Friday, August 26, 2011

Silencing the Harpies by Jane Kirkpatrick


Those doubts that can plague our thoughts and threaten to rob our confidence … Are they currently nagging you? You’re not alone! Do you realize that most writers fight them? Take heart! There are successful ways to combat them. This Fortifying Friday, guest author Jane Kirkpatrick is here to share how she silences the harpies. ~ Dawn






Silencing the Harpies
by Jane Kirkpatrick

I once wrote a piece for Writer's Digest that went like this:  Writing is like undressing in front of the window at night with the lights on.  Getting a rejection letter means someone was watching me undress in front of the window at night.  With the lights on.  And what they saw was so awful they pulled the shade down.

I've had a few shade-pulling moments.  But I've had some success as well writing 17 historical novels based on the lives of actual historical people.  My writing has won awards and had starred Publisher Weekly reviews. What's gotten me through the discouraging times has been finding ways to silence the harpies, the negative voices asking "What makes you think anyone will buy your book?" or "What you just wrote?  No one will give up cleaning their toilets to read that." Now I've ventured into a new genre with my first contemporary novel, Barcelona Calling, (Zondervan) and the harpies are loud.

So here are some of my favorite harpy charges and ways I've tried to respond.

1.  You say you're a writer but you've never won a Pulitzer or even been nominated for one.
1.a I write because I care about the story and will be faithful to it even if no one else is.
  
            2.  You're too wordy. You get in the way of your
            stories.
2.a  I know how to edit, revise and rewrite, all skills necessary for the writing life.
       
            3. You say you're a creative writer but you're
not making much money at it.
3.a -I've been blessed with talent, publishers, readers, friends, time and a supportive family, the real riches of life.

4. You write bland and clichéd little stories that won’t make any real difference in a person’s life.
            4.a Writing heals; stories change the world, so my readers
             tell me.

            5. You don't write everyday; you're not disciplined.
5.a I meet my deadlines or ask for extensions in a timely manner; I write even when I’m not inspired because I can’t wait for inspiration.

            6. You’re too preachy in your writing or too tentative
            and puny.
6.a  Without judgment I write to invite others to consider and explore their own lives. I write with a moral purpose that Anne Lamont says is "to feel deeply."

            7.  No one will give up cleaning their toilets to read
this book.
7.a I write of compassion, care and love and readers have given up housework to read my work or so they've told me and I'll listen to them and not you!

8. You're an historical novelist. You can't write a meaningful contemporary story with humor.
8.a  If I fail at Barcelona Calling, at least I'll have risked. I know how to pick myself up and start again.

It's easier to recognize the negative voices than it is to refute them and I often have to find new ways to put duct tape on their little mouths.  But it's worthy work for a writer.



Jane Kirkpatrick has written eighteen novels and three nonfiction titles in the past twenty years. Her essays and features have appeared in more than fifty national and international publications.  She's a two-time winner of the WILLA Literary Award and twice been a finalist for the Christy, the Spur, the WILLA Literary Award and the Oregon Book Award. Her first novel earned the prestigious Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center. Jane believes that stories are the sparks that light our ancestors' lives, they're the embers we blow on to illuminate our own. For 26 years, she and her husband made their lives on a remote ranch in Oregon driving seven miles to their mailbox.  They now live on 2 acres near Bend, Oregon with their two dogs and one cat. Jane is a Wisconsin native, a former mental health therapist and administrator and consultant to American Indian tribes.  Barcelona Calling is her first contemporary novel.

To learn more about Jane and her books, please visit:


2 comments:

  1. Jane Kirkpatrick is one of the finest living writers I know. I've appreciated her books since her first one, A Sweetness in the Soul. I just hadn't realized how funny she can be. Silly me. I should have known!

    Thank you, Jane!

    Carol Buchanan

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  2. Donald Maass asks (in his book Writing the Breakout Novel): If I stopped writing this novel, why would that matter?

    If I did that, besides having wasted my time, (which he considers an inadequate objection, btw), I would have caused others to waste their time, discounted the hopes and support others have given me, and have failed to keep my word.

    I'm just me, but this world needs people who follow through.

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