The Power of A Post-It

Monday, October 17, 2011

Despite having slowly but surely pursued my goal of wanting to be a writer (whatever the means), for over a decade now, I still hide in humor when anyone asks me terribly pointed questions about my writing. I still feel like those writing goals and dreams still exist in a very dark, secret place in me, a place where I prefer to keep the light off for most people and sometimes, even for myself.

The truth is, I write about what interests me and what I feel like writing about at the moment. (How's that for a crappy answer to "what inspires you?") Other than becoming a financially self-sufficient freelance writer, I can't spell out specific goals that I want from my writing: fame doesn't seem too important, but I do want to succeed at living a thoughtful life doing what I love.

When people ask what I write, I really flounder. I'm not a niche writer (unless you count "Northwoods living" as a niche) and lately the only writing I do is stuff that pays me. The novel I worked so diligently at two winters ago has reached the point where it either needs to be abandoned or completely re-done and frankly, I'm kind of leaning towards abandonment. Don't they say the first two novels you write should never be seen by anyone's eyes other than your own? If so, prepare for greatness on my next effort because that'll be novel #3!

With my fiction (and most certainly my poetry) writing all but forgotten during the summer season, the other day, when a visitor at work asked about my writing, I forced my creative nonfiction writing into this nice little box: Northwoods memoir.  Memoir?*ugh*

But as I stood there babbling on in an effort to make my writing life sound mildly interesting, I realized the visitor wasn't the one cringing at my descriptions; I was. The guy seemed genuinely interested in what I do. He'd just bought a book my volunteer of the day had written a couple years back. (She was the one who mentioned that I wrote.) Turns out the visitor was a singer and he'd made it his mission in life to support the arts and artists.

I told him about my commentary. I wished my business cards weren't in a crumpled mess in the bottom of my backpack. He asked how he'd know when my book came out.

My book? The latest novel seemed like a slightly sad, if not valiant effort that might live for eternity on my hard drive. In the last couple years, I feel my writing has shifted towards a much more nonfiction focus, although I can't imagine publishing a nonfiction book. It seemed silly to talk about a book. Not because it seems impossible, but because it still feels like something very far off to me, something that has yet to be realized.

When was my book coming out?! The question baffled me. And maybe more than baffled, it embarrassed me. I'm so very far off from having a book published.

So I laughed. "Oh, I expect it'll be a very big deal," I joked, trying to play it cool and not expose my awkwardness; trying to force the conversation back into that dark, safe little place where we just don't talk about such things. 

"Well, give me something to write on," he said. I handed him a pad of orange Post-Its.

"Here," he said. He handed back the Post-It note pad. He'd scrawled his address across it and at the bottom he'd written a note: "1st signing of your book please!"

Validation in the form of a Post-it. In the light of day, that whole book writing thing didn't seem so silly after all. 


  1. I hate saying that I'm writing memoir and I cringe at saying I write humor...because in my mind, my humor writing is nothing more than "mommy blogging" which makes me cringe so hard I nearly turn myself inside out.

    That, what have you published question is scary and humbling but it adds fuel to the fire. Something tell me that your Post-It message friend completely understands.

    Add me to the first signing list. I know you'll do it, Ada. I've been faithfully following you for a year now and I'm still a fan! You never fail to inspire me to sit down and keep stringing my words together.

  2. Funny...I always thought I wanted to write children's books. But when it comes down to it, it's this mommy blogging (cringe) gig that flows most naturally. And guess what? I like it, my readers ( some of whom are writers) say they like it, and it's starting to make me a bit of pocket change. So I'm trying to embrace it.

    You're writing. That is an accomplishment in and of itself. Let yourself off the hook a bit, ok? :)

  3. Well whatever happens to this or another book you may start - this post it is a huge boost for the self esteem. Love it. Simply as that. Happy for you!

  4. I love this...

    So true. I HATE the question. Ironically, few people even really want to know. So many times I feel like I may as well say "I'm a lazy do-nothing-er" and even when I try to explain (which comes out sounding like I have no freaking idea what I write) they react like I responded with "nothing worthwhile" anyway...

  5. Great post, Ada! I really like this--both your writing of it and the moment itself. What a shock when someone is so bold in faith in your dreams when you aren't!
    I just started my first weekly writing group here and thought of you. Wow--had no idea I had missed writing companionship so much! That, and this post have me feeling more hopeful about writing goals.

  6. I love that boy and his post-it and you. I can't WAIT to read the book you don't realize you're going to write yet!

  7. Isn't that a funny thing about some creative people?! Whenever people ask me about my shop I never know what to say. In fact one time someone asked me what I sell in it and I said "uhh I make stuff. Like jewelry and sewing stuff" We walked away and Jon said "what was that??!!" I'm always worried one day someone will tell me I make crap. I love that there are people out there like your post-it guy. They see the talent and potential in people even if they won't say it (outloud perhaps). Definitely keep us updated on your book! I want to read it!

  8. "Northwoods" writing - Not everyone has been there to write about it, the state with the 10,000 lakes. So go for it. I love Minnesota. I recall once when I was in Bemidji and drove my daughter near Int'l Falls area to be with a friend. I was fascinated by the wilderness that day. I hardly saw any people or cars on that trip. It was quite eery.

  9. I swear- those little nuggets of someone believing in you or praising what they've read of yours- it sort of buoys me back up against self doubt. For like a day, at least... Believe in yourself. I'll read your novel!

  10. I find I always stutter when someone asks me what kind of writer I am. Somehow, because I don't have a book published I feel embarrassed calling myself a writer. But I do try my best to write everyday. If we keep at it, someday a book will finally be finished.

  11. I love this exchange---- I know how little praise one can get while "struggling" in the beginning steps of a career. Moments like this are what get you through!

  12. This was a wonderful piece to read. When IS your book coming out?!?! :)

    Gad to have found you through The Lightning and the Lightning-Bug Link party! I am always looking to connect with fellow writers. I'll be checking in again. If you have a moment, stop by and see me on A Mother Seeking.

    ~ Meredith From A Mother Seeking Come find me on my blog, A Mother Seeking...

  13. Adding your blog button to my sidebar under Blogs I Heart (because I do) :)

  14. Ada, you're my hero. :) Seriously, I look to you when I think of "success" as a freelancer. I think you've reached an amazing level of success, and I'm personally proud to "know" you. I'd also love a signed copy of that first book, because it WILL happen.

    I totally understand what you mean when being asked, "well what do you write?" That's such a hard question to answer. I usually say, "a little bit of everything." Ha!

    Thanks for linking up, friend!!! Great post.

  15. I think the term writing conjures up a very specific generality to the general public: writers write books. If you are a freelancer or a columnist or a *gasp* mommyblogger, it seems much more difficult to explain to those not entrenched in the writing world. I, too, struggle to define myself as a writer. It's who I am at my core. But my writing is not always productive and involves a lot of starts and stops and paper and trash emptying. And until there is a book to show for it, to many, I am just a hobbyist.


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