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The Writer’s Art of Diversity

By Laurie Wagner Buyer

When people ask me what I write and I reply “a little bit of everything,” they are not sure what to think.  Am I poet, a novelist, a memoirist, an essayist?  Yes, I state, I am all of those, plus I have written newspaper columns, magazine articles, and academic papers.  What makes my writing life so diverse?  How did I come to be published in so many genres?  The answer is easy.  I listen to the voice deep within and write what I feel.  For me this is not an analytical or intellectual undertaking.  It is, instead, a matter of the heart.  I write best when I am moved to say something, when the voice inside cannot be silenced or stilled.  I have learned over the past thirty-some years to listen, to pay close attention to what I’m being asked to say, to whatever story pleads to be told, and to be as present in the writing moment as possible.

The voice that first spoke to me came in the guise of a poet.  Images and sensations of the natural world begged to be recorded and preserved when I first came West to a wilderness lifestyle in Montana.  I complied with dozens of free verse poems and journal entries.  Later, when the voice turned more demanding and insisted on some kind of credibility and financial remuneration, I turned to writing articles about the people and places of the West for newspapers and magazines.  True, I barely made enough cash to pay my postage bills, but I still felt like a real writer when I saw my by-line in black on a white page.

Degree by degree, the poet’s voice argued with the hack author for more of my time.  I turned again to poetry, this time with a more serious intent to publish collections.  Success in this arena led me into the limelight of performances at Cowboy Poetry Gatherings.  As my name became known and my work garnered more fans, publishers approached me asking for a manuscript.  While publication and subsequent awards soothed the poet-voice ego, the hack author hissed that if I were a professional writer I’d be making more money.

Knowing that substantial wealth wasn’t within reach, I settled for securing a way of making a living as an author through teaching and editing.  I went back to school for an MFA in Writing.  By some odd stroke of fortune my creative non-fiction/poetry master’s thesis became my first novel.  Though I had never planned to branch out into being a fiction writer, the knowledge that I could compose a three-hundred-page book took over my life.  In the next five years, in-between teaching on-line, conducting writing workshops, speaking at conferences, and mentoring individual clients I wrote three more novels.  Again, the power of that inner voice (or in this case multiple voices) drove me to reveal the stories of characters that lurked in the labyrinths of my heart.

Realizing that my chances of monetary success depended on finding a literary agency to represent my novels, I gathered enough courage to pitch one book at a conference.  My past reputation and publication in other genres gave a prospective agent reason to believe that I might have something worthwhile to read.  The agent liked what she saw and agreed to shop my stories around the New York houses.

As any writer knows, the waiting game can be almost unbearable.  Instead of succumbing to the “let’s-wait-and-see-blues,” my inner voice strongly hinted that I turn to my stack of journals and work on a memoir.  I listened and wrote and revised.  At another conference I pitched two separate memoir ideas and found two different publishers willing to take a chance on unusual segments of my life story.  One book is due out next spring from a University press and the other is under consideration.

Other writers, some of whom are my clients, often ask me, “What’s your secret?”  My answer comes right from the inner poet’s voice that loves alliteration:  passion, patience, and persistence.  I should also add play.  If a writer’s life is not chock-full of having fun with words, then a very important element is missing from the mysterious puzzle.  Nothing takes the place of joie de vivre. Not genius, not talent, not skill, not savvy, not even the right connections.  The truest liberating force on the path to success is the sheer joy of doing what one loves to do.  And the only way to genuinely know what it is that one loves the most is to listen to the voice within, the nudging or nagging whisper that says, “Sit down and write.”

[Laurie’s newest collection of poetry Accidental Voices was published by Amazon Shorts and is available on-line at http://www.amazon.com/.

 

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