You know when you stand at the base of something big, and you’re prepared to start, like a trek up your own personal mountain? You probably prepared to get there. You’ve done the work ahead of time. And there’s a certain energy and excitement about getting started.
Nothing like the agony of when you were almost to the top, mental and physical muscles screaming. Exhaustion weighing you down. So, so close. But you’re not quite done.
That’s about where I am right now. Actually, I’m there pretty much on two different books. Both the miniature nonfiction book, and a new Shades book (Shade to Measure.) Both of them have taken far, far longer than expected. The miniature book I expected would take longer, since there’s a huge learning curve with it. But the fiction one… This book has definitely been a challenge.
So there you are… That “almost there” point. It was the same when I was so close to publication or when you can see the finish line… but you don’t think you can run those last few steps. I think the “almost there” point is so much harder than most other parts of any challenge because you can see how close you are to finishing! You can practically taste it. And yet…
You are definitely not yet done. And you certainly don’t have the same enthusiasm and energy you had when you first started the project. Instead, you just soldier, trying to focus on the top, trying to focus on that final step. And I think you end up getting back into the whole “one step at a time“ because it’s the only way you can keep moving forward. It is agony. You know that there will be satisfaction at the end… You just aren’t there yet.
But remember: you’re also not alone. I’m certain that I’m not alone in feeling that the “almost there” agony is far worse than most other steps. There are also many “almost there” points in most projects and careers. Because there’s always something ahead, some new peak, some new goal to reach for and conquer.
Anyway, that’s about where I am right now.
What do you think? Do you think it’s easier to start a project, with the whole thing laying out in front of you? Or when you’re that close to the end?
As always, I love hearing from you. And I’m always cheering for you too. 🙂
We are well into the January and mid-winter “Blechs,” aren’t we?
I think this year it’s feeling worse for probably almost all of us since there’s the usual dull-dark of January – especially if, like me, you live in the northern hemisphere with snow and generally less light and sun at this time of year – but this year brings us still more special stresses, doesn’t it? With Omnicron and the news, etc, etc.
It’s started to feel like there’s a lot of “etc, etc” isn’t there? As in, just when we start to feel more positive about things, there’s something else. Granted, I think the media generally latches onto that “something else” as newsworthy, so perhaps it gets more attention, but nonetheless… there it is.
I hope whatever you’re doing, you’re doing something that’s helping you find some joy and light in these dark days. You deserve it.
Me? I’ve been writing, or in some cases, writing about writing. 😉 I’ve been working on Shade to Measure, the second full-length Shades of Beckwell book. This one is about Ash and Jessie, princes and female-owned-and-led construction firms. And, as I’ve recently discovered, music and sound. I often wish that I’d figure out some of these strange extra details BEFORE finding myself well into the book and sometimes a bit lost… but sometimes the draft just doesn’t work out that way.
I’ve also been crafting, mostly making miniatures still for my craft of choice. After finishing Santa’s House in December, I’ve been working on a grocer’s and connected post office, all still in quarter scale. I’ve decided to start making what will amount to a little town, which I think is kind of the direction I’ve been thinking since the start – as in, all of these buildings / structures while not obviously connected, are part of the same magical world. Kind of like my writing is, I suppose. It’s been interesting, and I’m getting a little closer every day to more assembly.
Next up (and a 3D file from a company called Infinite Dimensions) is a full, five story medieval hotel! I’ve been drooling over that building for awhile, and while some people might say 3D printing is cheating, I’d compare it more to getting a kit. Yes, the walls and floors are attached, and each floor is broken into 4 pieces. It still needs to be prepared with sanding / primer, etc before it’s painted and then fully decorated and furnished. That’s how most 3D printed objects are, both the ones you purchase and the ones I design: while yes, the 3D printer helps manufacture the actual object, it’s just another tool that helps bring it into being – BUT the work isn’t just done at that point. I adore my little 3D printer and I’ve come to enjoy learning 3D design too (on a simplistic scale at this point, but still.) It feels a bit like something between sculpting and drawing, so I really enjoy it. Therefore, I’m a bit defensive when it comes to anyone calling it “cheating” or “simplistic.” I challenge them to actually try to do all of those things and experience what it’s actually like. But, I’ll get off my soapbox before I really get into it. 🙂
The other light I’ve been finding in the dark is reading.
