it's still male-dominated;
but writing for the stage is a hoot!
Those of you who have never considered writing a stage play might rethink your decision.
Writing for the stage is an attractive way to get the voices in your head onto the computer screen. If you're clever enough to advance your play to production, seeing your work dramatized is as exciting as your name in print.
I speak from experience. My first dramatic efforts were produced in 1957 when, at age eight, Miss Nelson (my third grade teacher) commissioned me to write a Thanksgiving play for our class.
The compensation was, I recall, recognition at the annual Thanksgiving all-school assembly.
And so it came to pass that, early on, I became hooked on writing dialogue and direction.
In the years to follow, I wrote plays for the congregations I led. (Yes - that's right. I am a professional clergywoman, remember?) No one is more appreciative of creativity than the mothers and fathers of senior-high children; especially when the off spring are cast in roles that mimic Vana White, Britney Spears and Johnny Depp.
These days, retired from both the church and my work with print media, my first play PAPER DADDY was recently optioned by a local theatre. When it opens, over two hundred readers/fans have promised they will storm the theatre to watch my characters come to life.
I'm writing a second play - under consideration by the Minnesota History Theatre. This one is close to my heart - a historically true telling of the experiences of a young, female seminarian in the late 1970's. GOD GIRLS is autobiographical, based in the Twin Cities and set in Princeton, New Jersey.
When I sit down to deepen the characters, I am transported to the pre-feminist days of my girlhood when self-doubt was always reinforced by the criticism by the many men who dominated my work and home environment.
Revisiting history is clarifying. I am reminded of two things; how far we have come and how much more work there is to do.
These insights are, I'm certain, available to the essayist and the fiction writer.
Only in theatre, however, does the author have the opportunity to see her work, interpreted and acted, by other artists.
Give it a shot. I promise you, you'll enjoy the exercise.
The challenge of the
well-written holiday letter
I don't understand why people complain about Christmas letters.
I love them.
I don't receive as many as I used to, however.
The writers, I think, have aged beyond their interest in writing; their children have moved, the grandchildren are a disappointment.
No one wants to write about babies born without marriage wrapped around them, or men and women locked into emotional chaos, unable to commit or move on.
Most of my friends have people in their families who have fallen into traps of one kind or another - unable to break free, unable to make sense of their entrapment.
Even so, I wish they would write and tell me every grimy detail.
I'm in a sweet place right now. My kids are doing well - it's me. I'm the one everyone worries about.
Holiday letters are fewer and farther between...
I divorced the love of my life almost ten years ago. It was a good decision and I don't regret it. But I know now how much I loved him, and I know now what life is like without love at the core.
Moreover, I talk about it. I share my ambivalence with my children, my friends. And when given the opportunity, I write about it.
The holidays, of course, make everything crisper. My memories are strong; they have no edges this time of year.
I remember the impossible hope that surrounded my life during Christmas. My marriage was miserable, but the holidays gave me a new frame for understanding the commitment I'd set in stone, and the impossible task before me to make everything merry and bright.
I fool myself by telling myself that my children never knew how unhappy I was. Now that they are grown women, they tell me of their knowledge - they wonder why I waited as long as I did.
There's a reason, of course.
The holidays. The hope they represent. The deliberate kindness of the season and the cruel festivity of family life. These are the reasons I stayed.
My former husband has married at least one other woman in the past ten years. He's not the kind of person who can make it on his own.
Perhaps I am not either, but I'm giving it a damn good try.
It would help, I think, if some of my coupled friends sent me the truth in the mail.
I'd like to read about the reality of their lives; the difficulties they face as they deal with the disappointments of failed expectations and the harsh ends to happy beginnings.
I don't need maudlin - I would like, however, honesty.
And I miss the holiday cards. Even when the writer was spinning the story to lead me to a delightful misconception, I was not fooled.
I know that none of this is easy. I know it in my bones.
If I were to read the surface and never dive below, I'd believe that everyone in my life, everyone in my circle is blissful in every part of their existence.
But I cannot skim. I'm a story teller, and so I dive deep, beyond the reach of sunshine. I go where no one wants me, wade in the mud, find the truth. Only then can I believe again in hope.
