Alicia Anthony

Suspense with a Twist

Tag: following dreams

Finding Motivation

Everyone warned me.

“Be careful. Make sure you have a plan laid out, goals that will keep you writing once this organism called an MFA program ends. Some people stop writing altogether. Don’t let that happen to you.”

I scoffed at their remarks. And rightly so. I had a plan. I would finish my manuscript and send it out, find a home for the characters who had become friends, get published, and write another one.

But things don’t always fall into place as easily as we’d like, do they?

I graduated from my MFA program in June. It was a wonderful final residency full of camaraderie and inspiration that I knew would follow me home. And after the pomp and circumstance of graduation died down, it did.

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I completed Inherent Lies, and was even named a finalist for the Killer Nashville Claymore Award just as I launched my first round of queries, hoping to find it the right home with an agent who shares my commitment to this project and can see the manuscript’s commercial potential.

I even have another project started, but for some reason, the spark that propelled me through Inherent Lies and even the novel that came before, Inherent Truth, is missing. Is it because the characters have yet to become so real to me? Perhaps. But I think the more likely culprit is fear. Fear of having spent so much time, so much energy, so much life working on something that may not ever…No…I won’t honor that thought with a voice.

But now that I’m in this place, this rut with walls so high climbing out seems impossible, what can I do?

Advice from some of the masters (Stephen King, James Patterson, etc.) indicates doing what you can to forget about that previous book. Focus wholly on the next project, and I suppose that is my struggle. Until Inherent Lies finds a home, I feel as though I’m in limbo. In some in-between place where one version of myself is pulling me to try to “fix” that manuscript.

“I’ve had some great feedback, there must be some reason it hasn’t been picked up. Maybe I can fix it… But then again, I need to focus on the new project. If I can just get in the groove on that one, waiting for news on Inherent Lies won’t be so hard.”

That is the mantra that keeps spinning through my mind, and I’m giving myself good advice. But regardless, it’s keeping motivation at bay when I wake at 3:30 AM to take advantage of the writing hours I’ve worked hard to carve out among the responsibilities of my day job and family obligations. And let me tell you, nothing makes an early rising writer crankier than lack of inspiration when she could be curled up asleep in her nice, warm bed.

Grrr…

So, what does one do with those early morning hours when she could be sleeping or writing but can’t?

Well, there’s Facebook, of course, and planning imaginary vacations. Those are two of my personal favorite time wasters. But a close third is researching writer’s block, of course.

And here’s what I’ve discovered… the masters are right. I’ve got to move on. Inherent Lies will find a home in time, and an editor will one day force me back into the world of Liv and Ridge, but now is my time. My time to unearth the new characters who are ever so slowly emerging from my subconscious, to peel back the layers to discover what they’ve done and why and what they will do about it next.

I realized that I almost allowed the treachery of waiting to wipe away the thing I love most about writing: the ability to constantly discover, and it is what I’ve been missing the past couple months or so. I’ve been gripping onto the characters in Inherent Lies so tightly that these new characters had no where to go, no one to listen to their stories. And in order to move forward, that must end.

So, with the publication of this post, I am determined to ward off the dark shadow of pessimism that calls out to me to re-revise my manuscript, to hold tight to Liv and Ridge and all the other players in that novel. Instead, I will listen for the whispers of the muse that shines a light for me each time I take up a pen or sit in front of my laptop. I will tune my ear to the eager voices of slowly developing characters. Voices whose time it is to be heard.

…I think I just heard a whisper… 🙂

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Spring Renewal

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Starting over – it’s not easy, but the season of Spring exudes it. Flowers poke their heads above the warming earth and trees begin to bud and leaf. What better season, then, to make a metamorphosis of my own?

I will graduate from Spalding University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing program on June 4th. It’s been a long journey that has spanned four countries and two continents. It has been the impetus for new friendships with wonderful, imaginative people, and an excuse to travel to places I’d never under normal circumstances get to go. And although it proved arduous at times, and will likely bankrupt me as I spend the rest of my days paying back all those student loans, it is a decision I’d make all over again.

A year ago, in the midst of writing my extended critical essay, I was ready to be done. I was tired of the grind that five packets a semester entailed. Tired of critiquing books by other authors when all I wanted to do was write my own. But now that the time has arrived, now that I’ve spent the last several months immersed in my own fiction, spit shining my creative thesis, I’m having a hard time letting go.

I can’t help but ask the question, “What happens now?”

Thanks to the poignant words of my mentor in our final conference, I think I can begin to answer that question.

This is not the end. This is just the beginning.

This is the time to plan, the time to give voice and merit to the goals I’ve set for myself. It’s time to stop calling this vision I have a dream, and begin calling it what it is…a professional goal. One that I’ve spent the last four years dedicated to achieving, and one that has become even more attainable by earning this degree.

This is my spring renewal… my metamorphosis from dreamer to achiever. My chance to put what I’ve learned into action, not for the purposes of the next packet, but for myself. Each word, sentence, and scene that I write will bring me one step closer to the goals I’ve set for myself. This spring, it’s time to bloom.

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Navigating Life’s Journey

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It is obvious when you meet someone who is truly satisfied with life. There is an ethereal glow that seems to surround them, pulling life, love, and happiness into their gravitational field. I met one such person recently. His passion for his chosen profession was obvious, and intrigued me. This man, let’s call him “Brian”, like many of us, started out on one path, but ended up on quite another. He did what was expected of him, went to college, pursuing a career in resort management. Lucky for him, it didn’t take long to realize that the cobblestones along the path he was taking simply didn’t fit. During a six month internship, fresh out of college, he chose to take the step that would forever change the course of his life. He gathered up his courage, and moved to Hilton Head Island, ready to do what was necessary to find a career that fit.

Ten years later he is one of the most satisfied individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Spending time with him was like receiving a gift, gleaning knowledge from one who truly loves his profession. That, my friend, is a rarity in the public service industry these days. The look on his face as he navigated our boat through Calibogue Sound and along Jenkins Creek was unmistakable. He wore the expression of a man who is truly at peace. I watched in awe as he kneeled with Jillian, pointing out tiny creatures, nearly invisible to the untrained eye, freely sharing his knowledge and joy with her. I hope someday that Jillian will be able to discover that same peacefulness in whatever endeavor she chooses.

As I reflect on our afternoon with “Brian”, I am amazed by his happiness and satisfaction with life. Like the marshy maze that surrounds Hilton Head, life is a journey we must navigate carefully. One wrong turn can lead us down paths we never intended. At times it may seem we’ve lost our way for good; stuck in a rut from which it is impossible to free ourselves. What I learned from “Brian” is that even if our boat is stuck in the muck at low tide, high tide will always return, lifting our vessel from the mud below. We owe it to ourselves and those around us to free our boat and continue to navigate our journey when the tide returns.

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