Wednesday, December 17, 2008

10th Anniversary Feature: Monica Roe

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of www.cynthialeitichsmith.com, I asked some first-time authors the following question:

As a debut author, what are the most important lessons you've learned about your craft, the writing life, and/or publishing, and why?

Here's the latest reply, this one from author Monica Roe:

As I continue to grow as a writer, I have found it has become both the most rewarding--and also the most challenging and intimidating--area of my life.

This realization has been something of a surprise to me, as there are other aspects of what I do that I would have expected to hold that distinction.

Besides being a newly published author, I am a physical therapist by profession. I work primarily out of Nome, Alaska, but my responsibilities also include providing services to fifteen Native bush villages across the Seward Peninsula (as well as two islands off the eastern coast of Russia).

My job takes me on weekly flights in tiny bush planes through all types of arctic Alaskan weather. I sleep in village clinics that sometimes have no running water, clamor through snowdrifts in sub-zero temperatures to treat patients in their homes, and occasionally encounter foods ranging from raw whale blubber to dried seal meat.

In comparing the two sides of my professional life, however, I can honestly say that I find writing to be the more challenging endeavor. Perhaps it's the unique mix of complete freedom coupled with absolute accountability. Nobody can force me to sit down and write—it's a conscious choice that I have to make every single time I want it to happen.

Whenever I sit down in front of a blank computer screen, I feel that same strange mix of excitement and fear. Will today be the day I write something I’m truly proud of? Do I have anything worthwhile to say? Will I ever write another book worth publishing?

Unlike a structured job with specific daily expectations, writing can be far too easy to put off, especially on the days when the words and ideas just aren't flowing the way you'd like them to. Okay, you think, maybe I'll just wait a few days for inspiration to strike. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day to try again.

I've fallen into that trap before, and suddenly three months have gone by and I've effectively scared myself out of writing anything at all.

For me, it takes a huge amount of discipline coupled with a fair amount of courage to actually sit down and face that blank screen on a regular basis—more than it takes for me to get on a bush plane or swallow a piece of whale blubber.

I struggled with that before I was ever published, and I haven't found it any easier now that I have been.

That said, however, writing is still the most rewarding job in the world. You are accountable for everything you do or don't put into it, but the possibilities are truly endless.

You have the potential to say something to a significant number of people and you can effectively shape and create your own world, your own reality.

Whether or not it includes whale blubber is up to you.

Read a Cynsations interview with Monica.

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