Thursday, March 17, 2011

(Re) Kindle your TPR Fire: Step Two, Identify Your Writing Values

This is my second post in a series leading up to TPR's first birthday on April 12th. I posted the first step last week, Examine Your Writing Habits.

There is a lot of suffering in the world right now. It causes me to question my relative ease in it. As Japan shows us that no one is insulated, that hardship can and will affect us all, and the fact that I live in an industrialized country, may pose additional threat, my place in the world seems precarious. As I struggle with the feelings surrounding this doubt, it is the perfect timing for this post. To examine why I am doing what I do?

So what makes me tick? Why do I continue to tick even when the going gets rough?  I am not talking rough like for those in Japan. I am talking the doubts and depression that goes with life in general. Generally, the going for writers is tougher than most. Look at the fate of some of the most admired writers - David Foster Wallace, Hemingway, Plath, Virginia Wolf, Shakespeare (haha, that's a joke. I think he died a happy old man dressed as a woman.) Those are just from the top of my head, which is on plenty of other things at the moment. Anyway our road has plenty of land minds, most of which are planted in our brains. If we are going to keep ourselves walking it, why? In the light of recent disasters, war, governmental chaos, demonstrations and sufferings, the likes of which will continued to happen over and over again, why do we write?

It is important to note that a value is not a goal. To get published, to finish this draft, to become wealthy and famous, to be respected, those are all goals. They will be finished when you reach them. A value is something that you will continue to strive for even after you reach the above goals. If it is important to you to be a good person, you don't just become one and stop trying, right?

I want to know what you really value. Why are you writing that book that you are working on? Why put yourself through this pain and suffering and demoralization? This cannot be as simple as making money, being famous, having a best seller, seeing your name in print. That is all a long shot and we all know it. This has to be something that feeds your soul. Some reason that would keep you at it day after day.

Here is why I keep doing it: I really believe that the more I do it the better at it I will get, especially if I try to learn from every step. I am fulfilled by it both as a mindful act, but also now that I have reached some level of mastery, I take pleasure in the product. The work thrills me. Even when it doesn't and I do not know what else to do for myself. I find sustenance for my children. I wash the bathroom floor yet another time. I still believe I have something to say, that this truth is worth documenting. It could change everything for someone, at least for a few hours of their life.

Why you do it?

Next Thursday: Step 3,  Understand the Agreement.


  1. Great post, Tina! I agree that you need to want more than just the published part to keep at it. Because once you are, do you stop writing? Most writers won't because they love to write and they want to create better and multiple stories to share.

  2. Oh, I think you know I am full of values, though they may not fit the social norm.

    I write because it is what feels natural and right. I fit in so well with the writing community, like I never have IRL. I feel more myself as a writer, than I do as a runner/son/student...

  3. Thanks, Kelly. I agree. It may just come down to having more stories to share.

    You are full of values, J! I agree you fit right in. I imagine you fitting in everywhere, always, what would the world possibly be like without you.

  4. Tina, excellent post!
    If writing is something we value, then we gain value simply by doing it. That's a good thing to remember when you're feeling frustrated about a WIP, or revisions, or queries, or submissions. If it ever stops being a pleasure to write, then you're probably compromising your values somehow. Step back and see how you've wandered off the path, then get yourself back on!

  5. Dianne, I love that! Writing itself is a value. Funny I had not even thought of it that way, but of course it makes so much sense! Thank you!!

  6. Amazing post. You said it so well, I'm not sure I could do it justice to try and come up with my own answer. In some ways, it's like being a parent I guess, the kind of satisfaction you get from writing. There's a certain poignancy to it that draws me in, a bit of self-discovery. It's sometimes bittersweet, often thankless. And yet there's so much pleasure to be had in it. To most people, aside from perhaps our closest family members, we show only a fragment of ourselves. But through our writing, we express every part of ourselves. Even if no one is to read it, to get to know us in this way, we learn who we are just in the act of creating fiction. Writing is a gift, in this way.

  7. Great post, Tina. I love the distinction you make between values and goals.

    Initially, I started writing YA and MG b/c I wanted to write something meaningful for all the boys I was teaching who had absent fathers. But once I got deeper into the writing it became more of an inner-journey. It was like a whole new world or side of myself was opening up and continues to open up.

  8. Carol, I am so thrilled by that comment, I cannot tell you. I think you said it way better and way more beautifully than I could. I do so love how all you commenters keep reminding me why I write. I do so need it and I am so glad we are all in it together. Thank you, Carol.

    Paul, I know that is true for me too. That I started somewhere and it has sure changed. And it continues to change. Oh where will we be next year?! So exciting. Thanks for the comment!

  9. values are different from my goals...I think they are often, unfortunately, in direct conflict. For I value the journey without goal, waking up in every minute and helping wake up others around me. I want to move people with my writing but not in some sort of holy purposeful way - more like just knock them off their perch - cuz I know when others knock me off my perch, I go out and discover all sorts of things in the world.
    yah, that.

  10. I will always write. And get better, because why do it if I would always stay the same? My goal is to complete publishable, excellent books. Whether they ever do get publishable is out of my hands--it depends on the whims of others and the market. But making a book as awesome as it should be--well that should be in my control. So that's my goal. As for values, well, I hope that I have a message in my writing which is worth conveying. And entertaining as well. I'm just going to keep on keeping on.

  11. Okay--above comment should say "whether they ever get published"--otherwise, it's darn confusing.

  12. I enjoy the creative part and working with words. To express myself to feel things deeply - those are all the reasons I write. And to have fun in between taking care of my kids and cleaning. :)

    But it does seem very trivial in light of natural disasters.

  13. Heather, haha! I totally understood! A super good question, why would I do it if I would always stay the same? Because on some level we have to accept we are where we are at and writing like this is perfect. But I listed getting better with practice as one of my values. I believe I get better as I do this, totally on faith. But at the same time I have to take pleasure in where I am writing right now. Otherwise, why do it? I think I found some inconsistencies in my own value system!! Oh, no!

    Laura, Yes, I have been having some crisis where world crisis is concerned. But I am trying to operate with integrity. I figure that is the very least I can do. And all the other values - kids, family, home - play into that integrity thing. So I hear you, it is fun to do between times.

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