I once had a writing teacher tell me I was an incredible prose stylist—which was a pretty heady thing to hear from a teacher. But don’t worry, it didn’t go to my head. Truth be told, I didn’t like or respect him much—he was arrogant and needlessly and publicly cruel to a rather fragile young woman in the class whom I rather liked. So that mitigated my egoboo somewhat. I was considerably younger then and although I could write me some purdy sentences and liked writing them they weren’t getting me anywhere in particular. The striving for that literary style and for the approval it brought was choking off my own voice, my true writer self. At a certain point I moved away from the jewel-like sentences in favor of character and later plot.

Don’t get me wrong. The five-year old in me will always want approval, I’ve just had to learn to move beyond that, to do what I do even if nobody likes it. Otherwise, I choke myself into paralysis.

I am first and foremost a character-driven writer. Once an interesting character has their hooks in me, elaborate plots seem to spring fully blown from my head like tiny Athenas. I’m sometimes cursed by the weight of these plots and don’t necessarily always pull them off. In at least two novels I realized I had tried to write a duology or trilogy in one book. Neither of those has gone much of anywhere in quite some time. It’s exhausting even to think of breaking them up and doing massive rewrites.

Then came the years of caregiving and no writing at all and that was agonizing. It’s taken me a very long and arduous time to get back to anything like a regular writing practice—and I am still far from where I was. Part of me, especially when I read a work by an incredible prose stylist, wants to go back to writing jewel-like sentences. But the important part for me is to be true to my own voice and my characters and keep moving forward. I can throw in the pretty here and there, and I enjoy that, but the important thing is getting something on the page on a regular basis and worrying about the pretty and the atmosphere later. Call it what you will, but that’s a survival instinct for me, especially in these times of diminishing time. A person, a writer, can only be what they are and should be grateful to still be producing. I know I am.