Monday, May 31, 2010

"Damn it, Jim. I'm a writer, not a doctor!"

Okay. So the original Leonard McCoy never said "Damn it" (cussing was frowned upon). The line did make it into the latest Star Trek movie. Fellow fans will notice my word switch. I'm a writer.

Most romance writers have day jobs or careers. I won't presume to know all the reasons why, but I've come across 'love of their career' or 'primary income source' the most. Being a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) is also a career in my book. The question is, at what point do we identify ourselves primarily as writers? When does the question "What do you do?" or the "Occupation" box on forms get the answer writer? At what point do we feel confident enough to brave the stigma of being a romance writer? If you simply say 'writer', the question about what you write inevitably comes next...followed by the eye roll and smirk.

I'm an eye doctor. Yep. An optometrist to be exact (Sinara is my pen name). I use the present tense because I still hold and maintain an active license. However, I haven't seen patients in a couple of years. I've been busy raising three boys and writing. I've always been an avid reader and writer. As a child, I kept a journal and wrote poetry. I had pictures taken of me sleeping with a book on my face. Unfortunately, I was raised in a family where 'the arts' weren't career material. They were something you did as a hobby. Right.

I'm a writer. I say it now with confidence and pride. For the longest time, I struggled with putting my career as a doctor behind me. I felt guilty for the years and tuition invested in that career. I felt guilty about stepping away from a profession I was successful and good at. It took tons of introspection before I came to the conclusion that education and experience is NEVER a waste. It becomes an integral part of who we are and it, no doubt, influences how or what we write. Observation and experience make up a writer's data files. They fuel our creativity and give us insight into our characters. What's important is finding your true passion and embracing it. I think it was Oprah that once said that the most successful people are those that love what they're doing. Could you imagine Bill Gates hating computers? I love writing romance and, although I'm still unpublished, it's my career. Income or money isn't mentioned in my Webster's definition of career.

With the current number of centarians increasing at a rate of 7% a year (wikipedia) and the average human lifespan ever increasing, having more than one career in a lifetime isn't that ludicrous. If there's some rule about having one career in a lifetime, I've broken it and I'm glad I did. Careers are like dating. Sometimes you have to try a few before you find the right one.

Do you currently have more than one profession and, if you do, which one do you identify yourself as? What did it take for you to come out of the closet as a writer and what internal or external forces were you  up against?

Happy Memorial Day! My thoughts and prayers are with all our veterans and soldiers.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Therapeutic Thursdays

In my opinion, writer wellness is directly proportional to writer productivity and product quality. Workshops devoted to a writer's mental and physical health are increasing in numbers. Lately, I've come across many chapter meetings devoted to a writer's mental and physical health. My initial reaction was less than enthusiastic. I understood the link between stretching my body and stretching my mind, but the thought of stretching or meditating in a room of writers didn't appeal to me.

Let me explain that I'm not a gym person in general. The thought of lying down spread eagle in front of muscular, sweaty men is...well...embarrassing. Intimidating. Hey, I'm an introverted writer. And yes, that's pretty much the position required at one of those thigh-weight-pressing machines. Okay, maybe the fantasy of a personal trainer hero walking up - wait. Let's not get sidetracked.

My point is that a writer's physical and mental health is important. Imagine what we'd look like if we did nothing but sit and type all day (internet browsing included). Picture a bunch of hunchbacked dames with rears the size of Texas. We've all experienced fried brains. Everyone needs a chance to decompress and fuel their muse.

On Therapeutic Thursdays, I'll post anything that has to do with a writer's personal well-being. It could be anything from healthy recipes (I'm gluten free so there'll be some of those), at-home excercise equipment or DVDs that I love, ideas on how to relax the mind or refresh the muse, great writer escapes and more. You get the idea. The best part is that the ideas can be shared and tried out in the privacy of your home. I'll be looking for all your ideas too, so don't be shy!

For today, I'll keep it short (LOL, too late for that). My health bible is Prevention Magazine. I love it. It has everything from the latest on nutrition to great yoga/pilates moves. It's a must have in my world. What are some of your favorite wellness magazines or books that you feel are writer-must-reads? Are you a Prevention Magazine addict too?

Monday, May 24, 2010

When blurting bites

As a little girl, my mom used to warn me about saying too much. I know I embarrassed her on several occasions. Not on purpose, mind you. I believe that honesty is innate and lying is learned. I may be wrong, but think about how children don't hold back information. Whatever's on their mind flows readily from their mouth. When you have a child in tow, the grocery store clerk (and everyone in line) knows that you colored your gray hair that morning, the postman hears about how you don't want your morning donut getting stuck on your buns, try not to think about what their teacher learns.

When I got older, my mom explained that if you divulge too much personal information, people can lose interest in you. Hold back and keep them intrigued. Let them earn your trust before opening up too much. These are fundamental rules of dating and making friends. Rules that, if followed, would solve a few facebook issues. It's not about being dishonest. It's about thinking before you blurt. Little did she know that she was teaching me a ground rule for story telling. No backstory dump. Let the hero and heroine (and reader) get to know each other like they would in real life...a little bit at a time.

My first manuscript began with backstory. I was essentially a child when it came to writing a novel. A novice anxious to pour everything in my head onto paper. I cringe when I think back to my first contest submission. Three chapters of backstory. Ouch. But I learned my lesson (and there's always more to learn). I read craft books, novels in my genre, and I attended as many workshops as I could at my first RWA meeting in D.C. One enormous, painful rewrite of my first manuscript, and I was determined never to make that mistake again. I'm glad I did though.

I think that if I'd immersed myself in learning the craft before ever getting my first story out of my head, my creativity would have been stifled. The fear of doing it all wrong would have taken over. All those mind-boggling writing rules would have triggered self-doubt. I'd have suffered from the 'teacher looking over your shoulder' syndrome and I would never have gotten my first 60,000 words down. It wasn't until I read Stephen King's On Writing, that I understood this. He gave me 'permission' to write without stopping to edit. The King had given me permission to blurt!

Yes, Mom. I can blurt...but like you said, in private. Only on that first draft. After that, I'll edit what I say.