Zombie Books and On Staying Stubborn

Keep clinging to the edge of the cliff - you are NOT going to fall. (Source: my photo)
Keep clinging to the edge of the cliff – you are NOT going to fall. (Source: my photo)

I am a stubborn individual. Actually, mule-headed, and too damned ornery to ever quit may be more accurate assessments. This is part of why I can’t give up.

I have been in rewrites on the zombie book – that is, the WIP that refuses to die, but isn’t actually healthy, alive and kicking (ie: working out like it’s supposed to). As I dive into yet another round of revisions, I find still more errors in the book that still seem to stick around. It makes me wonder if I can write at all, if I’m just kidding myself.

This is called self-doubt. If you’re a creative sort, I’m sure you’ve met it before.

Nasty fellow. And as soon as you let him start leading you, you’re not heading anywhere good, trust me.

And sometimes, when you’re stuck with a zombie book – a book that refuses to straighten out, and yet it still holds some allure to you, some promise that it could be good – then what you have to be is stubborn. Mule-headed, I-will-work-with-a-patch-over-one-eye-and-a-broken-hand stubborn.

So, here it is. My five ways to keep writing even when things look like crap (how you feel, the WIP, you name it):

  1. Get your butt in that chair, turn on the computer, and start writing. Yes, it will suck. Yes, many of the words will suck. But they will get better.
  2. Stop looking up the mountain at how far you have to come. Looking up and dreading it will not make you feel better. Instead, look straight ahead at the step you’re taking now. Keep at it. Keep moving forward, and you’ll make it up the mountain of whatever workload awaits you.
  3. Take note of what that whiny voice of self-doubt is saying – anything useful in there? Then tell it to shut up and let you get back to work.
  4. Give your fear, your self-doubt to your characters. Let them wrestle with it. And as you do, note how good your writing looks, how sincere. 🙂
  5. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a break. You are not perfect. Every word you write will not be perfect either. That’s what revisions are for. And remember that this is the bottom of the hill in the creative journey. Things will get better. You will feel better – so long as you hang in there long enough to ride the roller-coaster back up to the top. Treat yourself kindly, but don’t give in to self-pity. Keep at it. Keep fighting.

Okay, so now I’m about to head off to battle the WIP. Today: assessment of the chapter notes and see what lives and what dies, and if any of the structure is right at all.

But first, what about you: how do you conquer self-doubt? How do you keep fighting through when things get tough?

Thanks for reading, and I hope you gave a great week. Oh, and hey! Like the post? Why not follow the blog. 🙂

Perseverance or Tenacity: Keep on Pushing

This morning I read a blog post that I wanted to share because I think it’s something we all need to consider, especially if trying to succeed in an industry like publishing, or the arts, or … well really, if you want to succeed at anything, accomplish a particular dream, I don’t suppose it matters what industry you’re in.

Anyway, the blog post is: Taking Perseverance to a Whole New Level by Lara Schiffbauer

For me, it arrived at a fortunate time since it’s the end of the month, and in my accidental-wasn’t-planning-to-make-them goals for 2012, I’m trying to stick to sending out at least 3 queries a month, which usually means it falls on the last Monday or Wednesday of the month. Anyway, sending out things like queries can seem a very daunting task, since it always seems to take far more time than you anticipate, and there is that fear that it won’t get the result you desire anyway.

So, onto the blog post by Lara Shiffbauer. Go read her post first, then come back … okay, did you read it? Did you come back?

Anyway, she talks about the big-brother to perseverance, or at the very least, another close relative: tenacity. This being that you stick to what you’re doing without doubting the principle / reasons why you’re sticking with it. It means you can’t second-guess the quality of your work, the potential for failure (or success), all the insidious kinds of “what-ifs” that can assail us. And as I mentioned before, while “what if” can be a terrific friend when we’re working on a piece of fiction, it’s a dark and wily foe if you bring it into real life (you know, the same kind of thing that makes you wonder the horrible reasons your spouse is late, when really, they’re just picking up milk? Yep, that’s Mr. Not-so-nice What-if.)

Really, if you consider it, the questioning of our style of writing, the quality, the marketability, our potential for success, etc, etc, etc, while we do need to assess this at least a little I think, too much assessment (that becomes obsession or brooding), will quickly become the enemy of perseverance. Afterall, what’s the point continuing to fight onward if you’re just going to fail anyway?

Because you can’t succeed if you give up.

When I gloomily suggest all queries will result in rejections (uhoh – getting into superlative and unhelpful description  like “always” and “never” isn’t good), he’s quick to point out that they certainly can’t say yes if they didn’t get a query.

So, how do you need to keep on pushing? How could blind tenacity help you where perseverance might fail? What kind of queries or cold-calls do you have to make to make sure someone on the other end can say yes?

Thanks for reading, and have a great week.