I’m having one of those days. You know, when you’ve worked the graveyard shift, commuted home, gotten in, and it’s nearly 8 a.m. and … it’s blog day! And every single blog idea, all three, formerly residing in your head, are gone. Oh, wait. That’s just me.
So, I’m going to run on a bit about souls and skin. Yes, you read right. Souls and skin. Not souls like a TV evangelist shouts about, but the writer’s soul. And not skin like alligator or ostrich skin – the kind used for really nice boots. Not skin as in the largest organ on the human body. Not even pigskin and the all American football pastime. But the writer’s skin. And since two souls reside in this skin (see how that came together?) I’ll be bringing Gwen, the AKA, in to the discussion.
Gwen: (Waves!) Hi, y’all!
Faith: The writer’s soul and the writer’s skin. I’ll start with mine.
Gwen: Um, ours.
Faith: Wait. Not really. Let me talk a bit. Between us, the AKA and I have been commercially published for over 20 years now, and one might think that, with all the problems our conjoined writer-souls have endured, we’d have really thick, crocodile, writer’s skin. And we do, sorta. Kinda.
Gwen: Not really. Don’t listen to her. She can still experience hurt at a bad review, even if it is a review from a literary reviewer who should never review fantasy, *hates* urban fantasy, and takes that hate out on lowly, little her in a clearly biased, petty, insulting review. She makes jewelry when that happens. With wire cutters and sharp objects. And fierce concentration. It’s kinda scary.
Faith: You go shopping. For boots. And sandals. And jingly hip scarves. Y’all, once she tried to buy a gray parrot. Seriously. Who would have taken care of him? Not me! I wasn’t even published yet!
Gwen: Yeah, yeah, yada, yada. You were talking about souls. And skin. Get on with it. It’s bedtime.
Faith: Right. The writer’s soul is all mixed up in the muse, which many of us personify and give attributes to, as if said muse is something apart from us, the mundane person we are in our everyday lives. Yet, the muse is the artistic part of the writer, the driving force behind writing, the creative process, the joy of conception, construction, design. The thoughtful planning, plotting, and outlining, and the seat-of-the-pants moments when things unplanned and unexpected happen and a story begins to build at a furious pace, as if it, too, like that personified muse, has a separate existence.
Gwen: Just put your butt in a chair and write, girlie. Your muse is so ugly he scares small children.
Faith: And David. I think it gave him nightmares. And, besides, I got muse-cowboy from you.
Gwen: (with a sly grin) True, cowboys are sexy! But *you* gave him the pasties and the whip. (taps chin, suddenly serious) And I think when you came along, and started writing, that gave him a soul. Muse-cowboy, not David. People come with one. Until you came along, our muse was pretty silent. Mostly drank from the bourbon bottle in his desk drawer. Stared at the far wall. You don’t think … he was bored?
Faith: Yep. I do. But taking a chance brought him to life. When I started to write fantasy, which had been your great love all along, that … let’s call it that adventure …. that adventure gave him personality and purpose. And gave me a chance to be my own writer soul, too, finally. It was the adventure, the flight of pure creativity, the dance of the writer’s soul, that brought him, and us both, to life. (Gwen doesn’t say anything. The silence stretches, growing uncomfortable.) It was hard, wasn’t it? To take a chance again. To stick your neck out again. To find new stories to write. A new voice.
Gwen: (sounding droll) A new agent. New pub house. New editor. New readership who had never heard of me. You. Us. Up until then, my skin had been pretty thick. Heck, you’re right. I had to find a new writer’s soul. And you are … um … very different from me.
Faith: (saucy smile) I’m cuter. No, really, when you started over, new writer’s skin had to grow. *My* new skin.
Gwen: New skin is … tender? Delicate? Easily torn?
Faith: Yes. It is. It’s painful to start anything new, especially writing. And just as painful to start over. It’s painful to try, try, try again. It’s easier to just give up.
Gwen: So, what do you say to new (as yet unpublished) writers? What do you say about writer’s souls and thin skin, and accepting the dose of hard reality along with the creative drive?
Faith: I say that we can grow new skin. Thicker skin. We can even grow a new writer’s soul to invigorate the creative muse. I say that to take a chance on a story, or a career, is important. Vital. To give up is to shrivel and die. To write is to live.
Gwen: (laughs ruefully) It’s worth it. Even when it’s so very, very hard.