I love writing.
It took me some time to realize that it is my hobby, my passion, my conduit to sanity. When I graduated college and no longer had to constantly barf up papers, I didn't realize how lost I had become until I decided to blog, which requires me to tackle my craft on a daily basis.
I have a fantasy of writing a novel about the frum world, and have it published in the secular realm, as an educational tool for how the observant live their day-to-day lives. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and there are enough shoddy attempts at enlightenment (or vitriol) that I believe this to be a burning need.
But it will take a lot of work and time.
On top of that, it will take a lot of confidence. For instance, there will always be someone who will critique one's work. In one college class, we were instructed to exchange our drafts with classmates and endure their feedback.
"Your tone is too light, too funny," a nice Asian girl told me politely, as she tucked a gleaming strand of inky hair behind an ear. "These are supposed to be college papers. It should sound a little more . . . professional."
I nodded acceptingly, my eyes wide and earnest. But I didn't change anything about my paper. As I expected, I got an "A".
As writers learn, there is no "right" way to write. Writing is an individual art, no different than painting, sculpture, or glass-blowing; forms and styles differ, based on the creator. I don't necessarily appreciate all expressions of self, such as jazz or cubism, but the authors that I enjoy are the ones with a distinct, predictable voice.
Susan Isaacs, for instance; she posses a tough, humorous style, plus a unique premise: Often, her books will begin with a detailed explanation of the protagonist's heritage, back to great-grandparents. Sometimes that is the only part that I read. In the end, we are the result of generations worth of DNA—inherited personality, and prior experiences. As a history lover, I believe knowledge of one's past is vital; therefore, it this quirky tendency of hers that I revel in.
It takes resolve to remain true to one's literary voice, as Karin Gillespie's "A Master's in Chick Lit" illustrates. After already being published five times, Gillespie decides to enter an M.F.A. writing program, where her work is slashed and burned. Over the next two years, she abides by the professor's dictates, only to have her proudly produced manuscript rejected by agents.
After rewriting it in her true-to-self voice, she was pounced on by publishing houses.
In fact, I gained something invaluable: Each writer enters into the craft with a specific strength. For me it was humor. For another it might be storytelling or the creation of beautiful sentences. As beginners we tend to rely too heavily on our strengths, and sometimes we have to minimize them in order to focus on our weaknesses. Along the way, different styles beckon. Eventually, though, we must embrace the gifts that enticed us into being writers in the first place.
In many spheres in life, there will be naysayers. Just try dating nowadays. My new favorite: "You should explore your commitment issues." I have the same stuffed animals since infancy; commitment is not my issue.
To follow the inner dialogue, instead of being brow-beaten by the external chatter . . . that's where success lies.