Last night, my PBS station aired the tape of the forty-year-old Andy Williams Christmas Special. It's a program they drag out every year during their December fund drive.
I watched Andy and his adorable wife, Claudine Longet dote over their beautiful and perfect children. The tinsel all around, the Osmond boys competing for the spotlight - for a moment I almost believed again.
Then I remembered - even as the special was broadcast, Longet and Williams were living separate lives. There was no "perfect" holiday for the William-Longet family. It too, was all a lie.
I wonder if they ever sent out Christmas letters. I wonder if the Christmas letters told the truth.
That's not fair. I don't wonder any such thing. I know for certain that the William-Longet marriage was a hoax on all of us and a painful experience for everyone involved.
The truth is not anywhere near as attractive as the glossy Christmas we all want to believe possible.
this is not to say that many of us are not happy - wonderfully so. This year, I'm encouraging my children to write the story of their year into a letter, send it via email to all of us. As I said earlier, they're doing fine.
If they do so, if they post their good news, I'll do the same and share my true story.
It's not all that grim. I'm not unhappy. I'm doing well - have a great home, terrific friends, family that love me. I've experienced an creativity blast this year unlike anything I've known since I was a little girl, writing short stories during recess.
I guess it's only fair to give if I expect to receive.
Maybe this year the mailbox will burst with true stories, sent during a true time and sharing a real hope.
This has been one of the most challenging years in American history. I know I'm not the only one who senses it - the only one who has lived it with my eyes open.
That's why I'll watch the email and the mail box for the Christmas letters. I love them. I look forward to them. I still believe in them - and I still believe in the magic of the holiday.
Whatever your pain, the holiday makes it more poignant.
What ever your hope, these days make them more audacious.
Share it all.
The poor are with us always.
(The following sermon was published today on the website of the Twin Cities Area Presbytery; the governing body of my denomination. Enjoy!)
Scripture: Matthew 21:1-11
"As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”
The man at the bus stop was small, thin and shabby. His black skin pock-marked from an early infection, he stared at the ground in front of his ragged shoes and waited for the bus.
I’ve seen him many times. Sometimes he pan handles for bus fare; often I give
him a dollar or two to make it to his stop northeast of the city.
Yesterday he seemed smaller than I remembered; fallen into himself with a private, personal pain.
I don’t know him; don’t know his name or his history. All I know is that he needs my money on occasion and I am happy to pass him whatever I have in my pocket.
But yesterday I felt a connection that went beyond his begging and my acquiescence.
I asked him if he was okay.
He turned to me with fear and relief in his eyes and told me no. He is not okay. He is dying. He feared it for a long time; felt it, he said, in his bones. Yesterday he learned that his fears were righteous. He had, he said, a short time left. Enough time to organize his few things, distribute them to his few friends and prepare to die.
He told me this without hesitation, without pause. His eyes connected hard and fast to mine and I felt myself drawn deep into his pain.
I asked what anyone would; could I do anything for him? Could I cook for him, drive him somewhere, phone someone, buy him groceries?
He smiled. No, he said. There’s nothing left to do. Everything, he said, is in the past now. Everything is over.
“I’m going home,” he said, “to be free.”
I thought of him when I read this passage from Matthew. Jesus enters the city exposing his humility to the citizens; seated upon a donkey, gentle and meek. The gospel writers tell us that the baby Jesus entered our lives in the same way; humble and poor.
He did so because he loved the poor. He did so because he wanted us to love them as well.
We have limitless opportunities to do so. On the bus, on the streets of our city, in our places of work and in our neighborhoods, the poor present themselves to us every day.
Some, like the man on my bus corner, are beyond our help. But Jesus came to Jerusalem to give himself to all of us. The infant in the manger was a gift to the world.
His requirement of us is that we do the same. This advent season, make a decision to release your fear and reach out to the unlovely and the unlovable. Open your heart to those who are hurting; open our homes to those who need the bounty that has blessed us, and open all our lives to the love of God which deepens our compassion, and makes us fit for ministry and service.
I may never see the man on the bus stop ever again. For all I know, he will disappear into the great darkness that poverty creates for those without resources. He will, I think, die alone without the attention every human deserves.
