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I’ve Got the Hiccups

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When I was younger, I hated getting the hiccups. Who am I kidding? I still hate them. They are annoying…and sometimes hurt.

I can remember trying all the supposed fixes for getting rid of the hiccups – standing on my head (yes, I tried this), spoonful of sugar, gulping a whole glass of water. I even asked people to try and scare me…which backfired of course because I TOLD someone to scare me, and therefore, wasn’t all that scared when they jumped out at me.

Yeah…getting rid of the hiccups seemed impossible.

But it’s not.

One day, I think when I was in high school, one of my science teachers said something that niggled in the back of my head. She said “Your brain controls your body.” Yeah, we all know that. But when she said it, I had the hiccups, and I thought to myself “I should see if this works.” SO I told my diaphragm to stop contracting. But it didn’t work. Never one to give up, I tried again except this time I sat really still, closed my eyes and focused on my throat (which made more sense to me since that’s where I felt the hiccups). I sat very still, very quietly for a full minute, breathing deeply, focusing while swallowing…and viola! My hiccups went away.

I know. Incredible, huh? And I still do it to this day. I’ll even pull over into an empty parking lot when in my car and “concentrate” my hiccups away. Works every time.

So I realized you’re confused because this is supposed to be about writing. Well, yes, you have guessed it by now – this is an analogy.

This past year has been tough for me in regards to my writing career. Now, I won’t go into all the details, but suffice it to say that I have been struggling with not only my identity as a writer, but whether I wanted to continue on this particular road. Feels crazy to admit that, but it’s true. I have written a lot of books in the past 3-4 years and when I started this career path, I had a vastly different vision for where I would be thirteen books into my career. Because of the market and other factors I can’t control, I find myself not where I thought I would be…and this sort of depressed me. I began to fret, watch my numbers (and other authors numbers), and haunt review sites to see if anyone read my books. I began to doubt everything about what I had chosen along my path. I began to doubt myself.

Oh, I had read all about those authors who’d talked about backsliding in their careers. They’d talked about firing agents, losing editors, lines closing, being let go. They’d talked about not wanting to write and being unappreciated. I poo-poo’d their tales, thinking myself invincible. Thinking I could never want to quit writing.

But, truthfully, I batted around the idea…all the way up to Nationals.

I know. Not that long ago, right?

You know, I never thought it would be me who would entertain the thought of throwing in the towel. Of course, I’m often melodramatic, and nothing even remotely as bad as some of the things I mentioned has happened to me. In fact, much of my dissatisfaction stems from being enormously impatient. But that still didn’t change my mindset. Deep down inside, I felt like a failure, ashamed I hadn’t done better for myself and for my line.

Several weeks ago while listening to a particular song on the radio, with lyrics about not giving up and knowing “it’s worth it”, my son got the hiccups. I told him how I always got rid of them and went back to singing the song while he attempted to use his mind to shut down the contractions of his diaphragm. And as I sang the lyrics, I realized he wasn’t the only person in the car with the hiccups.  Desperate to stop the discomfort in my career, I had resorted to some silly things. I had allowed the hiccups to control me, to make me forget how wonderful the journey has been, how much faith my editor has in me, how much my agent loves my writing…and how much my readers like my characters and storylines. I had lost focus.

So I sat down and refocused myself on the problem, and if I’m being honest, I can admit my dismay over my career results from factors I can’t control. Like the hiccups, it just happened. But I realize I do have some control, and that control is over my product. I can’t make readers buy my books, I can’t make reviewers like my book, and I can’t control the market…but I can control my attitude and the quality of my work.  If I sit really still (in front of my computer) and focus on what is before me, swallowing uncertainty, I can make the hiccups go away.

Sometimes it takes some outside help to get to the point you can do refocus yourself. Sometimes you need your mentor, agent, editor, critique partner…or some stranger at the grocery store to tell you how good you are. Sometimes you need a colleague to have faith in you, to give you a boost, help you in some way. Sometimes you need a reader to send you a note or a contest final to slap you upside the head. But really, what it comes down to is that YOU have the power to fix yourself. And that’ some powerful medicine.

You’ll be happy to know I’m over my hiccups, and I’ve hit the ground running with some plans to refocus myself…maybe even reinvent myself a little. Sometimes a gal needs a little shaking up. And sometimes she needs the hiccups so she can grow and find her way, becoming stronger because of the challenge set before her.

Here’s to conquering the hiccups! Now, you share the best way you’ve found to deal with the hiccups in your career (Or the literal hiccups if you’ve found a better way than mine :))

 

40 Responses to “I’ve Got the Hiccups”

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Wow, Liz. What an inspiring post.
    I listened to you talk about your hiccups (though you didn’t call it that) at Nationals and remembered thinking how this business, with all its support from friends like you, can still be lonely…and hard…and not always fruitful. But we still have our humor. :-D

    You are absolutely right. Even with the support of friends, family, industry pros, and readers, we have to always be willing and able to evolve, whether that’s in our careers goal or outlook.

