Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Welcome Signs



"Writers aren't writers because there are bookstores with shelves and magazine racks to hold the fruit of their work. Writers are writers because they write, whether they are published or not."
~ Ballenger and Lane

In addition to my many other books about writing, I've been reading Discovering the Writer Within by Bruce Ballenger and Barry Lane (I'm sure many of you remember how much I love Barry Lane). At the end of the book they remind us that although writing is hard work, it doesn't have to be painful. They say the pain comes from having standards that are too high, too soon in the writing process. In order to help us recognize growth along the way, they provide a list of 10 things that are "welcome signs" of progress.




A Writer's Ten Welcome Signs

1) You are able to write regularly, even when you're not in the mood.

2) If you want to, you are able to write fast without stopping. You can write until your hand hurts.

3) Your "bad" writing doesn't bother you. You know that bad writing often leads to good writing.

4) When you write, you first concentrate on what you want to say, not who might want to read it. Meaning comes before audience.

5) You frequently write about things that confuse you. You learn to like confusion, to seek it out.

6) More and more, you are surprised by what the writing is telling you.

7) You rarely think about style, except to admire it in other writers.

8) In revision, you find yourself throwing good stuff away.

9) You notice things other people miss. You remember them. You write them down.

10) You are able to recognize your good writing. It makes you happy to have written it.

These are all signs of growth as a writer. Welcome them. Ballenger and Lane tell us
Celebrate the progress you've made - even if it seems modest - by going to your favorite restaurant and ordering something really sinful, maybe something with chocolate as thick as a Greenland glacier, or a cheap hot dog smothered with yellow mustard and pickles. Eat it joyfully. Walk calmly and confidently out the door and down the block, then do a little dance on the curb. You're a writer.

Which welcome signs are you most proud of in your writing progress?

48 comments:

Courtney Barr - The Southern Princess said...

love this!!!

My favorite signs listed here:

1) You are able to write regularly, even when you're not in the mood.-My Wednesday exercise is my testament to this one ;o)

2) If you want to, you are able to write fast without stopping. You can write until your hand hurts. - now this is me. I just GO!

3) Your "bad" writing doesn't bother you. You know that bad writing often leads to good writing. - lol! Bother me....please it fills the pages sometimes ;o)

4) When you write, you first concentrate on what you want to say, not who might want to read it. Meaning comes before audience. - It makes me smile that I do this.

I love your posts!
Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Amy Jo Lavin said...

Wow, sounds like a good book. I'll have to check it out. Thanks!

Janet Johnson said...

Great list! I've been revising, and it still kills me to throw good stuff away, but it's good to remember that's progress. Thanks!

L. T. Host said...

Very cool, thank you. I hadn't ever thought of these things as indicators of growth, but I can see that they are. And I'm pleased that I do (most) of them.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

oooh! I LOVE this post! Thanks so much Shannon! I'm still working on a few of these!

Valerie Geary said...

This post warmed my heart. Thank you!

Candyland said...

This is like the best list ever. I think my favorite is I'm surprised by what the writing is telling me. I can tell how far along I am in my journey by my writing. It's improved tenfold in the last 2 years for sure. But it can always be better.

Jewel/Pink Ink said...

I love that thought! Though it's important to set high standards, we also have to recognize progress, however small.

Kenda said...

I'm like Candyland--my favorite is being surprised by what the writing is telling me. That can be a neat thing...

Thanks for sharing from "Discovering the Writer Within." It's a book on my shelf I read some time ago, but your post is a good reminder for me to get it out again!

Susan R. Mills said...

I love this! Thanks for sharing.

Lindsay (a.k.a Isabella) said...

Great post. As I 've been writing I've slowly started to do some of these things without thinking. I'm always suprised by what I uncover in my writing. :)

Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Completely fantastic post. I'm going to put it in our This Week for Writers post on Friday. It's so rare to find something that helps us measure progress as writers that doesn't involve counting the number of words or rejection slips.

Lydia Kang said...

1,4, and 8 really got to me. I think I'm really making progress. Thanks for this awesome post!

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

These are great! I'd never thought about being okay with the bad stuff I write. But it makes sense, because before the book ever goes out the door it gets revised and revised and revised and the bad parts are rewritten. Great post!

Lisa_Gibson said...

Great post! I can see some signs that I'm already having and some I need to work towards. But that's all part of the process, the journey right. :)

Sliding on the Edge said...

I have to make a note of all these. I'm reading The Writing Life at the moment; when I finish I'm going to get the Ballenger/Lane book. Thanks.

Faith Pray said...

I love the quote. For me it's a great reminder to write for the love of writing, and not the outcome.
In the writing journey, I'm pleased when I've carved out writing time and filled pages with work. Whether "good" or "bad" I know it can lead to better.

Angie said...

I love that quote. I agree it's important to celebrate progress. Thanks!

Jamie D. said...

Great post! Sounds like a good book...

I think all of those point to increased confidence, both in ourselves and our work. It's a good feeling to *know* something you've written is good. ;-)

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

Thank you for sharing this Shannon! This is why you are so awesome.

My favorites were these:

7) You rarely think about style, except to admire it in other writers.

8) In revision, you find yourself throwing good stuff away.

