The Page a Day Writers Group

Posts Tagged ‘truth

This morning, my Wednesday walking buddy mentioned she would love to be a painter. Too bad her genes didn’t include talent with a paint brush.  I told her most so-called innate talent isn’t. If she wants to pick up a paint brush, she should go for it. Why not?

What is talent, anyway? Where does it come from? I say, talent comes from personal interest and a willingness to have fun in the beginning without having to be an expert. Zig Zigler says, “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well.” In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes a pretty convincing case that to become a “gifted expert” at something, it takes about 10,000 hours of concerted effort. So if my walking buddy truly wants to paint master pieces, it may take 10,000 hours of practice, but she could enjoy creating rich, rewarding pieces along the way. I, for one, would definitely hang one of her paintings in my home, no matter what it looked like, even if it ends up on the wall in the walk-in closet.

Child prodigies in any skill are rare at best. Many young, successful artists, musicians, or writers just started practicing their passions earlier than the rest of us. They get through their 10,000 hours sooner than most of us begin. Christopher Paolini, young author of the Inheritance  series (Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr), wrote the first book at age 15. He wrote and rewrote Eragon, self-published it, and promoted the book by doing readings and presentations wherever possible. Eventually a publishing house picked it up, and his editor made him rework and rewrite the book again. Eragon came out after Paolini turned 19. Is Paolini a child prodigy or a kid with a keen interest, a burning desire, a willingness to learn, and an early 10,000 hours of practice?

Does it matter?

Writers’ experiences and interests prepare us to put words together for others to read, but there is no substitute for those 10,000 hours of hard work and the willingness to strive to develop our skills. Becoming an expert at any craft also requires the ability to hear feedback, to collect opinions from others and process how those viewpoints may offer kernels of wisdom to help us progress.

And patience. Writing well takes lots of patience.

Over the last few years, I have enjoyed watching my own writing improve. I’m looking forward to spending less time reworking paragraphs to communicate exactly what I want to say, but I’m enjoying the road with my Page a Day writing buddies.

No matter where or at what point in life any of us start as writers, it is most important to make note of improvements along the way and …

Enjoy the journey.

Happy Writing!

“My fiction is 82% nonfiction,” says Pam Houston,  novelist,  essayist and award-winning short story writer.   And I’ve heard her say she thinks all fiction is 80% nonfiction AND nonfiction is 80% fiction.  Clearly for Houston the line between fiction and nonfiction, such as memoirs and essays, is blurred, if nonexistent.

I’m writing a memoir, HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO: A MOTHER’S STORY, about when Molly, my oldest, was going off to college.  I’ve grappled with the facts of the story.  Did my friend, Gayle, convince me to take Molly to the doctor on the third or fourth day of her illness? Did Jack, my son, yell at me to come out of the bathroom I’d barricaded myself in the day before Molly left?

Memoir is from the French: mémoire or from the Latin memoria, meaning “memory”, or a reminiscence.  Therefore, my facts are based on my memory.  Rob Wilder, my instructor at last year’s Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, told me, “You’re not obligated to the facts.  If you wrote exactly what happened, it would be boring.  You’re obligated to the story.  You need to put in the memories, the details, that move the story forward.”

I think what Rob is talking about is truth.  Tell the truth of the story whether it’s fiction or nonfiction.  My dad says he spent his childhood in the backyard.  Do I honestly think my dad spent 24/7 in the backyard?  Of course not.  But what he’s saying is he felt like his mother sent him out in the backyard everyday, forgotten, since he had four sisters and a brother and an alcoholic father that his mother had to take care of.  Feeling like he’d been abandoned in his backyard was his truth.

I think all writing, whether it’s fiction or memoir, should tell the truth, the honest, gut wrenching truth.  If you don’t readers will read right through it.  My aim is to write my memoir as honestly and truthfully as possible, while telling a story of a mother who had a hard time letting go of her daughter.

Michelle Murphy Zive

Who are we?

The Page a Day Writers Group is a diverse collection of wonderful writers based in San Diego, CA. We've been meeting monthly since 2004. Our primary function is in-depth writing critique, marketing and brainstorming, but there's usually some wine, chocolate and ribaldry involved too. We write fantasy, humor, literary fiction, nonfiction, romance, thrillers and YA. Join us on our journeys to publication and the wonderland beyond!