Today YA author Jocelyn Shipley talks to us about writing–the heartaches and the joys. Jocelyn Shipley is the author of How to Tend a Grave,
Getting A Life, and Cross My Heart, and co-editor of Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls. Take it away, Jocelyn!
All I Really Need to Know About Writing
by Jocelyn Shipley
I’d like to thank Cheryl very much for inviting me to do a guest post about writing. What an honour! I met Cheryl some years ago through CANSCAIP and always admire and am inspired by her dedication to books and reading, her constant efforts to stand up to book banners, and her support of other writers. Plus she has the best smile!
It’s been twenty years since I took my first writing class, and ten since I published my first book. After all that time and five more books, you’d think I should know almost everything there is to know about writing. But I don’t. I have to tell you that most days, I still feel like a beginner. All I really know is how much I don’t know.
I used to be confident that if I worked hard enough, I’d figure everything out and be set for life. Didn’t happen. Writing didn’t get any easier. In fact it got harder, because my expectations got higher. I put so much pressure on myself to grow as a writer and achieve more. I’m no longer satisfied with simply completing a manuscript – I want it to be better, much better, than my last one.
But my attempts to improve my craft often fall short. On bad days, when my words won’t flow, my characters won’t come alive, my plots bore me and I’m out of ideas, the urge to shred every printout, delete every file, throw the laptop out the window and bang my head against my desk for the rest of my life is strong. Hey, it even sounds like fun. More fun than writing, anyway.
What keeps me going?
On good days, and there are also plenty of those, writing is a way to explore the world, to figure out why we’re here and what it all means. Not that I expect to find clear answers. I’m pretty sure there aren’t any. But writing is my attempt at making sense of things.
Somehow life is easier to understand through a story. There’s something so satisfying about creating a bit of order out of the randomness of daily experience. It uplifts and renews me to take raw emotions and conflict and try to put them into words, the words into sentences, the sentences into paragraphs, the paragraphs into chapters, and finally the chapters into a book that I hope will resonate with others.
Writing makes me feel whole and grounded and engaged with life and I’d probably go mad if I ever stopped. So I guess you could say that along with everything I don’t know about writing, there is one thing I do know for sure. It’s simply this: Even though writing sometimes makes me crazy, it always keeps me sane. And I think maybe that’s all I’m ever going to figure out. But it’s probably all I really need to know.
Thank you, Jocelyn! I so identify with writing helping you feel whole and grounded–I need to write, and it can help heal us, I believe. And I also really identify with the need to keep making a manuscript better–that it’s not enough to just complete a manuscript. Of course we want polished writing that is going to reach people (and get published). I think a lot of writers can relate to that.
About Jocelyn Shipley
Jocelyn Shipley’s YA novel, How to Tend a Grave, won the 2012 Gold Medal Moonbeam Award for YA Fiction – Mature Issues. She is co-editor of Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls, and her other books for teens include Seraphina’s Circle, Cross My Heart, and Getting A Life. Her work has been translated into many languages for Stabenfeldt’s tween book club GIRL:IT, and her award-winning stories have appeared in anthologies, newspapers and magazines. She lives in Toronto and on Vancouver Island, Canada.
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