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StarsNovember 7, 2013

Last night I went out with (as I think of her) my Young Writer friend. My favorite barista at my beloved but now defunct cafe, she has stars in her eyes about writing, and is applying to MFA programs all over the country. We ate sushi and talked about writing, and I remembered myself in her.

When I was 25--her age--I packed up my tiny Ford Festiva with its roller-skate wheels and headed to Mills for my MFA. I was going to light the world on fire with my prose. Or at least, I was going to write. And I lit a lot of things on fire, namely the cigarettes I was still smoking back then. I was giving myself two years in the ivory tower, two years to really focus on craft. 

Then, for those two years, I avoided writing as much as possible. I did the bare minimum, because that's what we do sometimes, when it comes to what we love most, right?

Artists don't draw. Musicians don't play. Writers don't write. If we write, we fail (because when we're learning something, DOING anything at all, we fail. Just part of the process). And as artists, we strive for perfection and failing is really not ideal. 

So we don't write. I managed my 150 pages of a terrible novel for my thesis. I took an amazing dialogue class in which we read a book famous for dialogue every week and then wrote a three page scene in the voice of that writer (that did more for my skill with dialogue than anything else). I took a poetry class which almost killed me. 

Then I graduated and spent the next ten years also avoiding failure by not writing. Not writing = safe! Not writing = dreaming about the perfect words you'd string together if you just had time.

What I didn't realize was this: 

Not writing was the biggest failure of all. 

No matter how spectacularly I screwed up in the writing itself (which I did! Still do! Spectacularly!), when I finally started to write everyday (thanks, NaNoWriMo 2006), I was succeeding! 

And seven years (JEESH!) later, I'm still writing, all the time. Every day. Even when I fail, I win.

The job has gotten harder the more I learn. A rank amateur says LOOK I WROTE A BOOK YOU SHOULD READ IT OMG -- a writer who's spent years actively learning how to craft emotion out of words says, Well, you don't have to read it. It's the best I could do but it's still not as good as Murakami. Maybe someday. *kicks rock* (Also known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.*)

I've been both of those people. (Admission: I've been both of those people this WEEK.) 

But I've changed my website a little bit because I want y'all to see that book up there to the left with its quotes and overview and all that because I'm proud of it and I'm excited for it.

Pack Up the Moon. It's literally the book of my heart, and it's available for preorder right now. I'll be releasing excerpts and reasons for you to preorder (gifts! prizes! kisses on the mouth if I see you IRL and you want one!) but the real truth is this: It's a good book. It will make you cry, and then--I hope--it will help heal you a little bit. 

I love the stars in my Young Writer friend's eyes. The funny thing is I still have them, too. 

* "The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average . . . Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding."

Comments

I can't wait for the book - pre-ordered it last week!

Ooohhh, ohhhh, so excited to read it. Dang that it isn't out until March! *stomps foot* Excerpts are forthcoming soon, I hope, right? RIGHT? lol =)

"The Perfect is the enemy of the Good." My husband had never heard that before I said it to him earlier this year. He's also a painter who is not in a painting phase. I can't count the number of things I haven't done because I didn't want to fail. Or the times I've told myself "I'm process oriented" to excuse the fact that I never finish something because I can see that it won't be perfect so I would rather not face the imperfection.

More books, yay!! Off to the local to get them ordered!

I preordered as soon as it appeared on Amazon over here! I totally understand the not doing so you don't fail thing, I do that all the time and I'm trying to stop it.

I went the route in grad school of creating reams and reams and reams of terrible work, then graduating and going immediately into that post-MFA depression can't-work period. Agreed that making reams of crap work is preferable to being afraid to make any work at all, but wish I'd remembered that in my first few years back out in the real world :P

Also, hooray for B&N accepting paypal and not charging stupidly inflated shipping to Canada!

Congratulations! Yay, Rachael! I can't wait. The preview sounds exciting!

Pre-ordered! Looking forward to the day it magically appears on my Kindle. :)

I'm so looking forward to your latest book! If you didn't have a few stars in your eyes, you probably wouldn't write.
What separates a real writer from someone that wants to write, is the writing itself. We're grateful that you are a writer!
I'm guilty of the fear of failure myself. Thanks for pointing that out! :)

I can't wait to read your new book! The funny thing I have learned about writing and success is that you just never know what is going to be a hit and what is going to be a miss. I write blog posts that I think are brilliant and people give them polite nod at the best. I put out something I am not exactly happy with, but feel the need to share it, and get overwhelming response I never ever expected. I totally understand the fear of failing, because as little as going to return a dress that doesn't fit makes me worried they won't take it and I usually don't even try just because of the anxiety it give me! (OK, in my defense, I come from a country where you can't return things, but still...). But I think as long as your art touches ONE person, then you succeeded. It might not make you rich and famous, but it means you succeeded nevertheless.

"I've been both of these people THIS WEEK"
Too funny and even funnier that I could totally relate. Well, funny NOW.
Think of it as character R & D. Yeah, that's it. That's totally what you meant to do. So smart.
Dunning Kruger pffft.

"I've been both of those people. (Admission: I've been both of those people this WEEK.)"

Best line of the week!! Over here, it's funny 'cause it's true. Funny how we are with our chosen crafts.

Can't wait for Pack up the Moon!! (And, if you want, I can start referring to you as my Young Writer friend. Since you are.)

Pre-ordered and I can't wait until it comes out! I'm sure I'll be finished with it the day after it comes out, since your books always go so fast for me (that is, I can't stop reading them). :-)

I am *so* excited for this book, Rachael. It looks amazing. and I couldn't agree more with what Lisa said - we are grateful you are a writer!

Got my Cora's Heart in paper yesterday and started right away. Trying to take it slowly to make it last longer! Pre-Ordered Pack Up The Moon in July and look forward to reading it next March! I know they will both be amazing. So happy to be able to add to my "Rachael Collection".

I just finished Cora's Heart a couple of days ago. I had a huge work project and held it as my reward for getting that done. Good choice on my part because I loved it! I was glad to not have to put it down for days on end while I worked instead. I pre-ordered Pack Up The Moon yesterday and like Abigail, I can't wait for it to magically appear on my Kindle.

I never thought that the concept of "fear of failure" applied to me, but your post has shown me that it really does apply to me when it comes to writing. I do all kinds of things that are writing-adjacent, but I rarely do any actual writing beyond Facebook status updates :-P.

Dear Rachael, I love your writing. All of it. Marlene

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at [email protected] to make arrangements.

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