I read a great book called The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig. Officially classified as horror, it’s twisty, mysterious, at times creepy…but ends on such a hopeful, optimistic note, that in itself was quite a feat. Plus, this is the first book I’ve really felt sucked into for a long time, so if you have a chance to read it, I highly recommend you give it a try. The paperback edition is on its way (I read the big old hardcover that I was lucky enough to get for Christmas.) 🙂
Anyway, that’s pretty much been the sum of my January. Writing, reading, and crafting are my light in the dark. I hope you’ve been able to find light and hope for you, too.
Take care, and as always, I wish you the joy and ability to find the magic in our everyday world.
How often have you experienced the kind of overwhelm that comes from feeling that there are so many things you “should” be doing, and that list is so long, you end up paralyzed and end up doing nothing?
I recently finished reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle. She talks about how the cages that society creates for us leave us trapped and stifled, often trying to live definitions of ourselves that come from outside of ourselves. (This is definitely paraphrasing. Go read the book yourself to see what I’m trying to get at. )
Anyway, today after reading something from a friend who’s definitely feeling that overwhelm, it made me think: how many of those cages, especially as writers, are we creating for ourselves?
I mean, yes, there are definitely things that we have to do as writers – write books or write something for other people to read being, likely, the number one thing. But other than that, it feels like so many of the definitions of things we “must” and “should” do is a proscribed list that if we actually obeyed it, we’d have no time whatsoever for a life outside of work… and probably no time to write either.
I do wonder if this is perhaps worse among female author-preneurs, or if it’s prevalent everywhere, but if you’re a writer looking to publish and sell your books, you’ve probably heard of some of the things I mean.
You have to be on every social media account that has and will ever be (come on, aren’t you signed up yet for the one that won’t exist until 2023??)
You should be active on all of those social media accounts too (but be fresh! Just be you! Keep it real… as you force yourself to follow all of this advice.)
You must be constantly building relationships with every person out there (forget actual relationships … or, like, family. Nope. No time for that if you’re doing what you “should” be doing.)
Make sure you’re making ads for all of those social media accounts, sell, sell, sell, … but gentle sell, not spam sell.
Plus make sure you’ve got ads running on all the platforms (because if you’re making less than $2k a month, you’re a failure!)
Have you spent thousands of dollars on classes that promise you THIS is the right answer to make you a millionaire and selling millions of a books a day? (Come on, you didn’t think you actually had time to do things, like, write, did you? And wave to your family through your office doors… if you still have one.)
On and on it goes, and you know what? I’m going to stop, because it’s stressing me out.
And it’s driving me nuts. All of it. And I know it’s driving lots of other authors nuts too.
You want to know the real secret?
There is NO secret.
Nope. Sad, isn’t it? Yep, I was looking for it too… along with possibly the drafting or editing fairies that help get books done when things aren’t going well. But, they don’t exist any more than the perfect formula to sell all those books – no matter how much that workshop costs. Game the system? Sure, you can follow those examples, buy up case loads of your own book and “buy” your way onto the lists. You CAN do a lot of things. But what works for Lizzy P. Author may not work the same for you.
You’re not her.
And yes, let me pause and insert here that not all advice is bad advice. Do I take workshops, try to keep learning, try to keep improving in both my writing craft and the business side of my career? Absolutely. Is there lots of great advice and information out there? Yep. That too. Are there many things we can do to tweak our marketing / get better at the business / get better at our craft? Yes, indeed, and there are a few specific ones on my list all the time.
My objection comes when all that advice, when all the things you “should do” stretch into the bars of a cage. When you’re so hemmed in by all those “shoulds” that you feel like you can’t breathe, let alone write the next word, the next sentence, or hardest of all, the next book.
I’ve been there. I fall into that cage every so often. Was there yesterday, as a matter a fact, when all my emails seemed to be screaming at me to “just do this to double your sales” or “just keep up this to guarantee search engine results” and so on. These were legit blogs I follow too, because I usually appreciate their advice. It got me so depressed, I did the bare minimum of words, but tried nothing else, too exhausted by all the “shoulds” that I had to focus on the “could.”
That’s what I usually come back to. What could or CAN I do? What do I WANT to do? And what do I really NEED?
Yesterday, I needed to recharge so I don’t get burned out. I needed to remember there is more to my life than writing.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: sometimes we get terrific advice, but we need to be wise enough to recognize when it isn’t the right advice for us. Perhaps it won’t ever be right, perhaps it just isn’t right because of where we are financially / personally / emotionally / whatever. But it’s up to you to stand up for YOU. To recognize that feeling when your chest tightens, your shoulders tense, and the whole world is demanding more and more, or something is telling you that it just isn’t right for you… just tell that advice “no.” (You’re welcome to use stronger language and swears. Swears are fun. 🙂 I’m just trying to be polite.) 😉
Sometimes maybe you’ll need to sit with that feeling for a little while, think about where that resistance to the advice or next “should” is coming from. Maybe it’s child-you deep inside that’s stubbornly insisting “No, I don’t wanna!” And sometimes you need to tell child-you inside that it’s okay, we can still do scary things that will just make us stronger. So sometimes you try some of those things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.