I may never see him again, but every day I see others who are every bit as needy, hurting and desperate as he.
Jesus told us, “the poor are always with us.” And so I watch for our Lord in the faces I meet on the street; the hungry men and angry children, the battered woman and the aggressive, frightened teen agers who walk my city.
I watch for Jesus in the rough, the harsh and the rejected. When church bells chime, when Christmas carols assault the air, when tinsel and white lights line the desperate and tragic streets of my city, I watch for Jesus in the faces of the tired, stressed and weary who hurry home to their dinners and their families.
Like them, I understand that we are living through a hard, desperate and anxious time.
It is also a time of hope. Never before has our nation been so stirred and invigorated to move in a new direction, prepare a new future for the next generation.
At the heart of the hope is the ethic of outreach.
Look beyond the dirty clothes – the downcast eyes and your own fear. Look past the poverty and the filth, and into the soul and spirit of the person before you.
Don’t wait. Let Advent move you to touch and change the life of another creature of God.
Kristine Holmgren is a Honorably Retired pastor who lives in St. Paul.
Liars of us all - the consequence of winter
Living in Minnesota is like living with amnesia.
Don't blame us. We cannot allow ourselves to imagine life without suffering.
And so we take the bad and call it good. We keep the mediocre and pretend it is stellar.
The advent of global warming has changed the climate of Minnesota radically. Even so, most Minnesotans pretend we still live in the land of four distinct, beautiful and enjoyable seasons, and that we love each one.
Every season, we say, has its own peculiar beauty. Summer, of course, shimmers with warmth, sunshine, leisure and relaxation. We choose to not remember the scorching heat, the ridiculous humidity of August.
The spring and fall remind us all of the transitions that we all face - and we bear them with pride and a certain amount of grace. We ignore the fact that because of the harsh summers and awful winters our trees do not have time to turn the colors we expect. We forget that our spring time is often too hot and too short for tulips and the birds who return here each year, seeking fresh water and emerging earth worms.
But sliding into winter is the worst. It is a bit like riding a reluctant pony. The anticipation of winter is wonderful, but the actual experience makes us all uncomfortable.
Is winter beautiful? Is it fun? Like riding a lethargic pony, how can a person tell?
Do I love winter or hate it? I don't know. I honestly do not know.
Until the first snow fall, the first real snow fall, the landscape is gray with a muted and indifferent death.
Then, one day, when I've forgotten to consider it, I awaken to the first blizzard.
The driveway is gone. The rooftops disappear against a sky, tamed by large flakes.
I remember where I put my boots when only yesterday I wouldn't be able to find them on a dare.
When you are raised in Minnesota, you grow up with amnesia. You cannot allow yourself to remember what it means to face another winter; and so you approach the change of seasons with a certain dippy-romantic lie.
Sleigh bells, tinsel on a tree, hot chocolate and home-made baked goods. . .all of these things become the focus of November and the early days of the end of autumn.
Until the big one.
The truth will make you sick.
Truth is, more Minnesotans hate winter than enjoy it.
Those of us who can afford to do so, get out of town at the first sign of below-freezing temperatures.
Many take their week-long vacation in late January, early February - with hopes that the break will get them through the rest of the worst time of the year.
Several years ago, when Jesse Ventura was governor and we all received refund checks from our overpayment of state taxes, I suggested the following.
Instead of sending money, send us each, every Minnesota woman, man and child, a voucher for a week-long escape to Cancun.
Or Santa Barbara. Or Fiji.
Any place where there is white sand, sun, beaches and nothing to shovel.
Think of the repercussions; fewer suicides, less domestic abuse. More loving relationships, happier children. We would all be healthier, hardier, and return to Minnesota with a new commitment to making our lives better.
As it is - only those Minnesotans with disposable income (read, "real money") can afford to go anywhere in the winter - other than walking one of the shopping malls.
So, here we are. Stuck.
The snow is not our only captor.
Minnesotans are trapped by our stubborn lack of imagination.
If we can't ski, hike, snow shoe, or escape to Bequi, what good can we find in winter?
Damned if I know.
