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  • Writer's pictureLiz Zimmers

Creating the Vessel: Building Worlds & Making a Writing Life

Potter's hands creating a vessel on a wheel
image by Ritesh Photography on Pixabay

I've been busy making some changes as I dive back into the work of creating a novel. I can't tell you all how I cringe at writing those words, committing myself publicly to this ambitious undertaking. I find, though, that it keeps me more accountable than if I were to just go quietly about the task. There is nowhere to hide if I don't at least make a serious attempt! I'll try to share the process with you as it unfolds. I've been doing some preparation.

So far, I've completed a lengthy course in SEO and content marketing to try to understand that world. I thought for a minute that it might be a good career fit for me (avoidance of the gruelling work of writing that book!), but while it was fascinating and I learned a lot, in the end I'm a fiction writer. World-building and story are where I want to put my energy. I've spiffed up my website a bit for the first time in years, and I'm spending more time here. I'm embarrassed to admit the depth of my ignorance and neglect regarding promotion. I'm working on improving my performance in that direction.

A lot of writers, certainly myself included, dislike the job of promoting and marketing their work. Many of us are ill-equipped for it by temperament (guilty as charged). We often don't have the necessary skills. And life doesn't make it easy to write, let alone run a marketing campaign, now does it? We have families to care for, bills to pay, chores to do, classes to attend ... oh, the stress! There is no easy way. To get the writing done, we must carve the time out of the seething clay of life in minutes and hours, here and there, as best we can. We may have to be happy with less income and fewer possessions. It will never be any easier, and there is no guarantee of fame or fortune. We may question our abilities to soldier on, or the wisdom of doing so.

Finding the space for writing to fit into our lives is similar in some ways to fantasy world-building. In both ventures, we strive to create something fine and tenable from the chaos around us or within us. A writing routine and discipline emerges; a peopled world and a driving plot arises. There is angst and fretting involved in both, but there is wild joy and reward, too.

This past week, I was a guest of Penn State University's Creative Writing Club. The conversation I had with these talented, enthusiastic students touched on all aspects of a writer's life: the writing, finding an agent (if that is the path one chooses), publication, promotion and marketing - ALL vital components of making a book to share with a readership. In building our stories, no matter the genre, fully-rounded complex characters and adventures relatable to readers are key. Finding the time to create, and taking the time to groom and shape our work to a high polish, is essential. None of this is earth-shattering news, I know. The best, and simplest, bit of advice I had to give the club members is something that I, in my middle years, am just now accepting. Writing is a long game. Obsessing over self-imposed deadlines or savaging oneself for perceived failures only makes a punishment of what should be a gift. The writing will take the time it takes and life, with all its triumph and sorrow, will happen simultaneously. We can only embrace the challenge of balancing it all, and keep building the stories, word upon word.

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