Room at the Table

So I am sitting here, 28 years old, turning 29 this year, and I have been trying to finish a book since I was, I dunno, 16? 17? And still. Haven’t succeeded.

I’ve written stories here and there, Maybe three or four? Class projects and a couple of contest entries.

Now, to some of my readers, this is just a sign of my constant growing, a sign of me following the normal way of things. My mentors and other writers have told me that I’m doing what I need to be doing. But I don’t always FEEL that way. I don’t feel like I’m improving, I feel frustrated. Not about my actions in the last four months, but just the last several years. I feel like I have wasted all this time in my life, years that I could have been achieving my dreams and goals. The time has passed and I didn’t put in that work. And now, here I am, almost 30 and I still wonder if I’m ever going to do it, or if, just like all the other times, I’ll fizzle out and fall down one more time.

Yet, underneath it all, is a deeper terror.

The fear of success.

I’m afraid that once I finally write my book(s), when I finally get good enough to join the table, the writers I want to be around, won’t have room. I’m afraid that when I finally put myself forward, there won’t be a place for me. What I put out will have been done before and better by other people. I’ve read a theory that we can only meet about 150 people at a time and once that quota has been met, that’s it. Too bad for you, you’ll never get to be the peers of the people you admire.

Then, there is the nagging worry that if I DO manage to publish and get my stories out, I’ll never have people who want to listen or read about the worlds I create and the people who I birthed in my head.

These fears? These worries? They’re ridiculous. Intellectually I know this. If this were true then we’d have stopped caring about literature after our first books came out in the days of the past. It’s not true because people are evolving and changing and they hunger for stories to change and evolve with them. There is plenty of room in the world for new stories and I know that I’m worth listening to because why else would I pop words in this space every three to five days? But there is an inevitable narssicm to being an artist of any type. If you’re a singer, you must trust that you are worth listening to. If you are a painter, you must put that work in daily and just accept that it must exist. Dancers and actors and video game developers…creators of all kinds. We must believe within ourselves that what we do and say has meaning, that we can be another voice in the sea and be heard.

Still, knowing all that, I’ve been struck by this fear, this idea that I might not be putting out anything worthwhile and I cope.

I cope by doing the following:
I write.
I write the characters.
I bury myself in the story.
I sketch out scenes.
I re-examine my outlines.
I skim pictures of potential cover ideas.
I write some more.
I skim pictures of places I’ve never been but am putting in my book
And then…I write some more.

I sit and I write and I work and I craft because while I might be scared of not being good enough, I might as well be scared while I’m learning how to get there instead of sitting still and being miserable.

If you feel like this, you’re not alone. I’m right there with you friend.

Streaks and Breaks

Dear Readers, I’m thrilled to report that it’s been 70 days of straight writing as of this post.

I am very amazed at myself. One, because if you care to go back through the blog posts, you can see that I’ve had a very difficult time keeping any type of a regular schedule both times I’ve attempted to keep this space current and Two because the Start/Stop pattern has been so pervasive in my life.

Yet, as I celebrate this success, I am half-dreading an upcoming challenge.

And that challenge is taking a vacation.

I’ll sip my tea while you scratch your head, roll your eyes or just stare at the screen in puzzlement.

On the 20th, my sister and I will be boarding a cruise ship and sailing off for a 5-day vacation of sun, fun and bonding. At this time, I don’t have access to a mobile word processing machine. I mean, if I absolutely WANTED to I could charm my husband’s laptop out of him for those 5 days, but he’s a full time student and needs the mobile tech more than I do.

My sister has an iPad. I could borrow that during our cruise, but see…that’s the not the point of vacation. And when it comes time to leave, I’ll have been writing for 80 straight mornings. Eighty is a good number and plus, how will I ever learn to start AGAIN if I don’t have those breaks?

I used to believe (and sometimes I still do) that the only so-called ‘real writers’ were the ones that wrote everyday. But as I hang out with more writers, as I meet more people who have been doing this longer than a couple of years, as I examine what makes success and who becomes good and who doesn’t, I have realized that while the habit is important, it’s not what makes me a Writer.