But then, the blizzard has not yet hit.
I'm a little snarly until it does.
Check back after the first school-closing day; when all the edges of our world are rounded with the soft, white blanket of cloud-colored wetness.
Like every other year, I'll probably sing another tune.
At least, I think I will.
But then again - I cannot remember.
A desperate call, a timid action;
A friendship teaches an important lesson.
MPR News Q features Kristine Holmgren's holiday story about our collective need for each other, and the call to share.
Read it here.
Kristine is on hiatus and
will return Tuesday, December 1.
It won't happen if you don't
make it happen, Sugar.
The shadows fall, the young day grows weary and old.
And you haven't written a damn thing.
You promised yourself you would make this the day you started the short story. The great idea for the commentary about Palin, Oprah and Barbara is rattling in the back of your brain, and the Christmas poem you know would be your "break-through" piece needs a first stanza.
And what did you do today?
You worked your job, picked up the kids from day-care, cooked dinner for your family, threw on three loads of whites and collapsed in front of the Sony to watch "Glee" while your darling spouse put the little binks to bed.
Solid day, sugar. Lots of stuff got done.
It doesn't matter. does it? Because you didn't write today, you feel useless, worthless; a sloth in the land of the gazelle.
Don't punish yourself for being lazy.
But don't languish in the languid, lovely land of the loose.
Make one more promise to yourself; that tomorrow will be another day.
This is not a race to the finish. The writing life is a stroll down the avenue, arm and arm with your personality, dreams, imagination and humor.
Take your time. Try not to try to hard.
When the inspiration is right, you'll write the inspiration.
Until then, keep the faith - and give yourself both time and permission to get this thing right.
Trust me; if you want it, you can have it.
One day, when you least expect, you'll awaken and realize you are indeed, a real writer.
When that occurs, everything changes. Your world has new curves; the sunrise new meaning.
The possible surrounds you. Everything becomes infused with purpose. Metaphors no longer elude; images arise when you least expect and ideas overflow.
This happens, bunky, when you write every day. And you will; someday soon.
Without your permission, you find yourself making time for what you need to do, what you must do. You cannot imagine your life without a large part of it devoted to words, words, words.
So up, up, up off the couch, Sugar. Turn off "Dancing With the Stars." The Osmunds, my friend, are not all that interesting.
And none of this will happen if you don't make it happen.
One step, followed by another.
The road to publication begins with your firm, determined will to write.
The magical mystery process; creating
There are those among us who believe that writers are mystics.
According to some, we're the most religious of all the artists; the most tuned-in-to-the-muse people on the planet.
They believe that when a writer sits down to create, the work flows or fumbles, dependent only upon the muse.
I don't buy it. But hey, I write for a living. If I consigned my livelihood to the whims of wonder, I'd never be able to pay my mortgage.
A former mentor of mine once said that to be a good writer, one must empty the mind. She advised me to quiet my ego, silence my intellect and let the writing speak.
That's the reason, she said, that historically so many good writers have been falling-down-brown-bag drunks. Hard to empty the mind without first emptying a bottle of Jack Daniels.
As I write this today, it's hard to remember how I tolerated such nonsense.
I did, however. For many years I believed I was not the writer of my prose; I was a vessel.
As a younger, more impressionable women, I'd grab my pen, trot to a little plot of land or a sweet little coffee shop and wait for the muse to smack me up the side of the head.
Those were the days, I guess, of wine and roses. Short lived and mighty worthless.
When I started a writing career in earnest I had to face the hard, fast music of the market and my abilities.
Like other professionals, I was responsible on a regular basis to deliver a product. In my case, my product was high quality prose for publication.
The loony opinion that I should sit, locus style, in front of my computer unprepared to delve into a concept, an idea, a philosophy or a story was incomprehensible.
For ten years I wrote a regular column for a major newspaper. The content of my next column was on my mind every day of my life.
In conversations with others, I considered my column. While buying groceries, I watched for something to write about.
The discipline of high-accountability made me a better person in many ways; a terrible woman in so many others.
I am, I think, damaged by my long career as a social critic.
But that's the topic for another blog entry. This one is about the mystery of our process and whether or not we should embrace or run from the ambiguity of our craft.