But you pick and choose which of those things you try. Ignore the others. Cut down on the blogs and other input you take in that feeds into that stress and fills your head with Shoulds. Connect with people in your field and outside of it, people who care about you, that can help pull you back from the madness of trying to do all the things all the time. You don’t let the Should-Army flatten you down and stop you from doing what you need to do.
And if you’re a writer, you need to write.
You’ll do that too at your own pace, in your own way. You’ll find ways to reclaim and hold tight to the joy of pure creation that is the work, that is writing, because there are days when it won’t feel that way. But you, you will write.
My excuse for not getting on top of posting anything on Monday is a general case of zombie-itis. That is, I met and chatted with so many wonderful people at RWA National Conference, that I practically feel like I’ve used up all my words. Trust me, about now, stringing a sentence together is HARD!
But, enough with complaining, because I LOVE conference (note the extra use of caps.) 😉 I got to some pretty great workshops, learned new things, and hope I can share some of what I learned by next week, when hopefully I’ll be a tiny bit more recovered.
More importantly, I met lots of terrific writers, experienced all sorts of new things, and made some new friends. I wanted to push myself this time to go out there and meet people, which even meant that I went to parties (I was out past 9pm, a big shocker for me these days!) 😉
And as I get home – perhaps you likewise have just returned from a conference or will be soon, here are a few things I like to keep in mind:
1) If you’ve collected business cards during the event, consider at the time jotting down a bit about the conversation and meeting at the time (especially if you’re notorious at forgetting names like I am.) Then, when you get home, drop that person a quick note, asking how their conference went, expressing your pleasure at meeting them, etc. You never know what kind of relationships you might build this way, and it’s worth a try.
2) If you’ve been lucky enough to meet with industry professionals who want to see your work, get it to them as soon as you can! (I’m aiming for the end of this week, since it’s conference season and summer, so their in-boxes will be full.) It’s also startling how few people actually send in the requested material – don’t be one of them!
3) Take a bit of time to absorb and breathe after all those workshops and experience, but make sure you look back at your notes and try to apply them, especially anything that really resonated with you.
4) Set some new goals, using next year’s conference (particularly if this is an annual event), or even the end of the year to keep yourself on track. Where are you now? Where do you want to be? How are you going to get there?
5) Give others who attended the conference a tiny bit of a break if they don’t respond super quick, or get their blog posts up. They’re probably just as tired as you. 😉
Any tips you’d like to share? And next week, a new post, new knowledge (when my brain starts working again.)
I like to use the tagline “True Love, Know Thyself” because I believe that true knowledge of self – and understanding of self – is necessary before we can ever hope to really join ourselves to another in love. Sure, this knowledge continues to evolve – as we do – but how can we claim to know anything if we don’t even know what lies in our own hearts first?
It’s autumn, and I’m nearing the end of a terribly plotted WIP that will probably need a lot of time to be untangled in further drafts, which means I’ve also been a bit down – on the world, myself, you name it. And in a round-about way, this is what led me to this article at the Huffington Post:
Please, go read the post yourself, but it kind of got me thinking how this could be applied to writing and the journey towards becoming the best writer we can be – truly realizing our potential.
Now, I think it’s easy for us to start to wonder: do we have what it takes? Am I a writer? Am I any good? Which almost inevitably leads down the trail to: “My writing isn’t any good.” (Or at least, that’s how it is for me – if this doesn’t happen to you – please share how!).
Anyway, I think that our writing – just like any lousy first draft – is always in a phase. And if we really, truly want to be successful and for our books to be the best that they can be, we have to reach deep to find our real potential, to find and hone the ability, not settling for “good enough” or “it’s the best I can do” when that isn’t true. We all have the potential for greatness within us: that’s not a gift doled out only to the precious few. BUT, I think that only a few of us actually get to the point where we reach – and potentially exceed – our potential.