If you write stuff down and tell yourself stories, you’re a writer. Period. If you write every day, you’re a writer. If you write every week, you’re a writer. If you write one or two stories during your school breaks, or when you get an idea, you’re a writer.

The more you write, the better you get but a writer without a strict schedule is still a writer. That has been an important realization.

Does that mean that after I get back from my cruise that I’m going to quit getting up every day? Hell no. I have 1 hour a day that I’ve dedicated to writing. One. Hour. And while I always have the option of writing more when I get home from work, I have accepted that in the evenings, I usually only have enough energy to do one or two things and usually it’s nothing that’s creatively minded.

Finally, just wanted to reveal my blog schedule to you all in case you were wondering:

This blog is updated every three days, except for the days that I’ll be out of contact.

While I know a M/W/F is probably a more accepted schedule, I’ve found that if I can get a post up every three days I always have something to say.

If you want to join in on the community that has been helping me keep consistent, hit me up on Twitter at @dracoangelica or go listen to Ally Bishop’s episode 100 of her podcast ‘Upgrade Your Story‘. She’s starting a community driven workshop called The Cerulean Project and it’s been very helpful for my habit structures.

 

2016 and Goals

This year I had one writing goal for 2015 and I did not make it.

I wanted to have at least four short stories finished and sent out to publishers in hopes that my name would start getting out there.

Nope.

I’m not good at big lists. I’m not good at anything that’s too involved and too complicated. But I thought that four was a small enough number that I could do it and yet big enough that I would have to push a certain production schedule.

Then life got in the way.

That’s ok. Here is the new goal because I’ve had better luck sticking to it:

Write every day.
Finish what I am writing before moving on to the next thing.

I’m not going to push for any ‘send this out of x amount of markets’ until maybe next year. I AM going to try and get something ready to send to Writer’s of the Future because the prize for that is a workshop that I’d like very much to go to.

But over all? I’m sticking to habits instead of concrete goals this year.

As for the blog:

Tentatively? I want to have post out every three or four days regardless of the day. I feel like anything like a set schedule will be something I won’t keep as in the past I’ve not managed more than a few months at a time. Yes. Deadlines are important and part of training the New Writer-Author-Wannabe.

But if I think of it like, “Eh. Every few days” instead of “OK MONDAY WEDNESDAY FRIDAY OR YOU’RE DOGMEAT” then I feel like that’s more doable.

Plus, these blogs first thing in the morning before I get started with my creative projects have been good word makers and brain cleansers.

So there we are!

I will say, there will probably be a gap in February as I am going to Mexico, a gap in September as I have a work trip to Las Vegas as well.

Have a lovely Wednesday y’all.

 

Upcoming Content and Paying it Forward

Upcoming on The Writings, we’re going to have some personal blog posts about observations I’ve had during this wild and exhilarating writing-career journey, commentary on on-going projects, book reviews and Author reviews.

I might also repost or link business articles and other posts I find entertaining, so if that’s your thing, fab.

Today I want to talk about reach and the pay it forward effect that we writers can experience while we sit alone in our rooms and talk to ourselves.

When I was in college, one of my best friends was in the process of getting her first book ready to sell. I was so damn Impressed y’all. She was working full time at a library and yet still managed not only to finish a book, but also had begun trying to get an agent to sell it. I began to try a little harder on my own writing, try a little harder to become a better writer and become different from where I was at.

Then in 2012 I graduated, moved, started MY first ‘Adult’ job that was a 9-5 style office gig and my writing dried up. What had been easy in college, became something I had to fight with myself about.

Feb of 2014 I challenged her to a one month March-madness word war.

That word war began a spreadsheet that has spanned since then to present day.

For the last 10 day I’ve busted all the eggs (aka the zeros) and put SOMETHING there.

Accountability cannot be under rated. It was because of that sheet that I wrote 163k of words on different projects from March-December.
This year, between taking time off to move and fighting depression and anxiety, I have 36k between Jan-May plus what I’ve pulled up this month.

Those words are almost 200k of progress and effort that I wouldn’t have if it weren’t for fellow writers pushing me, family members asking and putting myself out there so that I could learn. Thanks to all.

