After returning home from a weekend writer’s retreat feeling discouraged, I want to tell my writer friends and family members about the ‘magic’ that happened after I got home … of course thinking about our speaker’s messages while driving home: Writing is hard work. It’s a full time job. It is not a hobby. And why would we ever waste an agent’s time unless we’d done all of our homework and had a perfect pitch ready, for the perfect agent and the perfect publisher, all of which we have researched until we can zero in like a cruise missile. (Well, mutter, mutter.)
During the last morning of our retreat, we selected books from our writing library we might like to have. I picked up A Cup of comfort for Writers, and because it rained so hard last night after I got home, I woke up at 3 a.m. this morning listening to the rain, pulled out the small book I’d brought home with me, fixed a cup of coffee, and read the first story, called “Hummingbird’s Journey” by Cassie Premo Steele. It’s so beautiful I almost cried. And the message in this story was the same message I heard at our writer’s retreat. The first time it was discouraging. Maybe it was the agent’s blunt delivery. But this woman I was reading, at o’dark thirty this morning is a poet. Much softer delivery. But the message is the same. It’s hard work. It isn’t a hobby. It isn’t about inspiration, mood, or magic. It’s about research and revision, and analyzing the genre we love.
In her beautifully written story the writer says that it’s discouraging (and I quote) ‘when there is growth enough in the garden, but no one comes to admire your colors, all you have begun to create and become’. This struck a chord in my heart.
Unless you are a writer this might not stir you soul, but it certainly stirred mine. This poet eventually took a trip in Mexico to the Hummingbird’s winter resting place, and noted that a hummingbird will beat its wings 70 times per second, keeping itself afloat, like a writer, trying to focus on that thought, that idea, those words we labor to find and create. It is hard work. This beautifully written story inspires me in a way the speaker at our retreat did not, and yet I understand clearly that this is the same message, only in a different format. And trust me, my words here are not nearly as poetic and inspiring as the writer’s, but I got the message. It is hard work. And sometimes our hearts do beat as wildly as a hummingbird’s, but we still must focus on things like our jobs, families, friends … our lives in general. It isn’t just writing as fancy, or on a whim, or as a hobby.
When I eagerly checked out this poet’s blog, I found a spot where she mentioned reviewing work by Mary Alice Monroe, whose book The Long Road Home I’d finished reading the night before I left for our retreat. The week before this, my sister-in-law, Jane, had mailed me a copy of Mary Alice Monroe’s Time is a River, knowing I would enjoy it. I opened this wonderful book (a new author for me) and began reading the moment I tore open the package, and found deep life lessons on these pages that I needed to absorb. I knew I wanted to read as much of Mary Alice Monroe’s writing as possible, the very reason I had rushed out to bring home the next book I’d find on the local bookstore shelf, which happened to be The Long Road Home.
Reading the blog post by Cassie Premo Steele this morning, sitting in the living room, listening to the rain and finding the interview of Mary Alice Monroe’s The Long Road Home, felt to me like coming full circle. As writer friends I’m sure you will understand.
Mary Alice Monroe is going to the top of my reading list. I will be sending along her books to friends & family members, as well. It also makes me smile to know that that my mother’s name is Mary Alice, having nothing to do with anything here ~ but it does speak volumes to me.
Here’s the blog spot from this morning’s epiphany. http://cassiepremosteele.blogspot.com/. It felt like soothing ointment to me as I read this May 15, 2011 posting so early this morning. I hope it is just as inspiring to my writer friends and other readers.