Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Go-to Gay: Turning "fear" into "fierce!"

Wade leading a workshop
Wade Rouse is "The Go-To Gay" here at Chick Lit Central. After all, without gay guys, a lot of our chick lit heroines would be missing out on some awesome best friends! If you missed his previous posts for this new series, check them out here. This month, Wade is here to inspire us to put our pens to paper (or our fingers to keys) and write a story! He runs a workshop in Saugatuck, Michigan every year. You can find out more about it at his website.

The writings of bestselling humorist Wade Rouse – called “wise, witty and wicked” by USA Today and the lovechild of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris – have been featured multiple times on NBC’s Today Show as well as on Chelsea Lately on E! and His latest memoir, "It’s All Relative: 2 Families, 3 Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine," just launched in paperback February 1st from Broadway, and he is creator and editor of the humorous dog anthology, "I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales about Man’s Best from America’s Favorite Humorists" (NAL). The book features a Foreword by Chelsea Handler’s dog, Chunk, essays by such beloved chick lit authors as Jane Green, and 50 percent of the book’s net royalties go to the Humane Society of the United States. For more, visit his website, or friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

Fuggetabout Fear!

Fear is a central theme not only in chick-lit but also – sadly – in too many of our lives.
The fears of chick-lit protagonists tend to rule their decisions: I’m scared to leave my job although I hate my boss. I’m scared to tell the man I love how I feel for fear he’ll reject me.
I’ve come to believe that fear – rather than dreams – rule too many of our real lives as well. We tend to be scared. Of everything.
I know I used to be.
But I didn’t start out that way.
I was fearless when I made the fateful decision to sing Delta Dawn (while holding a faded rose, no less) at my rural middle school talent contest. I warbled my pre-"American Idol" song choice to a crowd that made the boys from "Deliverance" look like the Jonas Brothers. I was booed offstage.
I ran, stage left, directly at my mother and began to yell. “How could you let me humiliate myself like that?”
“You were only being true to yourself,” she said. “And no one should ever stand in the way of such honesty, or such fearlessness.”
She then presented me with a little, leather writing journal and a copy of Erma Bombeck’s “At Wit’s End” and said, “You will need both of these to make sense of your world.”
Writing – and humor – not only helped me make sense of the world but they saved my life.
I set out to become a writer, majoring in communications and then earning my master’s in journalism from Northwestern. I secured a job writing for a prestigious publication, and was all set to write my first book in my off-hours.
But fear came calling. In the voice of my father.
“How much are you making?”
“Do you know how much college cost?”
“Get a real job. No one makes it as a writer.”
I believed him. And for the next two decades I was miserable, culminating in a depression and job I chronicle in Confessions of A Prep School Mommy Handler.
I learned that writers – all artists really – are never given the OK to write, or to create, no matter how much it means to their very existence. And, because of that, most artists start scared, defined not by inspiration but by fear.
Roughly eight years ago, I began writing my first memoir, America’s Boy. Check that: I actually started it as a novel, as I was too afraid to tell my own story of growing up in the Ozarks. Luckily, I had a muse, an editor, a critic and a believer in the form of my partner, Gary. After reading what I had written, he said: “This sounds nothing like you.” I was crushed. But it was just what I needed to hear.
And so I started over, eventually visiting my family cabin and writing by long hand what would turn out to be the first chapter of America’s Boy while seated on a stoop with my feet in the creek.
There came a point – finally, a point – that day when I was simply writing. Not thinking, writing. Writing as I had – before fear – when my mom gave me that writing journal.
And everything clicked. My voice, my humor, my tone, my narrative flowed from my soul. I wasn’t writing any longer. I was my writing. The transition from Wade the person to Wade the writer was seamless.
It came because I finally was able to overcome those fears that had shackled me my whole life:
What would people think?
Did I have the right to tell my story?
Am I good enough?
No one can make it as an author, right? What if I fail?
Who the hell do I think I am, calling myself “a writer”?

Where YOU could be writing and relaxing!
For a while, these fears paralyzed me again. I made the decision – without Gary’s knowledge – to reach out to a number of authors I admired, whose work I loved. I wasn’t asking for a handout, or a connection, I was seeking the simplest of things: A response. A single line. “It’s gonna be OK, kid.” “You can do it, Wade.”
They didn’t even have to mean it. I just needed to know that they had once been like me.
That there was no “golden key to the kingdom.”
I got zero responses.
And, that’s when I had my second epiphany. Rather than be paralyzed by my fear, I thought – and this is so not literary – “Screw ‘em!” I believed in my dream, I believed in my writing, I believed I could change the world.
I realized that all published writers were once unpublished writers.
I realized that writers are like babies taking their first steps: You have to do it by yourself, but it helps a whole lot to have someone helping you along the way.
I finished my memoir, and then I did my homework. I spent months writing my query. I spent months researching agents. I spent months believing in myself, even though it seemed no one else – besides Gary and my mom – did.
One week after submitting 15 query letters to agents I admired, I had received seven offers to read my manuscript. Less than a week after that, I had three formal offers of representation.
I believe that if you have a unique voice, discernable talent, an incredible work ethic, amazing professionalism, a heart of equal parts stone, empathy and love, and a feeling that if you aren’t writing, you may just curl up and die – then you can make it as an author.
I believe that if you just want to write, without a goal of being published – to write a family history, to diary for yourself, to become a more powerful business writer – that you need a hearty, “YES! Good for you! Go for it!”
And that’s why I formed Wade’s Writers, and why I hold writing workshops. I am the guy who was plucked from the slush pile and became a bestseller. I am the guy who decided if he ever had any level of success, he would attempt to help other emerging writers.
So here I am, fellow writers!

If you want to write, fearlessly, be a memoir, fiction, chick-lit, I urge you to join me May 17th through 20th in my hometown of Saugatuck, Michigan, one of the most inspirational, picturesque settings in America. (Gary will be there to hold your hand, too!). Details can be found at my website.
I can’t make you write. But I do think I can make you a better writer. More importantly, I can give you tools to succeed. I can give you inspiration and hope. I can help you crush those fears – in life and craft – that are holding you back.
Remember, to be successful in life you must turn “FEAR” into “Free Every Artistic Response). Remember, every published writer was an unpublished writer.
You just have to start.

We love having Wade here every month to share his thoughts. If you have any ideas for topics you'd like him to cover, don't be shy! And if you attend his workshop, we'd love for you to write a guest post about it here!


Nina said...

I loved this post! Just this past Monday I was in the audience for Oprah's show, "Oprah's Lifeclass", (I know, how awesome is that?!) and the topic was overcoming your fears. So this post has appeared to find me at just the right time, as Wade pinpointed a lot of my aspirations, and the fears relating to them. Best of luck with Wade's Writers (a great idea) and maybe one day in the future I will be there!

DD said...

Thanks, Wade, for the encouragement. Your words are speaking to me loud and clear all the way over here in Middle America.

stefani said...

Once again Wade, you inspire me and give me hope! You are so great at doing that! And somehow you have impeccable timing - you have exactly the thing I need to hear/read at the right time. Thank you for everything you do to! Can't wait to see you in November! :)