Ocieanna Fleiss should be a familiar face on Seriously Write to many of you. She’s currently visiting Manuscript Mondays with her series “Taking Editing to New Heights.” (Dawn here.) Both Annette and I have been friends and crit partners with Ocieanna for years. We’re happy that she’ll soon join the Seriously Write staff and claim Writer’s Journey Wednesdays. We’re looking forward to the asset her humor will bring. Today, she shares a part of her own journey. Thanks, Ocieanna!
Not Too Seriously Write
It was February 2009, about a year and a half ago, that I decided to quit writing. Really. I did. The fulfilling, joyous activity I lovingly nurtured for many years had become a weight—a depressing, unsatisfying burden. So I stopped putting anything down on the screen. No more keyboard clicking. No plotting scenes. No creating characters.
That only lasted about four days before the longing to express myself with words overtook me. Once again, I popped back into the fiction world I’d been building. But the reason I stopped writing remained. And even though I rescinded my rash “Take this job and shove it!” attitude, I needed to figure out what had sparked my urge to quit and somehow make peace with writing.
I came to realize that writing itself wasn’t the problem, but rather the push to get published. In my journey, I was taking getting my words in print too seriously. I understand if you want to be a writer, and not just someone who talks about being a writer, it’s important to take it seriously. But for me, the goal became all consuming.
You probably never struggle with this. However, just in case you do, here’s a little quiz to shed light on your passion for getting published.
1) Does the majority of anxiety in your life revolve around talking to editors, sending out query letters, rushing to finish a proposal, waiting to hear back?
2) Do you stress to find out what the market is looking for, which publisher needs what, what’s the newest trend?
3) Do you lose sleep worrying about your manuscript? Will Editor Joe like it? Did it have enough conflict? Will it grab readers? Did I forget any periods or commas?
4) Does the joy of writing diminish because you’re trying to fit your passions into the perfect publishable form?
5) Do you find your significance more from a stranger’s approval (an editor or reader) than from your family and especially your heavenly Father?
I confess, I struggled with all of these. When I realized how my pursuit had negatively impacted many elements of my life, I decided to just stop. Not stop writing (I already tried that), but cease pursuing publication at all. I wrote my blog and chapters in my novel solely for the joy of putting words to paper. I knew that getting my name on the cover of a book wasn’t as important as my family, my mental state, and my spiritual well-being. So like a balloon, I let the dream of getting published fly away.
Ahh . . . It felt really good. Well, through an amazing series of events, I did end up getting that longed-for book contract. I’m so grateful for the Lord’s hand in that, and the journey to publication has been difficult but incredibly rich in reliance on Him. (I had to!)
But you know what? Once I got the contracts, the old obsessions began to come back. Can you believe it? I lost the joy of writing, and to be honest, I’ve been tempted to give up writing again. But rather than that, this recurrence of getting-published anxiety has reminded me to hold this author thing loosely. If no more contracts ever come my way, I can still be a loving wife, a good mom, a loyal friend, and most importantly a follower of Christ. When I take writing not too seriously and when the truly significant remains my priority, writing becomes fun again. And I find my identity in who I am in Christ, not in a stranger’s approval.
Ocieanna Fleiss has co-written two novels with Tricia Goyer—both for Summerside press. The most recent, Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington, released July, 2010. Ocieanna has also written several articles for national publications and a bi-monthy column for Northwest Christian Writers Association. Homeschool mom of four little ones, she, along with her husband, stay busy at her home in the Seattle area.
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