Daily Archives: August 18, 2011

Foil-Wrapped Chocolates and Writing by Becca Birkin

Below, please find another wonderful WIFYR report. While I (Carol) am learning a bit about pictures and putting them in the blog, I couldn’t get Becca’s to work. So please imagine a gorgeous blond woman, with a sweet smile, staring out at you. Just looking at Becca warms your heart. And she’s a terrific writer, to boot.

I am a chocolate addict. A recovering one now, but I’ve had serious candy-seeking behaviors, including a month-long obsession over not one particular brand, but any chocolate—so long as it was covered in sleek, shiny foil. There was just something soothing about the quiet crackle, the smooth feel, of unwrapping each piece.

What does chocolate have to do with writing? Not much. One is sweet, easy, and something I may later regret. The other is rarely easy. The similarity is that I crave both.

My writing craving consistently takes me to WIFYR, a week I never regret. This year I sat in on parts of both Claudia Mills’ and Martine Leavitt’s workshops, and learned much in each. Yet in harsh contrast to Claudia’s kind and helpful critique of my work, my inner voice kept asking: “Why am I even writing?”

During this mid-week crisis, I attended Sharlee Glenn’s afternoon class. Sharlee encouraged us to write for the joy of it, quoting Madeline L’Engle: “I had to write. I had no choice in the matter. It was not up to me to say I would stop, because I could not.” I can relate.

Agent Mary Kole said the best stories have an element of longing. Like L’Engle, I long to write, to create characters whose concrete needs resonate with real people. Similar to the satisfaction found in unwrapping bright foil-covered chocolates, I suspect writing is more meaningful because it isn’t easy.

Martine Leavitt taught us to own our writing as a divine gift, saying that since God gave her the writing talent and drive, she was going to do something with that. Her words, along with Sharlee’s, make me want to follow my college creative writing teacher’s advice to “keep at this business.”

But how? I have a chronically messy home, a child with a developmental disability, and lots of other excuses. I dream of a beach cottage, Gifts from the Sea style, and blocks of uninterrupted time. Martine’s answer? “It’s hard to write, and that never changes.” She suggested, “Do it every day, even for 10 minutes. Get up earlier. Do it first thing. Put aside your other hobbies for now. Writing wants your whole life. Take your work with you everywhere.”

Claudia Mills balances her successful children’s writing with her full-time career as a philosophy professor. She related that while some readers might not love a particular philosophy paper, others would. That wise, optimistic attitude makes me consider how often I give more time to worry and defeat than to writing. Adding to Claudia’s suggestion to write an hour each day, I’m going to take Martine’s advice and give myself more permission to write, even if I type in spurts at the dentist and violin lessons.

Many others at WIFYR inspired me, including editors Alyson Heller and Lisa Yoskowitz, Holly Black, Kathleen Duey, Rick Walton and Ally Condie. WIFYR has renewed my dedication. If writing wants my life, this is one addiction I plan to encourage.

Rebecca Rice Birkin craves not only chocolate and beach time, but books. She’s discovered housework is almost bearable if done while listening to a book on CD. She’s written for The New Era, Segullah and Meridian Magazines, and has won several writing awards.

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