This week the Rockville 8 is honored to welcome NYT best selling author Cathy Maxwell. Her latest book, The Devil's Heart, is available in stores now!
Cathy gave the closing talk at our local chapter's retreat this past April, and I'm thrilled to be able to share her wisdom with you here.
Thank you so much for joining us, Cathy!
Yes, You Really Are Special
gift noun \ˈgift\
1: a notable capacity, talent, or endowment
2: something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation
3: the act, right, or power of giving
Several hands will go up. Not many, but a number. Felicia will point out that those who raise their hands are the storytellers and although it may seem simple to them to weave tales, it is mystery to the rest of the world. What they have is a gift they are born with.
And the gift for story telling, just like any other innate gift such as a talent for math or athletic ability, needs discipline to be developed. That means that of the small number of students who raised their hands, maybe only one will become a writer.
I admit, “discipline” is one of those more-than-four-letter words that annoys me. It has taken me years to come to terms with it—and I admit to far too many relapses.
So, if you are storyteller who longs to share your stories, here is a thought or two on how to develop DISCIPLINE:
- You don’t need to write the whole story in one sitting. Books, scripts, any writing always begins, for me, in fits and starts. A good sentence can make me happy. One sentence leads to a paragraph and then a page. Sometimes, to help my concentration, I’ll set a timer. I bargain with myself—let me give fifteen minutes to the discipline of writing and then after that, I can go do something else and I’m not picky what that is. I burst out of my office like a fifth-grader on the last day of school.
- Recognize when your best creative time is and then use it. There is no point in forcing a night owl to rise with the sun to write. Or vice versa. I’ve discovered my best writing time seems to start at one in the afternoon and last until six. After that, I’m shot. So why battle my natural inclinations? Oh, by the way, I used to write first thing in the morning, but my creative clock changed. Sometimes it resets for the a.m. I roll with it.
- Good books are in the rewrites. I run into people who believe the first draft is the product. Not so. The first draft is to fill blank pages and develop a story arc. It is like a big, ugly lump of clay. Once I have an idea of where I want to go, then I can finesse. And finesse. And finesse again until I have it right/write.
- Goals help. I have daily writing goals and monthly writing goals. I have used critique groups, workbooks, software programs, voodoo, and sage burning to help me achieve them. Fortunately, I’m competitive enough that goals work for me.
- You aren’t going to be happy until you try. The stories will keep swirling inside you. I did mention this is a gift? That means it is unique to you. It was born inside you and is part of what you have to offer the world. Please, don’t back away from it. Embrace it. Using your gift isn’t about becoming a mega-millionaire writer (trust me, there are easier ways to earn money that story-telling). It is about bringing yourself into the fullness of your being. This is one of the many things you can offer the world that others can’t. It is worth the exploration . . . and the discipline. Trust me.
Cathy Maxwell has been in publishing over twenty years. Over the course of those two decades, Cathy has written over twenty-five historical romances, hit the New York Times and USA Today lists, been nominated for and, occasionally, won some nice awards, made dynamite writing friends, and has had the time of her life.