9) You notice things other people miss. You remember them. You write them down.

Those were things that only came as I grew as a writer, and I do think they're important. Especially the one about throwing good stuff away. It's hard to let go of a good scene, but sometimes you have to, for your pacing and story to really shine. I still have a lot to learn, but at least I'm growing. :)

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for listing these! Throwing good stuff away is so hard, but sometimes it doesn't belong in the story anymore.

My favorite part of writing is #10. I love it when I come across something written well. It makes me want to dance a happy dance.

Mary Aalgaard said...

I have experienced most of those. When an article comes out in the magazine, I read it like I'm a regular reader, and sometimes I make myself cry. Then, I know it was good enough.

Jen Chandler said...

This is a great list. I'm going to have to get a copy of that book. It sounds very down to earth and encouraging. And any one who suggests I reward myself with chocolate and a little dance is a winner in my book :)

Happy Wednesday,
Jen

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

This is great! I'll expand on the list and say I love when I see how to improve something without anyone pointing it out--when I realize I've learned a new skill and am putting it to use.

GMR said...

What a great post....I'll definitely have to share the sentiments with my writer friends. Some of them sound similiar to things I've been saying...YAY! My thoughts do hold merit on the matter...(will refrain from sing song-ing I-told-you-so though) ^_^ Thanks for sharing!

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

My bad writing doesn't bother me anymore..it's just about getting something out of my system so I can do something else...Nice post.

Shelley Sly said...

What a great message! The part you bolded, "the pain comes from having standards that are too high, too soon in the writing process" is so true in my life. I found this very encouraging, and even though I've made progress, I know I have lots of room to grow. Thank you for this!

Elaine AM Smith said...

Great post!
I narrowed down to - enjoying confusion, that is easy when it laps, with alarming regularity, rather like the sea.!

Carolyn V. said...

Woo hoo! I love that list Shannon. I think the best thing is when I get a critique back and it only has small grammar errors! Yes.

Kimberly Franklin said...

Great post, Shannon. I have to say I am pretty good at 10. I can usually recognize my "good" writing. And it makes me proud to read it. But I really need to work on #3. :)

Angela Ackerman said...

I like these. A Lot.

I never think about audience while writing. I find that only happens during the editing stage of revision, because that's when they begin to factor in. :)

Angel @ The Bookshelf Muse

Jaydee Morgan said...

I'm seriously going to have to work on a few of these - especially of not letting the bad writing bother me.

Great post and sounds like an equally great book :)

Tabitha Bird said...

Awesome! And I love that quote. how true is that! I write because I breathe. It is that simple really.

Theresa Milstein said...

I love the quote. What an interesting list. Reading it made me realize how much I've evolved as a writer, especially in the last several months. Maybe I'll check out the book.

I wrote a comment hours ago, but Blogger wouldn't cooperate and post it.

Jay said...

This is an awesome post, Shannon. #8 is always a good indication that I've managed to grow up as a writer. But I love one of those #10 moments, where you read something you wrote and you think, "Holy smokes, did I write that? That's like, well, that's like what a real writer would write!"

Roxane B. Salonen said...

Shannon, funny, but I read Mary's comment and was going to say something very similar to her. To me, recognizing my own writing as good, even excellent at times, has been a very satisfying experience. It must be similar to what a visual artist might experience upon working hard on a painting, forgetting about it for a while, then coming back to it later and thinking, "Wow, I did THAT?!" It's an amazing experience, and can only be fully appreciated, I think, from the perspective of knowing that the Creator of all Creators had a hand in the process, too. :)

Tahereh said...

wow this is seriously good stuff, shannon. really, incredibly helpful and so TRUE!

it's amazing to see how a book was able to pull together all these little points i'd only been guessing at.

a million thanks for sharing!!

<333

Jemi Fraser said...

I love this post! I can now officially feel like I'm making progress! :)

PJ Hoover said...

It's a great list of signs, Shannon! Feeling like we're improving at the craft is a great thing!

Rebecca @ Diary of a Virgin Novelist said...

Thanks for posting this. I really needed it. :)

Tina Lynn said...

You are so full of awesome it's kinda painful to think I didn't know you existed at one point. Love this post. *sniff, sniff* You complete me.

Tara said...

Yea. I have 2-10 down! Of course, not 1 - which is kinda the most important during revisions. *sigh*

Shari said...

I'm having trouble with #8 right now. Darn that whole throwing away thing.

Kittie Howard said...

Shannon, this is truly a great post that hits a responsive chord. Being happy about what's been written is a just reward for the slug-fest in-between.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Wow! Another book for my Wish List.

I knew I was truly a writer the day I took out an old journal and couldn't believe I'd written the words.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Doreen McGettigan said...

I guess everybody already said what I was thinking so I will thank you for an awesome post..I think I'm pretty good with all ten on the list I can certainly start typing and hours will pass that seem like minutes and it is so hard to get up because my whole body is a cramp..I loved the quote also..

D.M. SOLIS said...

Helpful light touch. Very fine. Have you blogged your "6 Traits of Writing"? Would like to post link on new section at my blog, "Duct Tape and Razors for Writers." With gratitude for all you do.

Peace and all good things for you in your work and in life.

Diane

K. Harrington said...

Excellent list!

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