Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Heart of a Warrior

I met a new friend at last weekend's Spring Spirit Conference.  Like me, she is 40 years old.  Unlike me, she has a 14 year old child in the house (I was envious of the built-in audience testing, I have to be honest). And, well, she kind of reminded me of myself at 19.  Now, wait, hear me out.

See, my new friend has a completed manuscript.  Oh, she knows it's too long.  And she knows she has too many protagonists.  But she can't bear the idea of hacking her words to bits.  She wants to create, not destroy.  She is in love with her characters and doesn't want to tell one of them that she loves them less than another. Who amongst us can't relate to those sentiments?

But she also conveyed to me a feeling of betrayal, of jadedness at the entire publishing process. And that's where I found my 19-year-old self starring back at me across the aisle of our Fantasy breakout session (led by the incredibly charming and dynamic, Bruce Coville).  The 19 year-old who'd had her heart crushed by her first love and was certain that "this whole love thing isn't for me."  Because, you see, my new friend's face lit up whenever she talked about her characters and the world they inhabit.  But then she'd utter the words "I dunno, maybe writing for children is not for me" and I'd watch as the fire in her eyes was doused by a flood of self-doubt.

This writing thing is hard.  Not the writing itself, that's a joy.  But putting it in front of people, being told it's not right, tearing your hair out trying to solve the issues your critiques have pointed out (or get your characters out of the corners you've painted them into), then starting all over again.  That's war.  That's being in the trenches -- hand-to-hand combat. But if you really, truly love your characters, you do it.  You give them the chance to do what they were meant to do: touch the hearts of children everywhere and give them hope, comfort, joy.

I think my new friend can do this. I think she has the heart of a warrior.  The heart of a writer.

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