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Reflections on 2009

December 31, 2009

New Year’s Eve – the last day of 2009.  Today marks the end of a year that has brought me many changes.  I’m glad to see this year go and yet at the same time my life has been irrevocably changed by it as well.

My health and medical issues had me on a roller coaster ride on a month to month basis and I’m happy to say I have more answers than I did one year ago. In January I was diagnosed with EE (Eosinophilic Eosphagitis) and then spent the next six months figuring out what was triggering the allergic reaction that causes my throat to spasm shut.

In June it was discovered I had Celiac’s disease and that Gluten was the main allergen in my life along with high concentrations of sulfites (do I mention the pineapple I can no longer eat and the other various air allergens?  They’re minor so, I’ll spare you).

Right when I get the hang of balancing all the things I can’t eat and learning how to live happily with what I can, I’m dealt another blow – Lyme’s Disease.  Aggressive testing to determine if I had neurological damage led to the discovery I may have MS (Multiple Sclerosis).  Two months of heavy antibiotics and more testing I’d like to ignore have left the specialists divided – some say early MS some say they don’t think so.

Time and more tests is the answer they preach – and I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  Now I’m in the waiting game to see if signs of Lyme’s come back and I need an IV pict line next month with more antibiotics.  I’m on the side of “no” and things will be fine.  So that’s my current belief and I’m sticking to it while trying to pay attention to my body and read the signs.

Ahh… but the year has had lots of good too…

I wrote a book.  Not about my journey with testing and stuff – that would be depressing and who’d want to read that crap?  I wrote a fiction book and I’m proud to say it’s worthy of being read.

That is the journey my close friends encourage me to write about.  How did I write a book in under five months, while garnering a fan base?  I wish it was an easy answer, but it’s not.  Since I’m not collecting a paycheck right now the only person who can see the hours I pour into this endeavor on a daily basis is my husband, Pete.

I work eight to ten hours a day on every conceivable aspect of getting my book published by a real publisher.  I’ve been approached by vanity presses, investigated self-publishing options and even had a few e-book publishers asking if I’d be interested.  If I can’t get an agent or a publisher interested by next fall then I will seriously consider them – but not quite yet.

I started writing in February ’09 with no formal training and nothing but a good idea and a fun premise.  I posted my work on facebook because I had not read any first person present tense books in my genre and wasn’t sure if it would fly with readers.  The joy and inspiration I’ve found from those supporters is amazing.  They believed in my book even before I truly did.   Hands down – the smartest thing I’ve done all year.

Next smartest thing was joining writing guilds and getting formal critiques of my work.  I got a TON of faceless critiques from critiquing sites and then ones from fellow writers with actual names later (writing.com uses user ID’s so I didn’t know who anyone was).  Literally, hundreds of short and long critiques of my opening seven chapters.  One really good thing it did was thicken my skin.

Most every piece of writing advice I’ve read talks about not taking it personal when someone doesn’t like what you’ve written – to distance yourself from the harsh words and to try to glean something from them to improve your piece.  But I don’t always agree with that.   Everyone is a critique. And lots of people will hate your work.

One thing my art background has taught me that I find translates well to writing is one simple fact:  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Yes, I can edit passages and improve word flow – and learn how to use punctuation correctly.  To me those are small things.  But each person who looks at any piece has a different set of experiences that has brought them to this point in their life. Writing is a personal art – and art is subjective.

The biggest difference between a sculpture and a book is you can constantly tweak the manuscript based on your ever increasing knowledge in the medium. The only way to improve upon the sculpture is to re-do it entirely.  And trust me – that’s what a lot of artists do.  They will cast the same piece over and over again, they will re-draw pages a dozen or more times, they will re-paint sections of a painting if they think they can do it seamlessly.

But what about art that cannot be re-done?  Like a mosaic or a marble carving?  You must then live with the mistakes.  I’ve created art that I could point out every fault to the observer when I was done with it.  Sure, once I spotted the errors for them they could see them too – but they would usually tell me to let it go – to stop and accept the beauty I had created.

Writing is not like that.  Not only does everyone like to tell you what you’ve done wrong and how you can improve it – they usually sound like they know what they hell they are talking about when they do so.

So to new writers out there I warn you – listen to advice, but don’t lose your voice in the process.  And if you are not sure what your voice is – go back and re-read and re-work your writing till you do.  You need to know yourself before you ask another artist to judge your work.

I’ve digressed a bit, sorry.  I was thinking about my year and what the whole journey has been like.  It has been magical.  I’ve made mistakes and I’ve learned from them.  I’ve made leaps and bounds where most of my fellow writers told me not to do something or it was wrong.

I think in today’s market a publisher is going to want a writer like me.  Someone who clearly has a strong marketing plan and is executing it before they even sign me.  A writer that has a fresh voice only because she hasn’t been schooled into not listening to it yet.  A business woman who hit the proverbial glass ceiling in the banking industry at the age of 25.

If I can sell this book in under two years while writing the second and third books then maybe I will document the exact plan I used to get there.  My friends are pushing me to teach at a college and/or offer a writing course to other writers.

I don’t think I’m nearly ready for that yet – I’m still in the grasshopper stage – but maybe next year at this time I’ll be singing a different tune. What have I truly done that is different than other writers?

I have followed excellent writing and career advice as outlined in numerous books written by famous writers.  I’ve made up some stuff along the way and tried it out.  I’ve planned a detailed attack and that plan evolves as more battlefield knowledge trickles in.

In essence, I have become the Field Marshall my personality test claims me to be.  Will I succeed in the skirmish and emerge victorious or will I just be able to look back on this whole experience and say “I gave it my best”?

Either way – I’ll count myself as a winner. Most writers never make it this far and 98% of would-be-novelists never even finish a book.

I’m looking forward to this New Year and all it holds.  May each of you work hard to achieve your dreams in life and may you revel in the success of that hard work before next year’s end.  No one’s dreams are handed to them – the dreamer must work to make them happen.

Wishing you a safe and happy evening with friends and family tonight,
C.J.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. December 31, 2009 4:20 pm

    It sounds like you had a quite a year. I wish you the best of luck with everything. I also wanted to say I started reading the book a few days ago and really like it so far!

  2. January 1, 2010 1:07 pm

    Thanks Stephanie! Yes, it has been a wild year to say the least. happy to hear you're enjoying it so far – please keep me posted!

  3. January 1, 2010 2:43 pm

    I absolutley despise Oprah, but one thing she said really made an impact on me regarding what "luck" is. She said, "it is the moment when preparation meets opportuntiy".

  4. January 1, 2010 8:32 pm

    Ohhh – I love that one Wilhem!

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