I’ll return to the first draft kind of example, but let’s try the example of a child first. When you first hold your child in your arms, that tiny baby that the world has not yet imprinted with anything, really – no negativity, perhaps not even a name – that child could do, become, achieve anything, absolutely anything. As they start to really interact with the world, it will become obvious that there are strengths and weaknesses – we all have those – but still so much potential, and they could overcome those weaknesses, certainly – they’re still young. Then they hit their teenage years, maybe they mess up, maybe those strengths and weaknesses are more engrained, more obvious. Sure, they can still overcome – they still have fantastic potential, but it won’t be as easy to make those changes now, maybe the window of potential is starting to narrow. By the twenties or thirties, “decisions” about life seem to be expected, and they should be well on their way to achieving what potential is still left to them – after all, some doors are closed, right? They had better be achieving that potential by their forties and fifties. And by the time you reach sixties and above, well really, what time do you have left? Potential was either reached, enjoyed, or never will be. What massive potential there was at the beginning is either miniscule, or perhaps “used up” entirely, like a box of tissues.
Why? And why do we seem to view our writing the same way?
When we first start out, it could be anything, it could be the best book we ever write, it could be the start of so many wonderful things! And then you hit the second draft, and you can still fix the problems – it will still be fantastic! Third draft, well, this is it, get it cleaned up, some problems may be there to stay, but it doesn’t ruin it, does it? The next book will be even better! Fourth draft, well, time to send it out into the world; it’s good enough. Not perfect, not the best book ever, but good. Then it keeps getting rejected, and soon every time you look at the thing, the writing is insipid, horrible – why did you ever imagine you could get anywhere with this?
Whether a late draft or an old man, why is there any less potential? Why is it somehow “used up”? It hasn’t gone anywhere, because all that potential always lies within us. It doesn’t go away. It never vanishes – just our ability to see it, to want to access it. Whether we’re 8 or 88, we always have potential – and so does our writing.
All we have to do is keep fighting for it, and always, ALWAYS, keep believing in it.
I think we all have bad habits; part of the human condition and all that. For writing, I think we have a whole separate set of bad habits. Some of the ones that drive me bananas usually have to do with using the muse as scapegoat, and giving into writers’ block, or crumbling beneath fear. I think (hope) I’m pretty good at avoiding the first two (I control my muse, not the other way around … and I generally try to take care of him, and I’m not a huge believer in complete writers’ block but do believe in fatigue).
Which leaves fear … that stinky little guy who sneaks up on you and leaves you quivering and terrified, convinced that everything you do is terrible, that only rejections await in the mailbox, that nothing good will ever happen to you.
And indeed, we can look at statements like those above and think, “yeah, right, that’s not me, I’d never believe nonsense like that” … except when we’re locked into that cycle and trap of fear and we think exactly ridiculous things like that. This becomes a bad habit if first, you give in to it rather than just recognizing it for what it is and moving on, and second, if you try to ignore it until it sneaks up and gets you anyway.
The latter is my bad habit. I try to ignore the fact that sending out countless queries, etc and getting back plenty of rejections (along with the actually-worse non-responses) isn’t a big deal. That it doesn’t eat at me a little every time, making me wonder is it me? Is it the work? What am I doing wrong? Instead of sometimes looking at the fact that usually the answer is a bit more complicated than personal failing (it’s the “usually” that gets me).
Anyway, this kind of fear response can end up holding you back, not writing, and altogether, becoming completely useless, since it could lead to a bout of depression and feeling down on yourself all around. I know better, and yet I seem to come back to this cycle again and again anyway. It’s predictable that at first, I’ll love my story. When it’s finally ready to send out (and after coming to hate it through revision), I simultaneously start submitting that story and writing a new one. The next step is that I love the new story … and feel that it’s so much better than the one that’s being submitted, clearly this is why I get poor response.
So that’s my bad habit, what’s yours? Can you recognize it? And better yet, can you prevent it?
We all have end goals, some small, some, well, mountainous. Some goals – and their attainment – is easy to measure and see. Others less so, especially if success is something measured in our heads. That makes some of these goals like mountain-climbing in the fog: we have no way of knowing where we are on our journey, if we’re at the foot of the mountain or inches from the top. But we just have to have faith and keep climbing anyway.
Sounds “easy,” huh? 😉
My husband has a new position in the company he works for which is relatively new, and which some days, he feels wholly unequal to. He knows where he wants to go, what he wants to achieve, and while I’m certain he has made progress towards those goals, he isn’t so sure. For him, I’ve found that sometimes he questions his own abilities and qualifications, often under-estimating them. And really, I think this is something a lot of us do, no matter what field we work in. When something really matters, we want to put our very best into it – whether that’s our writing, our office jobs, our relationships, whatever. Sometimes it feels we’re not equal to the task – especially when you hit tough terrain on that mountain. All we can continue to do is value and yet continue to improve our skills, abilities, and selves – perhaps sometimes just our confidence – to make ourselves capable and earn success.