I'm not the only Baby-Boom writer who was taught to empty the brain when picking up the pen.
I studied creative writing at San Francisco State College back in the late 1960's, In those days we were told to honor our "inner voice," and listen for its still, small presentation. Hard to imagine, but that was the standard approach.
I cringe when I consider how many of us received that bad, bad advise. On good days I think of the ignorance behind the message. On bad days, I wonder if it was intentional.
Think of this - my generation, probably more than any other - was populated with wild-haired revolutionaries and dreamy romantics. Raised in over-populated Sunday schools, temples and synagogues, we were taught the moral obligations of social action.
I remember my seventh grade Sunday school teacher telling us the story of the Good Samaritan; a gospel tale of selfless love.
"Will you be a Samaritan?" she asked us. We all nodded, confident in our goodness. "If not you, who?," she said. "If not now, when?"
When we weren't in Sunday school, we were glued to our television sets, watching weekly morality plays on Twilight Zone, One Step Beyond, and the infamous You Were There.
Everywhere we turned we heard the drumming requirement to be good, follow the conscience, do the right thing. We were primed to review, critique and if needs be, overthrow the old orders.
We were the first raised as a "youth culture," and our remarkable self-absorption was (and is) legendary.
Because we were so critical, so Sunday-school thoughtful, so moral, we were a force to be reckoned with.
Our harsh review of our parent's life must have been insufferable. It was righteous and revolutionary, a combination difficult to put down if one is trying to be a good parent.
Our music, our energy, our good will was hell-bent on destroying the old order and creating a new one.
And so we needed to be side tracked from our mission - and the best way was to begin to explore the joy of mindlessness.
The only way the revolution could be stopped would be if we turned inward and began to ignore the damaged, hurting, imperfect world around us.
I don't think we fell victim to any conspiracy, although I have friends who argue this. No - I think we were the children of light, moving through the darkness. Those who examined us knew our generation would change the world forever. We were pacifists. Socialists Our music was subversive and shocking. And we were the Pepsi generation. We needed to be brought home to our consumer values - the status quo.
It happened, I think, in 1969 - or maybe in 1970. I remember - almost overnight our adult mentors began to put down the virtue of "conscience" and the importance of "doing the right thing."
Instead, our elders began to preach passive acceptance to the world around us. No more talk of "doing good." Instead, we heard how important it was to be "enlightened."
The messages were straight up. "Tune out. Tune in. Turn your mind around.
"Have you never been mellow? Have you ever tried to find a comfort deep inside you. . .? "
And our educators were not the only folks who told us to stop thinking. Pop psychologies came up with short-cuts to the lovely, passive life; Primal Scream workshops for the malcontents, "I'm Okay, You're Okay" weekends for divorcing couples; we were inundated with cheap and easy ways to discount the work of being fully human.
Many of us began to turn to the use of alcohol, drugs, sex or physical activities to forget our former sense of purpose. If a person smoked dope,drank scotch, sucked a sugar cube dunked in LSD, the world wasn't such a bad place after all.
Not me, of course. Nope. Never did any of that. Of course, it's never too late, I suppose. . .
In a heartbeat, my generation was in retreat from the struggle. The escape was necessary. Otherwise, it looked like we were going to grow up and change things. That, of course, would never do.
And so, our educators told us to "let go" and see what happened.
When I trained at the seminary, one of the common mantras was "Let Go and Let God." My response was, "Let God do what?"
No one I met ever had an answer to that question.
And so it came to pass that an entire generation was taught to believe that creativity flows, unfettered. The intellect, we were told, only interrupts the creative process.
True art does not need structure. It does not need a "message" or an "intention." The true artist meets his or her art with an empty head. The art draws itself forward.
Of course, this is hogwash. How did I know? I began to look around at the dozens of people who called themselves "writers" yet produced nothing.
For a while I lived in a small, Minnesota town populated with underemployed, over-educated women. I was invited by many of them to join writing groups, poetry collectives, playwright forums.
At first, I jumped at the chance to meet like-minded people. But there were no like minds in my little town.
