Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What To Do When Writing Gets You Down

Writing is hard. Once you think you have the basics of craft down, you then have to deal with constant rejection, wait times that never get shorter, and the insecurities that pop up at least once a day.

But it’s important to remember that it’s okay if you can’t always put on a happy face day in and day out. Writing is work. There will be not-so-good days. The trick is being able to move past the bad and stay productive.

First, Give Yourself Permission to Feel Awful…
...Then Move On

If you can do this, the rest of this post is superfluous. Seriously though, you knew that writing would be tough when you first started out, and it doesn’t get any easier later on. But something in you had to keep writing anyway. And that spark is essential for dealing with the inevitable bumps in the road. It’s natural to feel disappointment at times; just remember why you started writing in the first place.

Distract Yourself with Something New/Different/Comforting

Break out the chocolate, if you must. Your favorite food or adult beverage—in moderation, please. Watch a movie, take a walk, try something new. These are all good strategies to distract you from whatever’s bothering you (a string of rejections, a story that just won’t work, whatever). Take a break even. Read something in a different genre from what you’re trying to write in. Artist dates are also a great distraction from whatever has you down—and also feed into your creative mindset too.

Analyze Why You’re Upset…
...Then Harness The Emotional Impulse Behind It

This requires distance. It can also force you to confront things about yourself you may not like. After all, things like shame, anger, and jealousy aren’t exactly a barrel of laughs.

Do you feel ashamed after a rough critique of your work? Anger over a rejection you thought was a slam-dunk? Jealousy over the success of another writer? Try to pinpoint why you feel that way.

For me at least, I feel ashamed when someone calls me out on something in a critique that I consciously or unconsciously know is an issue in my story. This tells me I need to listen to my gut, that nagging voice in my head that says you need to fix this.

Anger, I’ve come to realize, is going to be a part of the writing process for me. Maybe you’re wired differently. Each rejection I receive makes me angry in some way, even if I can see a story’s flaws in hindsight. But I try to funnel that anger—that energy—into the next piece I write. The one that will succeed where the last one failed. Just remember that you are writing out of anger, which can require adjustments once you’ve had a chance to cool down.

Jealousy is a tough one, and people more qualified than me have discussed it elsewhere (see Everyone Gets Jealous, Even Published Authors, Pros and Cons to Comparing Yourself to Other Writers, and A Writer's Antidote for Envy). Just remember that writing is not a competition, even though it can seem that way. If you don’t like what you’ve achieved so far, work to change that—start a new project or use a new strategy to get your work out there. Find a positive way to achieve your definition of success.

Don’t Forget To Celebrate What You’ve Accomplished So Far

It’s so easy to get tunnel vision and forget where you came from. You know, back when you couldn’t write your way out of a scene? Don’t forget to take time to look back at what you’ve accomplished. Writing is one of those fields where visible successes (like story sales and book deals) are few and far between.

So you need to unearth those smaller, less visible successes—the ones that demonstrate how seriously you take your writing and how it’s impacted others. Things like joining a crit group, a compliment from a writing colleague, a blog post that made an impact, a completed story draft. These are not insignificant successes, and they should be acknowledged as such. I had the illustration for my story in the Memory Eater anthology framed and hung in my office, not only because it’s the first of my stories to receive its own illustration, but also because it’s a constant reminder of what I’m working for.

So if you are feeling down, I hope you’ve found some strategies to feel better about your writing. What’s helped you beat the blues?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Arrogance vs Hope – The Writer’s Mindset

Back in December, the Guide to Literary Agents blog ran a post called “The Importance of Being (Slightly) Arrogant as a Writer”. I knew there was a good chance the article would piss me off, but I clicked on it anyway.

Here’s the meat of the post:
If you’re trucking away at a novel or short story that you dream of getting published, that implies:

(a) You think your work is good enough to merit publication (meaning, it’s comparable to or better than what’s out there, and it will rise above all other competition).

(b) You believe that other people will enjoy and find value in reading what you write.

That right there, is arrogance at its two-part core — an attitude of superiority manifested in presumptuous assumptions.

Here’s where the second part comes in: This is a GOOD thing. This arrogance is critical to your eventual success!

Now, I get what the author was trying to do here: pointing out the writerly tendency to think your work is better than it really is, which is supposed to help you persevere when the going gets tough.

But the article still made me very very cranky.

And I had to ask myself why it irritated me so much. After all, I do think I write better than the majority of people out there. But is that arrogance or simply recognition of my abilities? I’ve worked hard, as I’m sure everyone reading this has, to become the writer I am today.

To say that I’m being arrogant when I work on a project with the goal of publication is too simplistic, and frankly a bit insulting.

I go into every project with the hope that it will be published one day. That’s a big distinction. And it is that hope that keeps me going.

Arrogance implies that I’m owed publication, when really you have to earn it. And that’s what I’m doing every time I sit down to write. I'm trying to earn it.

Maybe I’m making mountains out of molehills here. Are we arrogant for trying to get published? Simply blinded by hope? Or just crazy?

Whatever it is, keep writing. That’s the only advice I’ll get behind.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Potpourri to Start 2013

So it’s been awhile. Between the holidays, houseguests, and a mystery illness during the majority of December, I haven’t had a whole lot of energy for the blog. But it’s a new year and a new beginning for all things writerly.

A few announcements to get me caught up:

  • First, applications are now being accepted for Taos Toolbox 2013. I found it to be a great experience and made a lot of writer friends through it. So if you want to take your craft to the next level, expand your network, and spend two weeks in the mountains of northern New Mexico, get your application in. 

  • I’m now reading slush for Masque Books, Prime Books’s new digital imprint. So if you have a great speculative story, check out the submission guidelines and send it in! 

  • Duotrope is no more—at least not in a format I can support since they now charge for access to the most useful parts of the site. This is disappointing, as I was a heavy user and proponent of the site, but such is life. If you are looking for a Duotrope alternative, check out THIS POST for your options. Happy subbing! 

  • Finally, be sure to check out L. Blankenship’s Kickstarter for the continuation of her hard fantasy romance series. After successfully funding Disciple, Part I, you can pre-order Part II. I was one of L.’s betas on this project, and I highly recommend it! Samples are available through the Kickstarter page

I hope 2013 is off to a fabulous start for all of you. Happy writing!
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