot isn't very tightly woven. Sigh. I want whoever did the PR for that book on my team! If they could sell that, they could sell anything to anyone.

Like all trades, it's not necessarily what you know, but who you know. The above author was well connected. It worked for her. The reading public is picky, though. And opinions vary widely. All you have to do is follow threads on Goodreads or any literary commentary site to discover that.

A year or so ago, while on a backpacking trip, I had a single paperback book with me. The author was apparently a "close friend" of Terry Goodkind (at least that's what information on the cover inferred). That one was also a really poorly written book--but it had a great cover, which is what attracted me in the first place. I wouldn't have finished it, except I didn't have anything else to read. I fear the book in the previous paragraph will end up in the burn barrel. No need to finish that one since I have a house full of potential replacements for my nightly reading time.

I'm not sure writing has exactly ruined reading for me, but it's sure changed the way I look at fiction. Unfortunately, I now apply the same jaundiced eye that I look at my own stuff with to nearly everything else I read. So, what does this have to do with living the life I want? It's pretty simply, really. I enjoy being a writer. I'm not naive enough to believe any chosen path has only plusses. Life just isn't like that. If one of the downsides is that I edit manuscripts in my head as I read, I can live with that. Maybe it will improve my own writing on down the line.

I'll take the joy I get from the creative flow. It's a high in and of itself. If another down side is editing, well I've learned a whole lot about the structure of the language along the way. I feel lucky, really. It's not everyone who finds a career that can carry them through their middle years and beyond.

If you want to make some changes in your own life, pick one thing. Yup, just one. Figure out a single tweak, then put it into action. Give that tweak some time to percolate, then pick another. One thing's for sure, if you do nothing, well, then nothing will change. Change is always gradual--and not generally linear. By that I mean, there will be ups and downs along the way. Give yourself permission to shift gears if one of your tweaks isn't working out the way you'd like.

If you're kind to yourself and tolerant (something I struggle with all the time) you'll begin to see changes blossom around you. It takes two to make (or break) something. If you change what you bring to the table, others will need to alter their contribution as well.

What kinds of things would you like to change for 2012?

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