Monday, January 04, 2010

The Soul Tells a Story

Soul Tells a Story

"How'd you get your start as a writer?" This is a question I've been asked a lot, and which I've done my share of asking.

Thing is, it has an ambiguous answer, because it's generally not a question about the writer-in-question, but about sweet you (or me), the inquirer... as we wonder how we might follow the same path towards publication.

If you asked that question of me, you could discover that, for over a decade, I wrote about air fresheners, baby wipes, Spanish wine, leather-bound collectible books and color film (right, they used to make film when I was a wee little writer :). Anyway, this might give you hope that writers can get their start just about anywhere, even in the wipes department.

I could tell you that I eventually started speaking, first at wedding showers, and later for a bible-teaching ministry, which eventually led to the infamous egg-and-cheese breakfast. This is the one where my spouse said, "You're doing a lot of interesting things, but I think you should be a writer. Writing is your greatest gift."

So we set off to get a professional opinion. And I was counseled to "publish something, talk at retreats, and go to Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference." I had a terrible time trying to get published in magazines, so after a year and a half of consistent rejections, in desperation I jumped the gate and began blogging. (The Blogging Editor has since kindly published hundreds and hundreds of my articles. :)

Going to the writer's conference turned out to be a good idea. I met great people, learned I wasn't alone in my struggles, and received interest in the book proposal my spouse coerced encouraged me to take along. One of the people I met at Mount Hermon helped recommend the book proposal to my original publishing connection, and that resulted in a contract.

In the end, I don't know if any of this can answer the opening question. Because how-I-got-my-start-in-writing may not parallel how you'll get your start. Maybe you'll write about the virtues of 5-point seatbelt systems or the relative elasticity of bungee cords for a decade, before you seek (or not) publication.

More likely, in this day of viral successes, you'll join a community like HighCallingBlogs (open to new members on January 5th, btw), SheWrites, or CCblogs; and if you make people laugh, cry, or sigh about 5-point seatbelt systems, you'll probably get called out by the community. People will begin following you, you may get recommended for feature, or you may even be asked to write specifically for whatever site you join.

At which point you might throw convention to the wind, jump the gate and self-publish. It's easier than ever these days. Or perhaps a traditional publisher will take notice and offer you a contract.

Either way, because I love a good story, I'll probably want to know... how'd you get your start as a writer?

----

Speaking of getting your start as a writer, I recommend this gentle read: The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life.

And Bonnie of Being Transformed has just won a copy in our New Year's Giveaway. Congratulations, Bonnie. :) Also, thanks to everyone who joined our celebration with their beautiful "Beginnings" posts.

The Soul Tells a Story photo, by L.L. Barkat.

RELATED:
How to Write a Book Proposal
Publishing Advice from Industry Experts
Melo's Why Write or Share?
Bradley's, from the archives, How God Saved My Life Through Writing
Glynn's How I Became a Writer

Would you like to add your thoughts about Writing Journeys? Melo did a post and it got me thinking, wouldn't it be nice to hear from more of us? (Jennifer, you could turn your comment into a post! :) Anyway, if you want to post something, I'll link. Just drop your link into the comment box here.

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22 Comments:

Blogger Bina @ Bina's Pad said...

You, my sweet friend, are beautiful...and I, for one, am glad you started!

Much love,
Bina

9:57 AM  
Blogger Doug Spurling said...

Thank you, God Bless You and...

"join a community like HighCallingBlogs (open to new members on January 5th, btw"

January 5th is my birthday btw.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

l.l, i am smiling and you know exactly why.

the book is on its way and yes... let's talk about the story in a few years time if God takes me down this road.

as for your sense of humour. it sparked my own over at my memoir today. i had a good chuckle and thought of you : )

10:41 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

oh and i also added a link to high calling today so hopefully new members will join...

10:42 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Loved this, LL . . . especially since right now most of my writing is on the baby wipes, etc. side of things ;)

I have no idea if you'd ever do something like this, but I would love to hear some thoughts on using a blog network . . . I always feel like I'm not quite sure what to do with, say, HighCallingBlogs.

Blessings to you!

10:59 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Bina, you are always an encouragement. Thank you! :)

Doug, happy birthday!! Very cool.

Claire, yes, I know. Glad you are smiling. :) Thanks for the link to HCB.

Sarah, sure. I'll work on something about blog networks. That's a good idea. (I can't really speak for other networks, but I'll give you the scoop on how best to navigate ours.)

11:34 AM  
Blogger Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Great post, L.L.

I'll bite at your question, too.

