Making My American Dream--A Successful Writing Career--Come True
By Norma Jaeger Hopcraft
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How hard is the journey of a writer?
It’s been extremely difficult—and extremely rewarding.
You need to take your work to a writer’s critique circle. Agents are looking for people who have been through the critique process, the more years of it the better. The writer’s circle hopefully is a supportive environment in which people help each other write better. There are guidelines for critique groups online.
But no matter how much you tell critiquers to find at least two positive things to say about a piece--and if you can't find two things you're not thinking hard enough--people are quirky. They adore the chance to criticize.
It was difficult for me to hear the criticisms. Painful much of the time. Often people are not careful about following critique guidelines--like saying at least two positive things. It can hurt lots when all they say is negative.
But if you’re a writer – and I define that as somebody who exhibits dogged perseverance in getting words on paper – you’ll want to get better. You’ll take each criticism seriously, examine it, accept or reject it according to your instincts, and use most of the criticisms to become a better writer.
It was also difficult to be rejected by literary magazines. I got two things published then nothing--for years. I don’t have a huge “platform” – Google that and get to work on building your own. Without one, agents won’t take your novel on.
It was frustrating to put in a 30-year apprenticeship and not see the results I wanted—fame, fortune, people fawning, the 3 Fs : )
But writing has been highly rewarding too. I’ve gotten to know amazing people in my writers’ circles. I've gotten to know them better as we shared our writing and our unique issues and perspectives came to the fore.
I wrote about the joys and sorrows of critique groups in my novel, The Paris Writers Circle (see the top of the right navigation column).
In it, I poke fun at the critiquers I've experienced. I laugh at the pain. I try to help writers see how--sometimes years later--you can use the junk in your life to make jokes for people to enjoy.
Writing has helped me sort through my bizarre baggage and use some of the anguishing or odd circumstances of my life as material in stories. This helps me to connect with readers.
Writing keeps me company when I’m alone and also connects me with other people better than not writing does.
For example, writing took me on a bus to circumnavigate the United States. I stayed in 20 cities over seven weeks. I’m working on the memoir about it. You can see quirky stories and pics from that trip if you go to 2011 in the right-hand navigation column.
Writing took me to New York University. I graduated magna cum laude not too long ago with a B.A. in creative writing and literature.
Writing took me on a creative writing sabbatical in Paris for one year. It took me to Barcelona to live for three months.
Writing makes me more alive as I seek, in Henry James’s words, to be someone on whom nothing is lost.
So it’s a hard journey but worth it.
Now for quirky photos. These are from a photography group that taught me to "glance" with my camera (my phone). You just walk along and take photos without putting the camera to your eye. You walk and shoot. People get caught on film not posing. I've put my favorites out of 50 photos here. Next week more. A few are a bit bizarre, but fun:
For one second this patch of Times Square looked deserted.
Times Square -- everybody's in motion.
Flowers as architecture.
Downtown and Brooklyn -- my direction home.
Playing to the door, not the crowd. Maybe he got reverberation from the recessed entryway.
Caricatures for sale. How about you? Do you like NYC? Times Square in particular? Comment below!