Challenge Accepted


The question posed for this discussion is what “unobtainable gift” would you hope to receive? I’ve talked about my writing process as a writer of historical fiction for young readers. There are a few additional factors I need to keep track of that goes beyond having authentic artifacts and noting the correct years. It means that I need to integrate appropriate social constructs, and psychological authenticity that dominated the era, and illustrate the emotional connection between youth from 200 years ago to today (because being human doesn’t change, even if times change). And then translate this into experiences that young readers can connect to. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the details. It’s also easy to get frustrated when I can’t seem to “get it right” – whatever that means. And sometimes, my brain just quits working altogether.  Especially during finals week.

As William Kenower, in his book Fearless Writing (Writers Digest Books, 2017), reminds us, self-doubt runs rampant in creative work because of the nature of the creative. The reality is, if one has any aspirations to be a published writer, they need the validation of others. This validation comes in the form of good reviews, awards, contracts. Not only this, writers need to write for the reader, taking into account how the reader approaches the text. Which means, by implication, writers need to write for others, not themselves. But writing, as a process, often stems from a very personal, even emotional understanding of the narrative.  It's the oxymoron of writing.

And when it doesn't work, when a writer doesn't get the validation, it becomes an exercise in self-flagellation. The rejection feels personal. 

The reality is, the business of writing is the most impersonal place, more so that other businesses. It's exceptionally transitory: editors are constantly leaving, publishing houses are merging and collapsing. New houses rise up out of the ashes. The internet, and the popularity of self-publishing, complicates the business all the more.

Working in the creative makes it more challenging because, unlike science and other industries, there are no rules to follow.  One plus one always equals two, but writers dwell in the abstract.  Market analysis reveals some things that work effectively: understanding tropes that define each genre, understanding the audience, and so on. But even then, there are exceptions. And trends are always shifting. Some writers do everything right, and never get published. Others break every rule and get a six-figure deal.

Ultimately, it becomes a matter of faith. Sometimes you can't predict the outcome, but you need to have faith in your story. Sometimes you need to be reminded to keep the faith.

One of my favorite writers and bloggers – Yvonne Ventresca – belongs to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.  According to their mission statement: The Insecure Writer’s Support Group is a website media business, a home for writers in all stages, from unpublished to bestsellers. The IWSG offers support for writers overcome their insecurities, and by offering encouragement, they are creating a community of support.

 Founder Alex J. Cavanaugh noticed a lot of blog posts from writers mentioning their doubts, concerns, and lack of confidence. He also saw the positive replies they received and realized that the writing community offered an abundance of support. Alex launched the monthly blog posting in 2011, and has been hosting monthly blog tours ever since, with participants often numbering over 100.

So the question becomes: what unobtainable gift do you hope to receive? Perhaps it’s not so much unobtainable, as it is a magnificent challenge. Or perhaps it’s just plain madness.


“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings, #2)

 -- Bobbi Miller


  1. Bobbi -- thank you for the lovely mention. :)
    "Sometimes you can't predict the outcome, but you need to have faith in your story." So true. And I can't wait to read your next historical novel!

  2. I love that description of the oxymoron of writing.


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