The best way to start as a writer ... is to start writing. And to voraciously consume good writing.

I started writing professionally in high school for the small-town weekly. I wrote neighborhood news ("Aunt Clara stopped by for tea at her niece Deborah's house on Tuesday.") I wrote obits. I wrote high-school baseball stories. I wrote anything that someone would let me write.

In college, I wrote more and more. I took writing classes. Instead of taking lazy summers off, I sought internships at newspapers. I once covered every county fair in Shelby County one summer for a small-town Iowa newspaper. Which also means I took a photograph of every sheep and rabbit in Shelby County that same year!

Eventually, I landed in places like the Omaha World-Herald, Sacramento Bee, Des Moines Register.

And now, I write ... just to write. Occasionally, I freelance. ... And I have the wonderful opportunity to help college students learn the craft of newswriting. (Through a connection made through HCB!)

I don't know if I have the stamina to write a book. I'm more well-suited for short-form writing. I enjoy the short-term gratification of a news story or a blog post.
:-)

But I so appreciate people like you who can write long-term projects so skillfully.

May your year be filled with stirring Soul Stories.

(P.S. -- Good writers invariably ask good questions. I featured one of your good questions on my blog a few days ago.)

12:29 PM  
Blogger Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

Hmmm ... Seems I proved myself wrong about short-form writing in that last comment. Sorry for dropping a "book" in your comment box. -smile-

12:36 PM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Wow....I just had a comment on my blog that I won. I am blessed.
Laura, Thank YOU.

2:24 PM  
Blogger Jeff Newell said...

I bought The Soul Tells a Story based on a previous post and I'm really enjoying the book. Thanks for the recommendation.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Maureen said...

I wrote my first essay for submission to a national contest when I was 9. I got to Finalist stage. The requirement was to write about what we wanted to be. At the time, I wanted to be a musician. I did study music but music became avocation. All I've ever done is write. Go figure.

6:46 PM  
OpenID shrinkthecamel said...

LL - I blogged about this very topic last year, almost exactly a year ago. It was called "How God Saved My Life Through Writing."
That title should tell you enough, but here's the link.
http://shrinkingthecamel.com/2008/12/31/how-god-saved-my-life-through-writing/

6:49 PM  
Blogger Corinne said...

I loved reading about your journey! (especially that you started with the baby wipes stuff... gives me hope!)

8:47 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

I love reading about writers. In fact I love it so much it sort of keeps me from actually becoming one myself!
I smiled all the way through this post. Wonderful!

9:46 PM  
Blogger sarah said...

Another lovely post from you. :-)

My answer to your question may sound a bit strange, but it's the truth of my heart & experience. I didn't ever formally start as a writer, I was born this way. I wouldn't even really know where to place a starting point. When I first completed a novel? First earned money from it? First looked at my own words and felt that wonderful yes? First introduced myself as a professional writer? The truth is, there was no starting place. Writing isn't really what I do. It's how I breathe.

10:05 PM  
Blogger Glynn said...

Posted this morning: http://faithfictionfriends.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-i-became-writer.html.

6:54 AM  
OpenID cindyhan111 said...

this is a nice little 'nugget'... I'm glad I stopped in today, no grand stories for you though.. I started writing because I was afraid to...
now I'm afriad to stop!

2:08 PM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

Charlie Peacock and wife at Mt Hermon. He will be such a treat. So much good info in this post. Thx.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

A wise mentor I know, who writes the most breathtaking poetry, a few moons ago, she sent me that very book, "The Soul Tells a Story."

Because sometimes you need a husband, a friend, a wise one, to say, "Here, wear this, I think it's you and it fits."

And when we feel awkward and uncomfortable and the embarrassment all rushes to the cheeks and we squeak, "Really?" --- for that someone to quietly smile reassurance and keep nodding and whispering, "Yes, really --it's so you."

Thank you, L.L. -- yes, thank you.

11:39 PM  
Blogger Cassandra Frear said...

I started so long ago, I don't know how it started. But it was very private, very personal. It's taken me a long time to see that another person might want to read my scribbles.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

You have a great blog here. I have a blog myself which I hope will provide inspiration and guidance to people all around the world. Life is hard enough. I'd like us to exchange links to help spread some traffic around, and let other people know about our sites.

Please let me know if this is possible.

Jason
TheWISDOMWALL.com

1:44 AM  
Blogger Faith Imagined said...

This is absolutely one of the BEST "how I got started" writing posts ever! I love how you don't assume every path will be the same. You are SO encouraging!

BTW I love the Blog Editor too. She accepts all of my writings ;-)

11:03 AM  

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