What's It All About - What Drives You?

January 2011:

Establishing what drives you will help you to achieve your creative writing goals as an aspiring author. Just as taking a free Personality Test will enable you to understand how you work best when it comes to writing and publishing a book.  Take a look, below, at how I worked through the various aspects of being an author and speaker, and try to ascertain what, exactly, it is that you want.  Then go for it!

What's it all about - what drives you?

That was the question I was asked a while ago. I had to stop and think before I could come up with an answer. It would be easy to say, ‘writing’. The actual process of stringing words together in a meaningful way is certainly something I’d find hard to give up. There was a time in my life when my husband, having left home in the morning for work, would return to find me still alone at my computer – and no lights on in the house. I was so blown away with what I was doing, I’d forget to eat. But simply creating stories isn’t the answer I was looking for.

BEING AN AUTHOR?

Neither is ‘Being an Author’. All those book signings, when you get a crick in the neck and people ask you questions which, frankly, you’re not sure how to answer. ‘How do you think of ideas?’ Shrug of the shoulder. ‘Where do you get your inspiration from?’ Another shrug. Wasn’t it George Bernard Shaw who (misquoting Edison) said writing was only 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration? And who was it who said, ‘I write when I’m inspired; and I make sure I’m inspired at nine-o-clock every morning.’? (Actually, for me, it’s around six in the morning.)

PUBLIC SPEAKING?

So – what does drive me? Yes as a speaker, I enjoy interaction with a live audience. Even – if I shut my eyes to screen out all the equipment – with a radio audience at the end of a telephone. But I hate taking part in TV chat shows where the only interaction is with a camera, and you have to talk in ‘sound bites’, the talent for which escapes me. Besides, the other guests on the show have, without fail, been far more accomplished than me at making their voices heard!

FAME & FORTUNE? I WISH!

Is fame and fortune the answer? One of my books reached No. 4 in The Sunday Times Bestseller list. Is that the driving force in my life? An urge to repeat the experience, to have a coveted Bestselling Author sticker on the cover of future books? What further endorsement could I hope for? I’d be foolish to turn it down if it happened, but the reality is that personal feedback from readers gives me a far greater thrill. With my blog, Mel’s Muse, you don’t even have to mail a letter to me to leave a comment.

GOOD BOOK CONTENT?

And then it came to me! The answer to the question I’d been posed lay in the content of my writing. I realised that every one of the books I’ve had published, the three or four which have yet to find a publisher, and the dozens of articles, features and series which I’ve written*, had a common theme. A thread, which runs through them all. I hadn’t planned it to be so. Without knowing it, this was what had been driving me. What I learned about myself is that I have a passion to bring hope to the hurting.

ENGAGING THE READER

Years ago, in the days when it wasn’t obligatory to have an accreditation, I trained as a counsellor. And what I discovered, as people shared their stories with me, was that many of us are hurting inside. I know that much of the time I’m pretty good at covering up my feelings and putting on a good front. It seems that that skill is universal. What’s more, even though the ‘plot’ of someone’s life ( i.e. the story you can see) may be quite outside your experience, the underlying ‘theme’ – the fears, the sorrows, the hopes, the triumphs – are familiar to nearly all of us in some degree or other.

EMPATHY BETWEEN AUTHOR & READER

Isn’t that one of the joys of reading? That empathising with other human beings? A vicarious living of someone else’s life? My most recent books are to do with disability; AIDS; divorce and stepfamilies; drugs and death. Few of my readers have encountered this level of trauma in their own lives. But the human endeavour behind these stories is what engages the booklover. From time to time, we all wonder how we’d cope physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally if faced with a particular illness, loss or misfortune. Reading either a fictional or biographical account of someone else’s struggle encourages us to believe that we could. That we might, actually, become a better person because of that fight, that faith. At very least, we’ve gained an education: a lesson in adversity and triumph.

CUMCARITAS BOOKS

I’ve been privileged to have a hand in that process. And I hope to continue to do so – in more ways than one. I recently set up a business called Cumcaritas Books. For those who don’t know (I had a consistent eighteen per cent in my exams) that’s Latin for ‘with love’ or ‘with charity’. ALL proceeds are destined for existing charitable organisations. You can read more about it on the books page of my website, and via the useful links. I want to make a difference. May I encourage you to be part of this urge to bring hope to those who are hurting?

* written under various pen-names.

Mel Menzies is a member of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Activate, and the Association of Christian Writers.

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