Friday, April 10, 2009


Back when I started 'Hawthorn Queen' (my current WIP), I got together with Lyda over coffee to do a bit of brain-storming. What I didn't realize at the time was that Lyda did the majority of her surfing/blogging/e-mail at coffee shops, since she was limited to dial-up at home. This meant that Lyda was a bit distracted as we chatted, what with her reading and posting and the like, while I was trying to generate, you know, Ideas. It must have shown, because at one point, Lyda looked up at me and said something along the lines of, "I'm sorry, I'm not giving you a lot of input, am I? But you're a good enough writer that I know you'll figure it out, so I'm not worried."

I smiled and nodded and thanked her at the time, but I wasn't exactly thrilled with the response. I had gotten together to hash out Ideas, and while the ego-stroke was nice, it hadn't been what I was hoping for.*

How little I understood. What Lyda had done was shown me her faith in me as a writer. That's no small thing.

To my mind, there are three core kinds of faith when it comes to writing. All are important, and we need to have a bit off each of them as writers, but in differing degrees.

The first kind of faith what is Lyda provided: Faith from Outside the Writer. This is basically an affirmation from an outside source that says, "I believe in your ability as a writer. I believe you can do this." This can come in the form of words of encouragement from a friend, a signed contract from a publisher, the support of your family, and so on and so forth. This kind of faith is great, and it can help you get through those long, dark passages where nothing seems to sit well on the page; but it is also, to my mind, the most ephemeral of the three faiths, since it is outside the writer. While offered up freely and well meant, this faith alone will not get you to the end of the project. No matter how good the intentions, the belief of others is not going to get words on the paper for you.

The second kind of writing faith is the Faith in the Story. This is a belief in the idea, or the characters, or the concept, or the storyline of the work itself. It is believing that what you are writing is something people will ultimately want to read, or at least something that you want to write. This faith needs to be strong, but also held loosely in the hand. Why? Because, as most of us have found out to our chagrin, not every story is a good story. What starts out with vigor and promise can turn old and tarnished. The slick, slip-stream idea we loved on page one can turn into a Gordian knot of complexities or difficulties by page 20, or 50, or 150. As writers, we need to honestly believe in what we are writing, to have faith in the ideas and characters; but we also need to be able to leave those same ideas and characters on the side of the road sometimes when it is not working out. The trick of this kind of faith is learning when it is time to lose it, as well as not to lose it too early.

The last kind of faith for the writer is Faith in Yourself as a Writer. You are a writer. You can do this. You can write your way out of this bind, or through the plot maze, or past this block. And while you may have the faith of your friends and your faith in the story, at the end of the day, it is you who has tell that story. In the darkest hours, when it is you against the blank page, it is this last faith that is put to the greatest test. And that is why this, of the three, is the one faith that you must hold to your chest and believe in with all your might, even if the other two faiths fall away. You are a writer. You put words on paper to tell a story. You do this, you will do this, and you will keep doing this because it is what you do. It is who you are. On this faith, you cannot compromise.

This is a game of belief. You have to have faith to be a writer: of others, in the story, and, most importantly, in yourself. And while I may say I believe in you, it really comes down to what you believe about yourself. Be a writer. Believe it. Have some faith.

And get to work.

*To be fair, Lyda also gave me a thirty second throw-away idea that became the foundation for the magic system for the entire book, so I can't really fault her in the long run. :)


Kelly McCullough said...

Nicely done, Doug. Eleanor's post too, though I think I'm closer to you than to Eleanor on this one.

tate hallaway said...

And you're welcome. If my alter ego was less of a jerk, how would you have these epiphanies anyway??