I don’t like tofu-dogs, nor do I want to be one.

My friend and fellow author, Kieran York, posted a quote the other day that touched a chord with me.

“Literature is a place for generosity and affection and hunger for equals—not a prizefight ring.  We are increased, confirmed in our medium, roused to do our best, by every good writer, every fine achievement.”  Tillie Olsen, Silences (1978)

This quote helped to free me from the writer’s funk that I’ve been in lately.  I’ve been working on a manuscript that feels like swimming in quick sand.  I’ve been trying to slog through it because it concerns topics that I think are important to write about, and that would be well received by readers.  Both are good reasons to write, but not enough to be able to reach deep into that well from which the best writing comes.  The well is that spring of ideas in the soul that one touches only by pulling back the layers of misplaced motives and perceived expectations.

The reality is that we’re all human and desire encouraging feedback that affirms us.  For the author that often means positive reviews and maybe even a few awards.  It feels good to receive to accolades.  It motivates us to keep writing and lets us know that our writing makes a difference.  There’s a huge danger, however, in allowing accolades to play any role at all in driving one’s motives to write.  It allows the competitive side of our human nature to cloud the soul’s well from which our best writing comes.  I liken it to what happens to lawyers who make winning or being the best their highest priority.  They spend so much time looking over their shoulders at who is gaining on them that they fail to see what’s important in front of them.  Eventually, they slam into a brick wall because trying to be the best rather than do one’s best is a recipe for personal failure on many levels.  The worst of it is that it takes one’s eyes off of what’s really important, makes us into someone who we can’t recognize and ultimately corrupts “the system.”

The same can happen in the context of writing.  I’ve been thinking so much about what I should, rather than what I want to write about that the view of my soul’s well has been clouded over.    That’s why I’ve decided to put the manuscript about a wounded soldier coming home from war that I’ve been working on aside for now.  The topic is too important for me to write about simply for sake of writing it.  I’m not ready to do the subject justice.  I hope that other authors who are ready to tackle the subject will do so sooner rather than later.  If at some point the voices of the characters from My Soldier Too begin to whisper to me from the well of my soul for a sequel, I’ll dust the manuscript off and finish telling their story to the best of my ability.  I owe it to myself, readers who have come to care about the characters in My Soldier Too, but most importantly the real wounded warriors for whom the story is dedicated.

Having put the manuscript aside, I woke up this morning ready to write a fresh new story with characters who I really like.   It’s so fun to just write from my heart the best that I’m able to rather than try to create something that simply isn’t there or ready to be conceived.  Trying to force it is bit like eating a tofu-dog when what I really want is a hotdog.  When I take a bite of a tofu-dog I know in an instant that it’s contrived.  I don’t like tofu-dogs, nor do I want to be one.  What I want is to tell authentic stories from the well of my soul and to always improve my writing.  A very awesome editor, Nann Dunne, told me that writing is a lifelong learning process.  I absolutely agree.  That’s why honest critical feedback is every bit as important as the positive.  It’s how we learn and grown.  I approach it from the stand point of having yet another opportunity to improve.  I don’t want to be the best.  I want to be my best.  If I can achieve that, I will be happy and content to count myself among all the amazing authors who inspire us in so many ways with the stories they tell.  Writing is equal parts soul and skill.  Staying in touch with one’s soul and always improving on one’s skills are the keystones of good writing.

To all of you have encouraged, appreciated and helped me to become a better author through both positive and critical feedback, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  You’ve inspired me to keep writing.  My second novel, Step into the Wind, will be available in early 2013 from Blue Feather Books.






28 thoughts on “I don’t like tofu-dogs, nor do I want to be one.

  1. Bev, this is the best essay I’ve read on a writer’s clear heart. It is exquisite, and yes, authentic – above all honest. Giving a glimpse into your special creativity – wondrous. Thanks, my friend. I can’t wait for your next book – and the one after that… – and …..et al. k.

  2. Your soul’s intent is clearly speaking to you, and we are all so fortunate that you are openly and receptively listening. Sometimes heartlines are a tad crooked, but they take us on miraculous pathways. The journey should be joyful! I am anxious for Step Into the Wind, and am certain that Isabella and Madison will speak to you, and then through you, when their time is right. Pax

  3. Bev, although I’m not a writer, I can certainly apply this thought process to other parts of my life. This was a wonderful blog and best of all…..you had me at the title!

    • Thanks, Beth. As for the title, Layce Gardner did a blog awhile ago about the importance of titles. I always think about her advice when coming up with titles. It’s the first shot out of the gate at grabbing a reader’s attention. Thanks to to Layce for the great advice. Have a great weekend!

  4. This is one of the best pieces I’ve read about the elusive “process” we work through, suffer under, and learn form. Your authenticity radiates from you starting with your smile. You’re a kind and generous woman who shares from her gifts and her soul. Thanks for being “You”.

  5. This is just simply gorgeous – and clear. I love your blogs and often recommend them to others. (Not to mention the recipes) You nailed this topic and thanks for posting this.

  6. There are many activities and projects that I enjoy. The problem is that I am rarely able to really give a project my full attention. You are right. There is a distinct difference in how it feels and in the results of a project that has received my full attention and investment. I suppose investment is a good word to represent application, but does not necessariy represent the personal energy required for outstanding performance. Perhaps unleashing? Investment is dedicating yourself to something, but being able to unleash yourself or lose yourself in an endeavor brings more intensity and results that surpass expectations. The sensation from that intensity is motivtion enough to keep pushing, rather like a runner’s high. Is there such a thing as writer’s endorphins? Nice piece; a motivator for me to focus more.

  7. Really excellent, Bev. Thank you. I don’t write fiction (although that may change), but I do write non-fiction and I find a similar process. I can write it, but if it doesn’t ring true to who I am, it isn’t worth reading. I appreciate your perspectives and wisdom. Many, many thanks!

  8. Wow. This was truly enlightening and inspiring at the same time. I’m halfway through my first novel and have been fighting myself to finish it and examining what motivates me as a writer to sit down and write…and what motivates certain stories that are swimming around in my mind at the same time. This has helped me part the waters a bit and look at the whole process, and myself, a little more clearly. Thank you for sharing. Not only sharing, but doing so in such a touching way.

    • You’re welcome, Jenny. And, thanks. Best of luck with your novel and other writing. It’s a ton of fun when its working. Have a great weekend and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Bev

  9. Amen, Sister! I have been going through the same thing recently. Last week I reached the same decision as you. I am actively shunning all sales reports, statements, awards lists, etc… The more I am away from that end of it, the closer I am to my dharma. I got my mojo back a few days ago and I love what I’ve been writing! I believe what you’ve said is essential for the creative artist to know. We have to let of of the ego in order to touch our soul. Hey maybe that could be a slogan of sorts: “Leggo my ego!” lol
    Thank you for a beautiful blog, Bev.

    • “Leggo my ego” that’s perfect. Love it. Yes, let’s make that the new writer’s mantra. Have a great weekend. Thanks also for stopping by to let me know you enjoyed the blog.

  10. Thanks for making me feel not like such a schlub – I’ve got a soldier manuscript sitting in a drawer. I love the characters but I don’t think I “get” them. Yet. And if I can’t there’s no way a reader can. So maybe our soldiers can commisserate (sp?) behind our backs and help us get to wher we need to go with them. Good for you for listening to your gut.

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