The thing with amorphous goals is that it’s very difficult to see the signposts on the journey upwards. At least, not on the way up. Maybe we’ve drawn a map, and we know we’re fulfilling each point – like publishing, with querying, agents, more manuscripts complete, etc. Equally frustrating is the old adage that no one’s journey is the same: a maddening adage because it’s so true. We have to set our sights on a mountaintop we more imagine than see; perhaps we don’t even know how tall the mountain – or how long the journey – will be. It’s probably better we don’t. Then we pack up everything we’ll need to get there: every skill and wit we possess; faith that the goal is attainable; friends and loved ones to help us on the way; education material to keep improving the materials we’re working with; and a touch of sheer orneriness to keep us going even when many others would have given up.
Then onward we head, up our mountain, towards our goals, towards our dreams and the promises we make to ourselves.
Sometimes the journey will be shorter than we expected; maybe we picked a short mountain, or maybe we started half-way up. Other times, things will get hard; the top wouldn’t be so special if they weren’t. But we’ll promise ourselves to keep on climbing, keep on reaching, no matter what. And hopefully, when we reach the top, the fog will clear if only for an instant so we can look back at the path we’ve come from and at the vista of our success … or maybe we’ll realize we’ve only reached a partial summit of a bigger mountain, a bigger journey, that we’ve only just begun.
Cheers to all the “mountain climbers” out there – may you keep on climbing, and may you enjoy the view when you get to the top.
Next week, I’ll look at how we can establish particular “markers” to measure (or guess) how far we’ve come.
I spent a lot of time as a kid out fishing with my dad. I learned to cast my line and reel it back in (usually with a weed). Sometimes we trawled along slowly (definitely an effective way to catch weeds). I haven’t gone fishing in years since, but as I’ve been sending out my monthly quota of queries, I’ve been thinking about how the querying process is like fishing.
First, you start with the hook – no secret there, since we even call it a hook. This is the short encapsulation of the novel or project you’re querying about. But, I think other than the hook, we also need to remember that the rest of the query is itself a hook, and should be the right color and type to fit the fish (ie: tailored to the agent / publisher we’re querying). Usually they’re more than happy to help you with this, and you can figure it out by checking out their page, blogs, tweets, other postings – some often very specific about what they want in their query. After all, they’re going to be happier if the “hook” is right for them.
Then, you have to have the bait. To me, I feel that instead of a slimy worm, we tend to include a synopsis and sample chapters. Just as the tailored hook is important, the right bait is necessary to catch what you’re after: some want only the query, some want five pages, others five chapters, etc. Some don’t want romance, or sci fi, or fantasy, or whatever. Use the submissions guidelines to help ensure that your “bait” is exactly what they’re hungry for.
Now, you cast that baited hook out into the waves and tidewaters of the postal service, or more commonly now, the internet.
And then you have the part of fishing (and querying) that I’ve always found the hardest: the waiting. Your little query bobs along out there with the thousands of others. Sometimes it will get caught on the boat (like when it gets trapped in a spam filter or the post office loses it). Sometimes you’ll catch weeds or the wrong kind of fish (rejections of course, along with agents and publishers who may not have the best intentions).
If you’re like me, you’ll get impatient, you’ll want to reel it in faster, but here’s where the fishing analogy doesn’t quite carry through: we have no control over when or if we’ll receive a reply. All we can hope for is to land that perfect, prize-winning fish: the agent or publisher that fits us the best, and we them.
Because of course, agents and publishers aren’t really fish (and I hope you didn’t expect me to carry through with the catching and eating of said fish.) What we’re really hoping to find – particularly when searching for an agent – is a business partner. It’s just that in this industry, it doesn’t quite work the same as others.
And if you get down, because your hooks all come up empty and no one is biting or too many weeds, maybe you can comfort yourself with the idea that there’s some big fish lurking down there who really wants your hook and bait – you just have to cast it a bit closer. Remember too, that as my dad always reminded me when I started to whine and get bored, that you can’t catch any fish with your hook out of the water. So, keep sending out those queries, keep baiting your hook perfectly, and when you catch weeds or rejections, clean the hook off, re-bait it, and cast it out again. Who knows what – or who – is waiting out there for you.
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.
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?