|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.
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.
Elizabeth Seckman is a writer and admin for the IWSG.