Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Get Out of Your Way by Terri Austin

First of all, a big thanks to Wendy for letting me hop on her blog and yak at all of you.    

I started writing when my kids were very young—both to escape mountains of laundry, but also to keep my sanity.  After all, there’s only so much Barney a person can take and remain unmedicated.  But there was one problem.  There were too many voices in my head.  And I don’t mean my characters’ voices, because that’s a good thing.  No, I heard my mother’s voice—I knew she’d disapprove of anything above a G rating, my pastor’s voice—he’d question my saggy morals, and even—gasp—what if my kids someday saw that Mommy wrote all kinds of naughty words and shook their little heads in disappointment?  I was my own worst enemy and I censored myself constantly.

Eventually, my kids started school and I was in full time Mom mode.  I told myself there was no time for writing.  I also had a couple of foot surgeries thrown in for fun.  But I always thought someday…someday I’d go back to it.  I jotted my ideas down in a journal and wished I had more time.

Now, my kids are pretty much grown—at least chronologically.  So I decided to take the NaNoWriMo challenge and start writing again.  For real this time.  No censoring voices, no holding back.  No fear.

It felt strange, this new freedom.  I used dirty words with abandon and chortled the whole time.  I wrote about sexy bad guys and missing potheads and a harajuku loli-inspired girl.  The self-imposed rules were out the window and I loved every liberating minute of it.  Occasionally, I would stop and ask myself, should I write that?  Then I would ignore myself and continue.  And if my book didn’t sell, at least I had written what I wanted.

But who was I kidding?  Of course I wanted it to sell.  I wanted everyone (except my mother and pastor) to read my book and laugh along with the kooky characters I’d let myself create.  And it turns out that my eighteen-year-old son—who wasn’t at all shocked by four-letter words and sizzling sexual tension—was my biggest cheerleader.
I guess if I had one piece of advice to offer it would be stay true to who you are as a writer.  Let the characters speak for themselves and don’t hold back because of what people might think.  Remember—no fear.    

I’m so glad I got out of my own way and freed myself to write the crazy that was in my head.  Turns out my editor loved my characters as much as I did.  Diners, Dives and Dead Ends is coming out July 17th from HeneryPress.

Now I just have to break the news to my mom.


  1. Loved the post Terri!I think you discussed the feeling that every writer has about their work. We are our worse critic.

    I know I have felt this way but my own work.
    When I write a murder scene from the villain's POV and re-read it afterwards, "Man, am I really that twisted? Where did that come from?" And if it shocks me, it will shock my Aunts and Uncles. But, I know my character is that twisted, and that's where it came from.

    Great post and I can't wait for your book to come out!

    Diane Kratz

  2. Thanks, Diane. Sometimes you have to get past feeling exposed and own what you've written.

  3. Great post, Terri! Thanks for writing this. It's something I struggle with, maybe because my girls are still 9 & 6. (On the other hand, the romances I get from my mom border on erotic, but she says she skips those parts. Yeah, right). I have no problem writing violence. I have no problem with cursing. But the bedroom scenes intimidate me. Thanks for your words, they were very helpful!

    1. You're welcome! It's a hurdle you have to jump. I love when people say, "So, you write about sex all day, huh?" Um no, not *all* day.

  4. "...used dirty words with abandon..." LOL! A mother's dream. On the rare occasion I was in a mall without kids, I would wander through the stores with breakables, just because I could!

    Enjoyed your post, Terri, and I'm sure I'll enjoy your book. Good luck breaking news to your mom.

    1. Thanks, Sherry. I made need a tipple before I do.

    2. Maybe your mother should have the tipple first.