    Thanks, Liz, for sharing your encouragement.

    Jenn!

    • Liz Talley says:

      Thanks, Jenn. Maybe I should be writing inspirational. Ha.

      Yes, it’s a tough business, and as a young writer (not that I’m old) I really had this impervious, I’m going to conquer this and rise to the top ideology. I really believed I could do it, and guess what? I still believe it. We all must think we’re worthy of rising and becoming better and bigger than what we are….but I’ve finally realized it’s not the path for me and that like so many others, I need to be content to sit still, to soak up what is around me and to live in the moment. Doesn’t mean I’m not still working hard or looking for opportunity. IT means I have to accept who I am and where I am at present. I have to stop pressing myself while still stretching myself as a writer.

      Thanks for all your support. The friendships I’ve made along the way have been such a valuable benefit. And not all success is wrapped in money and fame.

  2. Great insight, Amy. I needed to hear that, because I, too, have been discouraged lately. What a wonderful post.

    • Liz Talley says:

      Thanks, Melanie. We all get discouraged and sometimes it’s hard to move forward, but eye on the prize (different for everyone), and know you are not alone in this journey. For every day you feel worthless, there are many more writers who feel the same way. Some have NYT Bestselling behind their name, some are still working on their first manuscripts. We’re all humbled by something.

      Thanks for popping by :)

  3. Wow Liz! I’m right there with you. And since national I think I’ve turned the corner too….or got over my hiccups as you put it!

    So many options out there now! Good luck to us both!

    • Liz Talley says:

      That’s such good news, Wendy, and I have to say, I feel some measure of peace. I’m not accepting my place in the publishing world, but I am accepting who I am as a writer. And that has made all the difference.

      Thanks!

  4. Piper says:

    Liz,

    Thank you for your post. It is hard to remember to live in the moment, and to celebrate all of your achievements, big and small. It could be a request, or a contest final,a kind word, anything. It is so easy to get discouraged in this business, but it does help to keep your eye on the prize and recognize that others might well wish to be in your shoes.

    • Liz Talley says:

      Very good point, especially about realizing that there is always someone who wished to be where you are. I’m sure there are some who will read this and think “Oh, shut the hell up” but at the same time, we’re all in different places and it has always been very hard to understand the frustrations of someone who seems to have more. But I console myself with the thought that everyone’s path has pitfalls.

  5. Terri Osburn says:

    What a brave and honest post. Thanks for sharing this, Liz. I, too, struggle to live in the moment. At times in my life, focusing on the future was the only way I got through the crap in the present. But right now my present is pretty good, so I’m trying to pay attention and enjoy it. I don’t want to look back and say I missed it all.

    I think the important thing to remember is that it’s never over unless you give up. There’s always another opportunity around the corner, another wave to catch. It could be a month from now or a year from now, but it’s coming. Just don’t give up.

    PS: I actually use the spoonful of sugar for hiccups. Works every time. (Or maybe it only works because my brain believes it works. Hmmm…)

    • Liz Talley says:

      That mind power is a strange thing, Terri. Such a powerful organ that can turn you away from your dreams or push you there. It’s all in what you think you can do.

      Enjoy your shining moments, Terri. I see your career sparking and rising and that’s so encouraging. Enjoy this. Relish it. Hold fast to it. It’s a very good thing.

  6. Amy Liz,

    Thanks for writing this post. I really needed to hear it today as I try to keep pushing forward to finish a manuscript. I need to take a deep breath and write.

    I know I have experienced almost all the same ‘hiccups,’ and the biggest hiccup for me was the realization that it really never gets easier—at least not for me. Every manuscript is hard to write. Every review makes my stomach hurt—even the good ones. Every release day is fraught with a tense combination of hope and fear.

    But even with the hiccups, this is still the best job I’ve ever had, and the one that I was meant to do. I couldn’t stop writing stories even if I wanted to.

    This industry will always be crazy. It will always be hard. But I don’t have to let it make me hard, or crazy. I can tell my own story and I can make it have a happy ending. :)

    Onward my friend.

    • Liz Talley says:

      That’s a big hiccup we all need to face…it doesn’t get any easier. I thought it would. I did. I thought I would get faster, better and stronger. My name would be recognizable. Editors would beg to work with me. I could have some power, you know?

      Ha, ha, ha.

      Yeah, it never gets any easier. Onward, indeed!

  7. Tamara Hogan says:

    Elizabeth Essex said:

    –> This industry will always be crazy. It will always be hard. But I don’t have to let it make me hard, or crazy. I can tell my own story and I can make it have a happy ending.

    THIS. And Liz, thanks so much for having the guts to ‘go there’ and admit that sometimes this business isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Even with so much outside of our control, sometimes our expectations of ourselves can be the biggest hurdle we leap.

