Staying Honest While Reading and Writing
Sandra K Woodiwiss
I enjoy nothing better than to read and to write. The problem being – I enjoy nothing better in exactly that order. The problem? A long, unrecognized form of conformance in my writing due to the over love I have of what and who I read.
Reading is inspiration to write and I try very much to read what challenges me and what frightens me. My favorite subject matter – women. The novels of the Bronte sisters’ right down to the everyday, written life of a suburban house wife, fascinates me. I love to read words written by women, about women; George Eliot, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Barbara Pym. I want to read the essay, short fiction, novels and poetry that challenge my belief system, challenges my comfort in Christian traditions and gender stereotyping.
It dawned on me one day – if I crave the challenge in reading, then that desire should move into my writing. Rise to the challenge of different. Take what I know I can accomplish as a writer and move it into a genre or format that forces my ingenuity, pushes my creativity.
Easier said than done.
In reaching for a book, I take a deep breath, say a pray for an open mind and start in. Now, I’ll be frank, reading for the cause of self-challenge rather than escapism causes problems. I am a firm believer that only a sick mind can read alone – so when I read a well-crafted piece of work – I ask questions. I’ve discovered that even my longest and most enduring friendships suffer when the question of why is asked too many times. With that fact stated, anyone can imagine the inner conflict in trying something different in writing. Writing is a solitary endeavor and trying to convey to a fellow human, even a fellow writer the self-inflicted challenge of say genre jumping is difficult to convey – and lonely.
In my younger years the blank page was nemesis enough – now at the age of 48, I pick up the pen and tell my creative, writer, muse, self – write fantasy. Write erotic. Write what challenges your belief system, your comfortable Christian traditions, your gender stereotyping.
So I walked away from the short story and wrote flash fiction. I stopped running from poetry and its intimidation of me and started to write poetry. I stopped being afraid of the electronic world and started a blog…and then another…and then another…and yes then another.
No, it wasn’t that I couldn’t get my worked published (believe me I’ve had enough rejection, I’m not afraid of more) but I’ve taken this past year to fill my blogs; my poetry blog, my fantasy blog, flash fiction blog, my essay blog. Very rarely in the past year have I submitted my work for consideration – simply because I’ve been pushing myself to write what makes me uncomfortable. That takes practice.
There is a drawback – criticism in these venues is rarely productive. Sure you might receive a comment or two several likes, even a following but I’ve found that what is desirable in the blogging world is not necessarily healthy for the writer. As a writer, an editor’s rejection may become that vibrant illumination that later results in an acceptance letter. There is no pat-on- the- back feeling from a cheering section – nice as that is - better than the job-well-done relief, when an acceptance letter appears in my inbox.
So why this frantic year of blogging? To push myself – to try the fantasy genre, the romantic, even erotic poem and daunting as it may be the swing at essay – which right now still ends up sounding like a soap box dirge - but improving.
Will I stop?
Will my blogs go away?
The thrust and drive in the challenge of words on paper is smoldering back down to time spent, serious time spent on writing what I think may be publishable and what I love to write. I love to write about the moment, to turn on a dime. I love the here and now, I love to write about women from all walks of life and focus on who they are as individuals, however my horizons have widened. The same tired woman trapped in an affair for years may now be the subject of an erotic poem. Or the woman burdened by poverty may now be the heroin in a world of dragons and witchcraft. The heart and soul of her must never change – yet in changing the scenery the story of her may soar beyond my own wildest imaginings.
Sandra K. Woodiwiss