Coming up in new posts:
Book Review on Anne Bishop’s The Invisible Ring
Podcast Reviews
Editing versus Drafting

 

Habits and Streaks

For the last six months I’ve been doing some other things in my life. I bought a house. I moved a roommate in. I have had some changes at my day job that have caused some adjustments and over all, just slipped away from my writing goals.

Like I said in May, things like this happen.

As I’ve said in other posts, that’s to be expected when you follow me. I am unfortunately, a months on/months off type of writer.

Of course, the goal is, as always, to get better and to have the months off be shorter, the months on be longer and the projects that result from the work to be well crafted and enjoyable.

Right now I am on a streak. An 8 day streak counting this post, in which I have put down effort and work towards a writing goal. I got asked by a Twitter follower yesterday if I came into my morning writing sessions with a word count goal in mind but the stage I’m at in the writing game, ANY words on ANY project that pushes that puppy one more step to completion is a success.

I miss my old writing classes. We’d have to turn in a short story a week and that sort of ‘graded’ deadline was always really motivating. But when you’re a ‘young’ (as in not experienced with no name recognition, not age) writer like I am, we don’t have the luxury of some boss agent or publisher laying down the deadline. And I’m still in the ‘prove yourself worth the time’ stage of writing.

That’s ok though. Right now, I get to write what project I want when I want to. I get to decide if the morning is going to be gay romance novella or my gumshoe urban fantasy.

It’s like being invited to several parties all at once.

I’ve made update schedules in the past but broken them after a few weeks, so new plan.

I’m going to post when I can. If when I can happens to be regularly, then y’all leave me a cheerful comment. If not, then at least you’ll know I took that time to peck away on one of the projects I’m stalking until completion.

Until then, I’ll keep walking this road that always seems to lead, eventually, back to my chair.

Influence and Heroes

I see that a lot of published writers get asked about influence and who inspires them. The answers, just like the authors, are all different. So this week I pondered who my biggest influences were and found the answer to be really eclectic. I was able to break it down into three catagories: Personal, Professional and Creative. (Man I wish I’d come up with another p word. Alliteration is the best.)

We all have those people who influenced us growing up. When it came to writing, I think it was the act of reading that first gave seed to the plant. I’d read tons of stories so the natural course was to write my own. My mom, a poet who used her writing as a type of therapy, always encouraged me. When I got older, I joined with friends who had similar interests and now have a carefully chosen network of fellow writers that are constantly challenging me to push myself beyond where I’ve already reached.

Professionally, I feel that Orson Scott Card, Hilari Bell, Kristine Katheryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith have really inspired me. Maybe inspire isn’t the right word. Inspire doesn’t really sum up the kick in the tail that I feel when I read their writing and publishing advice. They are to inspire as a boot camp drill Sargent is to ‘persuade’. While I don’t know any of them past the words that they put out into the net, I never walk away from any of their non-fiction posts without feeling at least like pushing a little harder in my own endeavors.

Finally, Creatively. This category belongs to the books that I’ve read over the years that hit those emotional notes for me. Mercedes Lackey’s understanding of growing up in a world where adults aren’t as smart as they think they are and where young people become the very adults that they once admired. The Lark and the Wren changed my entire world outlook when I was young. If Rune, the illegitimate daughter of a tavern wench could save a country, then so could I. I didn’t have to be the chosen one. I didn’t have to have some magical star over my crib to do great things. Just like Rune, I would work my ass off and get what I wanted. Other books brought technical thought into play. David Edding’s early work gave me a love of the quest in fantasy and introduced me to Arthurian legend as a base for world and story building. Jim Butcher, the best pacer ever in fiction, taught me about building up your climax and making your pay off count. Kresley Cole has taught me the importance of a dynamic character and how relationships can push a story to it’s final conclusion.

In the end, I can’t BE any of these people. As Oscar Wilde is oft quoted, I must ‘be myself for everyone else is already taken.’ Yet I’m proud of these influences. Proud to push forward in my hopes of finishing what I start and to achieve the dreams that keep me walking on this road.

Who influences you?