I joined a salon for social criticism and all we did was talk about the best place in Burnsville, Minnesota for Friday night dining, or the cheapest place to buy place mats.
Not that there's anything wrong with that; it's not, however, a writer's life.
In the end, like it or not, writing is simply writing.
You can run, you can hide, you can try to escape by pretending writing is something else. But in the end, it is what it is.
It is not therapy, although you may find it therapeutic. It is not world changing, although the world might indeed change because of it.
When all the smoke and mirrors dissipate, we return to the cold, impossible truth.
Writing is only writing. Those who do it are only writers.
Not an easy life; not a simple life.
But a life, when well studied, when well attended, produces great work.
The apostle Paul, when asked how one might identify the good people of hte world, replied, "By their fruits you shall know them."
So it is with writers.
Those who do it, do it.
Let's keep talking about how that comes to pass.
One thing I know for certain; it doesn't come without hard work, discipline and serious consideration of the craft.
My mentor was wrong. Good writers plan, think, care and develop their messages, work their craft.
The process might be tedious.
Never, however, is it mystical.
Frankly Bunky, no one gives a damn
Rejection is nasty.
If you write, however, rejection is part of your daily life.
In the closing moments of the film version of the story "Gone With the Wind," Rhett tells Scarlett the marriage is over.
Scarlett, devastated, pleads for him to reconsider.
"Rhett, Rhett! Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?"
And Rhett replies, "Frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn."
The words were cruel, irreversible and familiar.
When my manuscript is turned away, when my screenplay denied, my essay rejected and my proposal ignored, the dismissal can feel as complete and final as the end of Ms. O'Hara's marriage.
Frankly, no one gives a damn. .
Scarlett's story did not end, however, with Rhett's rejection.
Nor does the life of a writer. For those of us who take this whole thing seriously, rejection becomes an expected part of the writing experience. We use it. Rejection becomes fodder for short story, juice for commentary, the inspiration of the next scene in a stage play.
When I was a little girl, I decided I wanted to be famous.
I wasn't concerned about how this would come to pass. Maybe I'd grow to be a star on television like Lucille Ball. Perhaps I'd wake one day to find myself a famous scientist like Margaret Mead. Or a wealthy fashionista like Gloria Vanderbilt.
In the meanwhile, I would learn to dance like Shirley Temple and dazzle everyone with my outlandish talent.
My parents enrolled me at Vavro's Dance Studio in South St. Paul, and I started my short climb to fame.
In those days I looked a bit like Shirley. My mother combed my hair into ringlets and taught me to smile to accentuate my dimples. For a while I was the star of every Vavro production. Whenever photos were taken of my dance studio, Mary Vavro placed me in the center.
One day another little girl appeared at Vavro Studio. Joyce was younger than I, cuter perhaps, with deeper dimples and a wealthy father.
Overnight, I lost everything.
Where once I was asked to dance in the spot light, Joyce now danced. Mary Vavro no longer wanted me in the center of her promotional photos. Joyce became her new star.
I was a little girl and this, of course, was hard for me to understand. One afternoon at the studio, when Joyce was asked again to show us all the right way to do the "step-buffalo," I threw myself into a full-blown pout.
My humiliated mother pulled me aside.
"Who do you think you are?" she asked. It was one of her favorite questions.
"No one," I answered. My favorite answer. It usually ended the back and forth that was to become our banter.
This time,however, my mother was not satisfied with my response. She pushed for more.
:"You are not 'no one,' young lady." she said. "But you are not the only one either."
And so it came to pass that my mother imparted one of the first hard lessons of childhood. Kristine Holmgren is not the center of the universe.
The world, she said, is larger than Kristine Holmgren. Each of us has a part to play in the unfolding of the drama of life.
Sometimes the spotlight will shine on Kristine, she said. Sometimes the spotlight will shine on another little girl. This, said my wise mother, is right, good and the way things ought to be.
"Think of how awful your life would be if everyone worshiped you," she said. "You wouldn't be able to go to the bathroom without everyone worrying about you falling in."
I assured her that would never be a problem for me. I would take her with me, to make everyone feel better.
"You miss the point," she fussed. "Kristine, you cannot be the only special person. Everyone is special. Don't ever forget that."
