Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Writing Cold Feet

I have a confession to make. I've been procrastinating for the last six months, putting off and putting off doing something that I know, like cod liver oil, is probably going to be really good for me but quite likely not going to be all pleasant, at the same time. It's filling in an application form to join Romance Writer's of New Zealand.

I didn't even know RWNZ even existed until late last year. I'd meandered my way happily along wannabe writer land, at first completely ignorant and completing pretty much every unpublished writers faux pax that there is. Then, once enlightened as to the existence of actual groups of real people who meet to discuss and critique each other's writing I stayed happily ensconced in my fairyland, believing that the one bonus of living all the way down here in little old New Zealand was that I could legitimately get away with not subjecting myself to such hideous torture.

Then I got an email, out of the blue, from the President of RWNZ. I had been fortunate enough to have Abby as one of my judges in a contest last year. She'd written lots of wonderful things an made lots of great suggestions and her score helped me to final. Then, upon seeing that my same manuscript had finaled in another contest she got in touch and, among other things, suggested that I join RWNZ. Which I virutally enthused sounded like a great idea, and promptly did jack about it.

I should have been flattered that she was pursuing me to join (and I was). But the last few months have lined up some brilliant excuses to not. Josh moving to New Zealand. Moving house. Christmas. Getting married. Being on honeymoon. Waiting for the editor from ACFW to reject me so I could move on (hasn't happened yet). Buying a house. Many many things that helped me stay comfortably in denial and avoid dealing with why I really haven't filled in the form.

But every time I open my email I get that little spasm of guilt as I see it still sitting there, months later, still unactioned. And then I come up with yet another excuse with why I can't do it right then and there (#1 is that I don't have my cheque book with me so there's really no point in filling in the form when I can't send the money, right?)

So what is it about this form that scares me witless?

Well firstly I've worked out it's because I have some kind of existential crisis at the idea of labelling myself a "romance writer". The idea scares the bejeebies out of me. It conjures up an image of a cover with a buffed up semi-clothed lothario carrying a petticoated heaving bossomed damsel with a castle in the background with rapturous scenes inside that would probably inspire Hugh Hefner. Um yeah, each to their own, but that's what I think of when I hear the word "romance writer" and I don't write that.

Actually, even if you took the romance out of it, I'd still be uncomfortable. The idea of calling myself a "writer" when the only thing I've ever had published was my last organization's annual report seems a tad pretentious as well.

But my little labelling crisis is probably only about 10% of the reason for my lily liveredness. The other 90% is people.

The idea of sitting in a room full of other writers and having to bare my pathetic literary attempts in public terrify me. Entering contests is one thing. You pay your money, the judge doesn't know who you are, you don't know who they are, and then you get your results emailed back which you can absorb in leisure and alone.

It's a nice little anonymous(ish) process that allows you to received feedback on your work whilst giving you the privacy to sob your heart out over a tub of Kapiti Triple Chocolate Ice Cream as some well meaning, but brutal, soul tells you that your writing is so bad it caused them to temporarily lose the will to live. Or run around the house screaming with glee when someone unrelated to you gives you a score that catapults you into "finalist" territory.

But the idea of sitting in a room and reading out something that I wrote and then having people, right there, right in front of you, in the same room, pull it apart? Virtual critique I can take, but real people struggling to maintain a neutral expression as I read out a particularly vacuous piece of prose? It's only vaguely more attractive than the idea of having someone take a blow torch to my fingertips.

So people, we all know what I should do if I really truly want to get any better at this writing thing, but I'm going to need a bit of virtual encouragement/butt kicking from blogger land to force me to gird my loins, suck it up and actually do it. So please - the comments section is all yours. Especially those who have walked the path before me and can look back and tell me it's not that bad!


  1. Go ahead and join, Kara. I had received my first rejection from Harlequin when I learned about RWA - in fact, HQ encouraged me to find an RWA chapter. It's not all about reading your work and being critiqued in public. There are wonderful workshops to attend. In my chapter, we have a speaker every month who spends two hours discussing craft, or marketing, or rejections, or time-management, or . . . the list is endless.
    My only caution is to stay true to your own writing style. With all that expertise flowing around you, it's easy to get sucked into using someone else's methods and losing your individual spark. That said, I love the chance to meet with fellow-writers and compare wounds.

  2. I don't write romance, Kara, but I can relate to one's writing skin being peeled back by others as part of a learning curve. Dive in, get calluses, and let us know how it goes. No matter where you live, writers must eventually come out from hiding and face the music. It only stings for a while, they say.

  3. Hi Kara, Sending our writing out is a daunting process that can make us as nervous as. We can become too paralysed to write or go to the conferences. Take a big breath and step out in faith and you'll find it's not so bad.