Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Writing Without Words - Day 1

This little writer is going back to school!

Today I had my first day of class at Florida Gulf Coast University. I have enrolled as an ... wait for it ... ART MAJOR!! (enter disbelieving laughter here)

It’s true!

Those of you who have known me all my life will likely find this hilarious. And if you haven't known me that long, trust me, hilarity is about to ensue. I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. I can't hit the broad side of a barn with a ... uh ... a ruler. Drat. I botched that one.

Anyway, I am officially an Art student at FGCU, and my first class is "Drawing I." Before you start with the "WTF is going on here??" let me rewind it.

If I'm happy as a clam to be a full-time writer, living my dream, what sent me back to school as an art major?


Yup, I'm going to study the visual arts as a means to further my writing. It might be better to say that I am studying the visual arts in order to broaden and foster my well of creativity, which will in turn increase the emotional depth of my writing.

What brought this on? The dreaded "SOPHOMORE SLUMP," otherwise known as "I AM LIVING IN FEAR OF MY SECOND PUBLISHED NOVEL BEING A FLOP."

2015 was a dream year for me. My debut scifi novel TheEmpress Game was well-received by critiques and fans. The positive response was so far past what I'd hoped for that I spent the second half of 2015 feeling like a princess in a fairytale. But with success comes expectations, and suddenly I'm staring at a second book and thinking, "Have I upped my game with this one? Have I grown as an author?"

It didn't hit me until just now, but what I've really been adjusting to since October is the idea that I am a full-time writer now. Writing is no longer the side job. It's no longer the pastime. It's no longer the "fit it in when you can, but don't jeopardize your day job" thing. For the last 4 years, even though I've been writing books, I've spent the majority of my self-improvement efforts on becoming better at my day job. Being a better editor for Nasdaq, learning to edit more carefully, more quickly, and multi-tasking like a fiend. I've been developing the editorial role at Nasdaq on the whole, researching the job, identifying weaknesses in training, working with management on changes, yaddie yaddie.

Now, (and it took me 3 months to really embrace this fully) ALLLLLLLL of that intense effort should be, and can be, turned toward my writing career. I am no longer content to just write the stories that come to me. I want to be More. Better. Deeper. Wiser. Craftier. Subtler. I want to be raw and pain and sophistication and art. I want to GROW. And this is a freedom. This is an amazing freedom, to be able to focus on my writing as my career. It also makes me think, "HOLY SHIT. THERE IS SO MUCH TO DOOOOO!"

Since finishing the draft of Book 2 of the Empress Game (which I think will be titled Cloak of War) I've become obsessed with improving myself as a writer. I've amassed a pile of craft books that I've been working my way through. (Slowly) I've been reading more critically. I've been searching for inspiration outside of my comfort zone.

I now have the time to fully become the writer I want to be.  That's in bold because it is so profound and so important to me.

And that will be a major focus of my 2016 year. Not just to write, but to work at becoming the writer I want to be.

It's a journey that will take the rest of my life, and I am looking forward to it. :)

Part of that journey means expanding my creativity. If you know me, you know I am an analytical person. I was born to be a scientist. I followed that path all my life until grad school, when the writing fever ambushed me. (And I've never regretted that for one second!)  But I love logic. And efficiency. I love to plan, to think things out, to discover all the angles and possibilities and outcomes before making a move. I am deliberate and calculating. It rules my life.

I wouldn't have it any other way. For me, I find a sense of security in obsessing about details and logistics, knowing I've set myself up for success as best as possible. This is even helpful in my writing. I'm going back to my roots as a plotter (after pantsing the last 1.5 novels I wrote). However, all the outlining and plotting in the world will not make for a great read UNLESS there is emotion behind it. Real, painful, dirty, gritty, beautiful, sacrificing, sublime emotion. I want my books to make logical, rational sense, but I want them to breathe. I want their hearts to beat. I want them to bleed.

And that is where Drawing I comes in.

I'm going to crack open my head and see what pours out when words are forbidden and only creativity remains. I'm going to see what happens when it's just me, a blank page, and a pencil. When I don't have to worry about questions like, "Am I using the passive voice here?" "Is this motivation plausible?" "Will this satisfy my readers' expectations for Kayla?" "Will the critics like it?" "Will this novel be labeled as stereotypical and trite?" "Am I being cliche?" "Is this too obvious?" "Did I foreshadow this enough?" and on and on and on and on and on and on......

In this class I am looking forward to creating art for an audience of one: Me. I'm going to please myself. I'm going to work hard and have fun with it. I'm going to free myself to fail. My career does not depend on my mastering the art of drawing. This class is just for me and my soul.

And I couldn't be more excited about that. :)


  1. I am jealous! I hope to hear some tales of your foray into drawing! :)

  2. Awesome! I'm excited to see what you draw but more excited to hear what you think about the experience of it. Be careful about the cracking your head open and pouring stuff out. Sounds dangerous.