Fame rises, fame fades. Spotlights grow dim and move to the next shining place.
Good things are followed by bad. No one gets everything all the time. Success, eventually, is followed by failure. .
:"So listen up, Missy," my mother wagged her finger in front of my pouting face, "snd make proud. Show these kids how classy you can be and step into the crowd so someone else can shine."
I remembered her words when, years later, I had lunch with the late Paul Gruchow.
A successful writer, wonderful teacher and sensitive man, Paul struggled with envy and bouts of self doubt.
"I don't want anyone to know," he said, "what I'm working on. My biggest worry is that someone will steal my idea."
Competition was everywhere, he said. Every time he slowed down, he sniffed it at his heels.
"When I'm rejected," he said, "someone else is accepted. That makes me crazy."
Paul Gruchow, Minnesota Author
I don't agree with the late Mr. Gruchow. My life experiences have revealed a different orientation.
I don't see writing as a competitive sport.
When my work is rejected, my work is rejected. Period.
There's more where that came from and I keep writing.
No one wants to read my stuff today? That's okay. Perhaps someone will read what I write tomorrow. In the meanwhile, my craft is mine; no one can take it from me. My way of telling a tale, sharing a perspective, styling a paragraph;all of these things are unique to me. No one writes like Kristine Holmgren.
And no one writes as do you. That is why the literary world has room for you.
Think not? Think again.
Readers need us. Readers are hungry for whatever we manufacture and distribute.
Consider the life of an average reader. One book each month, perhaps; twelve books per year. Multiple that one reader by the number of readers in the universe. See? Start writing! .
And consider this - the average American reads two magazines each week, a newspaper (or two) in the morning. Some of this is online reading, of course - and who knows how much content is consumed on the internet. Market researchers have yet to develop appropriate instruments to measure and understand the ways in which our media and literature are currently consumed.
As a writer, you are part of a large chorus of contributors. By writing what you write, you meet a certain need, My writing is different from yours - and I meet another. Every writer has a right to be here, writing and sharing.
Whether or not it is clear to you, the publishing world is unfolding as it should.
Rejection is a part of it all. You will be rejected many, many times. Nonetheless, your job as a writer is to strive to be good at your craft.
Your job is to write, every day, and keep writing.
Your job is to persevere, show up at the keyboard, keep your promises to yourself and your readers.
The rest, my dear, will take care of itself.
When rejection comes, accept it as affirmation that you are making a contribution, and that you are one step closer to the acceptance you crave.
After all, tomorrow is another day.
Begin to make it better.
I know, I know. Writing is a "lonely" life.
I hear it whenever I meet another writer.
These days, I'm writing stage plays. Writing stage plays requires me to engage others along the way. A person cannot write a play in a vacuum. The playwright needs an artistic director to assist in determining the scope of the project and a group of readers who interpret the work.
Like all writing, however, the work is done by one person. Alone.
No one praises me while I write.
No one stands over my shoulder and says, "Oh, Kristine - you are so clever! I would never have thought of that! Where did you get that fabulous concept?" No one.
Professor Brainiac,my former husband, provided a little of that. But look what happened to him.
Nope. Writers write alone. We can't use an audience. We don't need one.
Until the time is right and the project needs feedback, we're the nerd kids with ink stains on our middle fingers, perpetual worry smeared across the face and the need to tap, tap, tap our fingers on the table as you try to explain anything to us that does not pertain to the project we're writing.
But even nerds need approval.
Get yourself into a routine where, on a regular basis, someone has the opportunity to say something positive to you. Not necessarily about your writing alone - something nice about you .
Make certain it happens by doing something for others every day. Greet a neighbor and ask about her garden. Compliment the check-out at the grocery store and thank him for his meticulous attention to his work. Share your spaghetti dinner with a neighbor - offer to rake someone's autumn leaves.
You're a writer - - you see what needs to be done; you sense the emotions and needs around you. Step up. Meet and exceed an expectation every day.
People will shine up to you. Some one will "howdy do" you when you least expect it.
Daily. Get yourself out there every day.
And stop whining. It's a lonely life, this life of writing. And it's the life you chose. The life you love.