October 14th, 2015

Forward Momentum For Your Writing Career

Amy Sue Nathan

Amy Sue Nathan

I blame it on a lunch date. Or maybe I should say I owe it to a lunch date. Yes, my entire writing career is predicated on the fact that I met someone for lunch whom I’d never met before. I don’t remember his name, or what he looked like. I never saw him again.

Good thing you don’t pay royalties on inspiration.

During our pleasant midday conversation in an Irish pub, the first conversation since exchanging a few emails, my lunch companion mentioned that my email voice was “very well-suited to blogging.”

I thanked him.

Then, I went home and Yahoo-searched “blogging.” This was 2005, after all, and I unceremoniously entered the blogosphere.

After a few months of fervent blog reading and following and commenting, I started my own blog in early 2006. It had a polka-dot background and nary a reader. In my first-ever blog post I thanked Lunch Date Guy for setting me on a journey whose destination was unknown, and noted how that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I’d begun. I couldn’t have imagined where it would lead. Had someone told me, they’d have gotten a head slap.

I am big believer in momentum, that going downhill means you’re picking up speed and getting stronger, readying you for the climb.

My early blog where I wrote anonymously about being a single mom, dating, and life (like the main character in THE GOOD NEIGHBOR–coincidence?), led me to writing essays for photocopied ezines, and then for newspapers and online publications. My essays led me to attempt a memoir (because whose life isn’t worthy of 300 pages?), which led me to try fiction, which led to a book deal. Which led me to start a new blog about the kind of fiction I loved and was writing.

My full circle has a point.

It doesn’t matter where or how you start. It doesn’t even matter WHERE you go. It just matters THAT you go, that you keep moving, that the momentum in your writing life mimic the momentum you admire or strive for.

Even as a brand new blogger in 2006, I always wrote, rewrote, and edited my blog posts. They became writing exercises, stretching muscles I’d not used in years. I read many blogs daily in those days before quick life updates on Facebook and Twitter, and dreamed about having comments on my posts. And I got them eventually, and a solid following of bloggers and blog-readers. Some of whom now read my novels.

I learned from my lunch date that we don’t find our inspiration, we choose it.

We choose to look up blogging and take a chance on something new. We choose to use our observations about the blue sky to write an essay or a poem. We choose to tell a story that makes us laugh because we want others to laugh. We choose to spend a year, or two, or six, writing a book.  Maybe writers are compelled to write, but we choose to do it.

How many people have you met who say they want to write a book? My answer is always the same. “You should.” And I mean it. If you want to write a book, you should write it. Without a degree, without classes, without feedback. You have to start going if you want to go somewhere, anywhere. (I’m not suggesting that this is a good idea forever, that craft isn’t important, that knowledge isn’t king (or queen)).

I don’t mean you can always decide what you want to write about but you can choose to embrace the inspiration that is presented to you, to cultivate the ideas that rattle around in your head, to embrace curiosity without hesitation, and to move forward despite uncertainty and fear.

And if you get lunch out of it, all the better.

Can you point to the moment when you chose to be a writer? What inspires you to keep going?

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Amy’s latest book, The Good Neighbor, just released yesterday.

The Good NeighborIzzy Lane never thought of herself as a liar. In fact, she’s always played by the rules. She’s an excellent mother, has loyal friends, and a rich career as a school counselor. Fresh from a new divorce, however, Izzy feels like she needs a little fun. So when, on a whim, she starts a blog it seems like a rather benign indulgence. But as her online quips begin to gain traction, Izzy makes a slip. Somehow a new boyfriend winds his way into the picture. The problem? Izzy makes him up.

What, at first, feels like a harmless fib quickly spins out of control and Izzy must figure out how to balance fantasy and reality. Keeping up appearances while managing an absent ex-husband, two very nosy friends, a toddler son, and full-time job soon prove impossible, and Izzy feels utterly lost. It’s only when her long-time neighbor and surrogate mother, Mrs. Feldman, re-enters her life that Izzy begins to see the mess she’s made. And it’s with Mrs. Feldman’s guidance that Izzy learns to face reality, find comfort in new norms, and open herself up to the possibility of real love.

About Amy

Amy Sue NathanAmy Sue Nathan is the author of The Good Neighbor and The Glass Wives, both published by St. Martin’s Griffin. She is a freelance writer and editor, and the founder of the Women’s Fiction Writers blog, named one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 Best Websites for Writers 2015. Follow Amy on Twitter @AmySueNathan.

14 comments to Forward Momentum For Your Writing Career

  • I was a journal-er, not steady enough to do it daily, but when something important happened to me, kids being born, a divorce, 9/11, I turned to the pen.
    But it was reading an article about NANOWRIMO in 2010 that made me say, “i’m going to write a novel.” And I did. Grant it, it took another 2 years of editing for it to be even readable, but I did it. And have been writing novels ever since.

  • So encouraging to think we are just picking up speed for the climb as we go downhill! Thanks for this glimpse into your journey. And, thanks for The Good Neighbor. I just added it to my Kindle.

  • I love this: we choose our inspiration. Indeed! We keep choosing to move forward. My mother’s death propelled me into writing books to focus on something other than grief. When I finished my first book I then chose to write another and go to writing conferences and writer meet ups and that all led to improving my craft and eventually an agent. So YES, we must keep choosing to move forward. Great post, Amy Sue!

  • This post is simply lovely, Amy!!

  • My ideas! You know, when you get an idea, and you just KNOW there’s a book in there somewhere…you just gotta go down that path, don’t you?

    Best of luck with your new release, Amy!

  • What a lovely post. I’ve always been a ‘writer’, I still have pages of my adolescent angst tucked away somewhere, but the moment I chose to be an ‘author’ was when I started writing my first novel. Three manuscripts and thousands of words later, I’m still working at being a published author. People tell me there’s a good chance I’ll never get published and I tell them that they’re right, but it’s a certainty I won’t get published if I don’t keep trying. You’ve got to be in it to win it, after all.

  • I enjoyed this post. I too have chosen to write. Its been with me my whole life but there was a distinct shift when I decided to no longer be guided just by serendipitous inspiration and actually make the choice to move forward as a WRITER. (Insert the auspicious James Earl Jones voice). Each day I try to move forward in some way toward my writing goals. Reading a lot, writing a lot, researching alot. Writing a lot. Its taken on a little life of its own and more than any awards, contracts, or publications, I’m most proud of the fact that I’m doing it and its really is all about developing the woman I want to be outside of being an educator, mother, wife, which I love but they really define me for others. Writing defines me for me.

  • BTW I don’t say it enough but I love WRITERS IN THE STORM, yes shouting purposely. I’m always inspired, educated, and supported because of the wonderful and insightful work you all do. Now I will place my shovel back in the garage and get to work. 🙂

  • Orly Konig-Lopez

    Lovely post, Amy. The idea that barreling downhill is just gaining speed to go back up is particularly appealing right now. 🙂

  • Lately it seems like Amy is on every blog, and I’m loving it. She always has a lot to say and it’s all good.

  • Thanks, Amy. Your essay came at a perfect time for me.