Are you often surprised by where stories take you?
I am, and that's part of the mystery and the joy. I never want to know. To me, it would be like doing homework---it would be so boring---if I knew what was going to happen. So, I'm kind of like the reader every day. I go into my study, and I don't know what's going to happen. It's exciting, you know?
I love her enthusiasm here, and her emphasis on the joys of writing. So much is placed on the negative, and here she doesn't emphasize that.
A lot of your characters seem in some way empowering---do you ever set out to empower your readers?
In the most self-protective of ways, I don't think about the reader when I'm writing. I just think about the story. After it's done, I think a lot about the reader. But in the end, always, you need to write what's in your heart and soul, and let the chips fall where they may. Let's say you try to accommodate this imaginary reader, and you produce a work you're not particularly happy with. That will always stay with you, that you didn't write what was true for you. Whereas, if you do write what's true for you, and someone doesn't like it, well, you know, that stings for a minute, but it goes away.
Bravo, Elizabeth, for sharing these words! I totally agree---we must write first for ourselves, and let the chips fall. God puts particular stories in our hearts for a reason, and I need to be reminded of this every day.
So many successful writers talk about writing as agony.
Sometimes I think people say that to keep the competition down! We are in such need of fresh voices, and I worry sometimes that emerging writers pay a little too much attention to what other people say. If I could say anything to aspiring writers, it's to keep your own counsel, first and foremost. There's nothing wrong with listening to what other people have to say---I used to be one of your readers who would gaze longingly at those pictures of people who are published and think, Oh man, what must it be like? But there is something inside of a person that makes them be a writer in the first place. That's a strong and true thing. And you can have your head turned very easily by the business of writing. It's so important to keep it church and state---keep it separate. The process of writing and creating and answering that very unique call inside yourself has nothing to do with agents and sales and all that. And I can tell you as someone who's enjoyed a lot of success in my career that nothing matches the feeling you have when you get it right on the page, when you please yourself in that very intimate way---that's always the best thing, no matter what happens. For me it is, anyway.
This is advice I needed to hear. And it's so true! On this side of the journey, with my debut novel on shelves (and I have so far to go, I know), this advice rings true. We would be wise to heed it. Thank you, Ms. Berg, for sharing.