Monday, October 18, 2021

The Write Life

Meeting up with Dixie.
A highlight when visiting Hatteras Island. 

Long ago, back when I still thought saving the cat was the fire department’s problem, I was blessed to make the acquaintance of a seasoned pro who gave me some of the best advice that has not only shaped my writing life, but my real life as well.

I messaged Dixie Browning for an autographed book for my sister’s birthday. Being the wonderful, gracious lady that she is, she signed one and sent it back with a very nice birthday note. I sent her a thank-you and in it, I mentioned that when I was a kid, I always wanted to be a writer who lived at the beach, so she, Ms. Dixie, was living my dream life. She wrote back— if you want to live at the beach, I know a good realtor! And if I wanted to be a writer, I should just do it! 

Such a bold suggestion! Especially for a small-town girl from West Virginia, a place where big dreams are smothered in the wet blanket of statistical realities. Rule of thumb, count on West Virginia to rank first in bad things and last in the good ones. Cultural negativity seeps into the psyche after a while and crushes dreams as they hatch. Too often, “I will” is followed closely by “I can’t”.

I wrote back that I didn't have a clue even how to start, but I appreciated her hopeful words. 

She responded with half pep talk, half chide. Dixie grew up in a poor fishing village on an island. A setting she figured was similar to an Appalachian farm town. Fortunately, she'd been too naïve to realize she was supposed to doubt herself. It was too bad I knew enough about stuff to know what I couldn't do without even trying. 

Point taken.

I wrote a sample chapter and sent it to her. She smothered it in red pen, sent it back, and told me I was on my way! I simply needed to follow chapter one with chapter two, then three…and so on and so forth until I “what-iffed” my way to THE END.

It was simple. Sort of.

Once I had my book polished and ready to submit, she offered me another key piece of advice. As she approached the end of her writing career, she looked forward to never, ever writing again.

I was shocked. How could a writer hate to write? She told me it was simple, really. She earned her living working for the publishing industry and anything you do just to make money is a job and jobs eventual feel like work.

That offhanded piece of advice has shaped how I approach my “writing career”. I put that in quotes because writing is not my job. It’s what I do for the love of it. Life is too short not to enjoy the heck out of it. 

That’s me living my best life, sans beach cottage.

 

Dixie Browning published over 100 category romance novels during her writing career. She was a Romance Writers of America RITA Award winner and was a five-time RITA finalist. After her much-too-soon for her reader’s liking retirement from writing, she concentrated on painting watercolor landscapes—her true passion best-life hobby.   

Amazon.com: Dixie Browning: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Elizabeth Seckman is a writer and admin for the IWSG. 

9 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

She does have a point about it being a job which takes some of the joy out of it.
Looks like you got to spend some time with her as well!

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Sounds like she was a big help! That makes me sort of sad that writing turned into more of a chore for her, but I definitely get it!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I can see her point about writing becoming a job at some point even if you love it. That's awesome that she gave you such good advice and mentored you in the beginning of your writing career.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I would never feel sorry for Dixie. She was fine. I was the one who was sad that she was done writing.

One thing I will say about this lady is that she makes her own rules. I think she'd have been an awesome indie sensation had she decided to stay in the game.

cleemckenzie said...

I know you made her day by writing for her autographed book! No matter how successful an author is, I'm sure they love to hear from fans. Well, this is a case in point, isn't it? She was generous with her talent after your contact.

Great post, Elizabeth. Touching.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Elizabeth - with a passion for writing, and that decision to make her own rules ... I think is very sensible - none of us need to follow the crowd, or do what others expect us to ... as long as we have people who appreciate our work - that will shape our life ... as it has hers and yours. That beach cottage could come along ... dreams are good! I agree Dixie sounds amazing and so encouragingly generous. Cheers Hilary

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Rajani Rehana said...

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Juneta key said...

Great story, really enjoyed reading. Love the pic.