A California Writers Club retreat last week motivated me to do more than dabble at my online dating theme.
Maybe it was the setting that made me get serious: The calm of our meeting house at Buddhist Center Pema Osel Ling, where we took off our shoes and sat in silence around others at work. My comfy quiet cabin surrounded by redwood giants who stood guard against intrusions.
Maybe it was my fellow participants. All of them earnest about projects they described with passion. A journalist recounting her own experience with an arranged first marriage. A nuclear physicist decrying via a mystery story the death in the U.S. of his science. A young mother writing about her husband’s motorcycle accident and paralysis that left her struggling to get him dressed and into his wheelchair as her contractions came every five minutes.
Most certainly it was the workshops that inspired me to write. I felt energized by the mix of new and familiar. Jay Swartz introduced us to software for creating, writing, and tracking manuscripts. All new to me. I made a lot of notes for a friend who is helping me with the technical and marketing aspects of my website, hoping that he could interpret before I bought anything.
My friend would have loved to hear his marketing mantra repeated by presenters Nina Amir and Nora Profit. They hammered at the need for platform building. It’s all about creating a community of readers, they stressed. It’s the writer’s responsibility to build readership, and social networking is the friend who comes to lend a hand. We nodded; we agreed; we had heard it before. But who’ll push us to follow through when this three-day fire goes out? I thought.
Nina and Nora also focused on focus. Our job as writers is to influence how a reader thinks and feels. As opposed to giving readers information we think they should have. Both women helped us clarify a “pitch” to an agent for our projects, i.e. in 25 words or less, what a reader should take away from this book.
I should have practiced at the pitch session, but instead spent four hours with a book that Jay had featured, The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler. Time well spent, though. Concentration, a block of undistracted time, and Vogler’s twelve steps netted me an detailed outline of a long, layered article on my re-entry to life and love. Nothing for it now but to write it. Ha.