Continuing my summer series of author guest posts, this week I'm featuring Diana Bletter.
We've met virtually and I'm looking forward to one day meeting in person. Thanks for visiting, Diana.
What? Huh? You’re 57 and you’re only publishing your first novel now?
It’s not as if I didn’t try. I’ve wanted to be a published writer ever since the poem I wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination was printed in a newspaper. I was eleven. I loved seeing my name in print. I loved the way my parents showed my poem to total strangers. But most importantly—and I realize this more and more—I loved the actual writing of it. The way I could make words dance the Salsa right over the page. I loved the timing, the rhyming. I was so proud of the poem's last lines: “Can we help with the things he lived for: peace and non-violence? If we don’t, there will be no silence.”
I am telling you, I was hooked.
I published my first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women, with photographs by Lori Grinker, in 1989, shortly after the birth of my third child. Seventeen months later, I had another daughter. Not too much later, I moved to Israel from New York, got divorced, and remarried a man with two children making us the proverbial Brady Bunch with three boys and three girls. And though I published articles here and there, managing to garner a string of successes along the way, a novel eluded me.
So here’s the thing. Last year about this time, I was about to give up. I thought, so what if I’ll never publish another book? And then something else hit me: even if I never publish another book, I’d still keep on writing. Even if nobody else would read my work, I still loved nothing better than sitting in my tiny office, writing away.
And I thought of another truth: if I gave up now, I’d never forgive myself. Quit? Fuhgeddaboutit!
So, I kept writing, even on those days when I felt like I was scratching numbers on the wall of a dark cave.
To keep me going, I read inspiring quotes. Here are a few:
“If a man will only stick to the thing he loves most, he will do it right, and end right.” – Maxwell Perkins
"You are only responsible for the quantity, not the quality. You are responsible for the output, and not the outcome."
"Go into writing with your whole heart." -- Natalie Goldberg
And from one of my friends, who wrote me, “Keep the faith about your writing. And when you feel it waning, lean on my belief in you and your writing…G-d hasn’t taken you this far to drop you now.”
And here are some suggestions that helped me:
1. Stick with the winners, the people who encourage. Not the ones who say, “you’re still haven’t published?”
2. Don’t worry about not being published. It will happen. Or it won’t. Or maybe it will happen in a completely unexpected way. The important thing is to do it because you love writing.
3. Think of people like Kathryn Stockett, whose book, The Help, was rejected countless times. Think of Ernest Hemingway, who wrote nine hundred pages of The Old Man and the Sea and then deleted about seven hundred pages. Think of people who train for the 100-meters in the Olympics. They practice for four years, running miles and miles for that one race.
4. On your desk or a wall, pin up quotes that help you. Find cheerleaders to encourage you. And remember that when someone gives you encouragement, they’re giving you courage to move ahead.
5. Sit at your desk and do the work. Make yourself a contract. Suit up and show up for yourself.
If you have writer’s block, just type in nonsense. Write as badly as possible. Keep typing or writing by hand and don’t look back. Just keep going.
6. And finally, what helps me is remembering that writing is like prayer: We often don’t know what the results will be but we keep doing it.