I don't want to make anybody die of jealousy or anything, but some things are just way too good to keep to yourself. Like this:
Oh yeah. That's my daughter and I on the left, my friend Kelli on the right ... and Ree Drummond in the middle. Also known as The Pioneer Woman.
While Kelli and I are both rather fond of our husbands and children, you're looking at one of the most exciting moments of our lives. We're obsessed with the Pioneer Woman blog, we cook her food, we quote her to each other, and if either of us had cable, we would watch her every Saturday morning on the Food Network. (Even without cable we know when her show is on - that's something!)
Ree began with a talk about who she is and why she started her blog and how it's grown in the last few years. As she talked, and as Kelli and I chatted with her while she signed our books, I was comforted and encouraged to find that she was exactly who I hoped she would be. She was warm and sincere and gave away a KitchenAid mixer.
What is it about her that keeps me coming back to her website more than others? Why do I not only subscribe to multiple blogs of hers, but I actually open and read everything she sends me. And how come when I sat in the audience, I felt like I knew this woman who I had never actually met?
It's not all the giveaways, since I never win a thing anywhere. I think it's good writing. Through her blog, Ree entertains and teaches me on a weekly basis. And when I met her on Saturday it felt like I already knew her because she writes like she talks.
I think too many people put pressure on themselves to write fancy or serious or poetic. I know I did when I first started writing. I wanted to write serious, deep books like Barbara Kingsolver or Toni Morrison. But that's just not who I am. My writing improved a ton when I stopped trying to force out stories of deep prose and started writing like I talk and feel and think.
At the conference I went to in the fall, one of our instructors had us break into groups, read a portion of our book, and have the group provide feedback on what we'd written to help us identify our author voice. Afterward I was chatting with Roseanna and she asked what my group had said. My response was, "I'm sarcastic, apparently. Who knew?" Roseanna laughed and said, "So you say sarcastically..." I'm sarcastic in real life and it comes through in my writing.
Something else that struck me about Ree as she was sharing her story is that she didn't wait for perfection, she just dove in. Ree has a lot of photography on her blog. When she first started Pioneer Woman, she only had a point and shoot camera. Her interest in photography developed as the blog grew, as did her skills. But she didn't let that slow her down.
Because we will always be growing as writers, it can be tempting - especially for those who suffer from perfectionism - to revise and revise ideas, to write lots of first chapters, and to tweak each sentence like crazy. Being able to criticize our creations is an important skill to hone, but eventually we have to learn to do our best and let a story go.
At the same conference I just mentioned, Jill (Williamson) and I sat in a class taught by Davis Bunn. He would share storywriting wisdom with us, then say, "On your next project, try doing such-and-such." When the class was over, Jill said something to me about appreciating that reminder to let old projects go because her mind was naturally going to, "I did that wrong and I should have done this on that already-published book...."
Don't feel like you have to have everything figured out before you push yourself to finish a manuscript or join a critique group or enter a contest. At some point you have to decide you did your best and that it's time to let it go.
What about you? In what ways are your stories a reflection of you and your view of the world?