    This year, having recently parted ways with my publisher, I found it helpful to evaluate my personal career goals through the question of why. “Why do I write?” and “Why do I write for publication?” are two very different questions. Why do I get up early to write every day? Why do I sacrifice sleep, snuggling, and morning sex? ;-) What needs do I get met through writing, and through publishing what I write? What sacrifices must I make, and are they worth it? Is money important? Are sales important? Is control important? Do I need to hit a list, or receive great reviews, to feel like a success?

    WHY DO I WRITE, ANYWAY?

    The answers to these questions will be different for everyone, but having recently been dropped by my publisher, which would have been a crushing blow a couple of years ago, I found an unexpected silver lining: Freedom. And I rediscovered the sheer joy of writing a story. As the commercial says…priceless.

    Chin up, my love. You’re an awesome writer, and the story is in YOU.

    • Liz Talley says:

      Well, Tam, at the very least I’m always honest. And I think there is power in being honest. We’re inundated with tons of “Look at this 5 star review!” and “Check out where I am on the lists!” and “Guess who just signed another three book contract!” and those things are wonderful, but rarely do you see a “Crap! My book is not selling well!” or a “I just got dropped by my publisher.” I mean, no one wants to say those things, but that stuff happens just as much (if not more) than “I’m number 3 on Kindle Bestseller Paid list!” And it starts to get to you. You start thinking I really do suck and I don’t have any way to make things better.

      But we do.

      I celebrate my friends accomplishments because they’re really cool..and I love them. I’m happy for them. Truly. But it’s also okay to say “I’m disappointed.” To see where you are and refocus the energy so you can go to other places. That’s what you did, Tamara, and that’s so incredible. That’s why you miss that morning sex (LOL) at least on some mornings. Because it beats in you and you will tell your story. May the chips fall where they lie after doing so.

      Thanks!

      • Elisa Beatty says:

        OMG…that really is the “Facebook Effect,” isn’t it? Everyone mentions the happy anniversaries and the promotions and the good news, but rarely do they report the failed diets, the big fight with the spouse or the reprimand from the boss. But we all have ups AND downs. As you say, attitude is everything.

        Great post, Liz!!

  8. Kristina Mathews says:

    Liz,
    I am so glad you got over your hiccups and continue to write. Although, I suppose my complete works collection isn’t as valuable, now. :)

    Sometimes I wish I was still naïve with the vision of sending off the first draft to a publisher and finding a huge contact in the return mail. Not to mention a movie deal, right?

    But I am truly grateful to have so many authors share their struggles and triumphs so I go into publication with a realistic view. I might make $500. I might make $500,000. I’m sure it will be somewhere in between.

    I can’t control the market, the rapidly changing publishing industry, or the next hot trend. I can only write the best books I can. The books I would want to read. Hopefully others will want to read them too.

    • Liz Talley says:

      Exactly, Kristina. And I’m not trying to be doom and gloom. I’m not at that point and I hope I never get to that point. I’m truly happy with the books I write, and do I wish more people read them? Heck, yes. But I like my line, I like my publisher and I like my stories. All the other stuff – fame and fortune, namely – may or may not ever come. But I have to be okay with that. I have to stay the course. That’s what we all must do if our passion is strong.

      And my passion to tell stories is stronger than my need to have my ego stroked. Or this is what I tell myself.

      Control what you can control. That’s the bottom line.

      Thanks for always supporting me and loving my stories. You’re a good friend :)

  9. >>suffice it to say that I have been struggling with not only my identity as a writer, but whether I wanted to continue on this particular road<<

    This really resonated for me because I've been there. Actually, I'm still there, adrift and discouraged and wondering if I should just get off the road altogether. :) But I decided over the weekend to do a little refocusing of my own, so I'm unplugging indefinitely and plan to spend some quality time, just me and the work-in-progress, without all the 'noise' messing with my head.

    Wonderful post, Liz. Thanks for writing it.

    • Liz Talley says:

      Now that’s what I want to hear. Reassess. Refocus. I’ve read you and know what a talented writer you are, so I’m glad you’re staying on this road with me. Sometimes I feel like this road is the one I feel the most at home on. It’s the real me, so I don’t think I can give that up.

  10. Hi Liz,

    Although I’m not 13 books in, I’m also feel like I’m doing a stutter step with my career. “Adrift, discouraged and wondering if I should get off the road altogether,” yup, I could have written what Cynthia did. I absolutely love the analogy of the hiccups. When I have the physical hiccups, I concentrate on changing my breathing pattern. When I was younger, I learned it was a spasm, so what to do with a spasm? Massage it. So I alter my breathing rhythms until the hiccups go away.
    I’m not sure that translates, but I do know I will have to alter things.
    Thank you for reminding me I’m not alone! Great post.

    • Liz Talley says:

      I think that’s what I do. Slow down and change my breathing, giving true focus (only on my throat and swallowing and breathing deeply) until I fix myself.

      I’m glad the analogy worked for you. So anytime you feel discouraged, slow down, pull yourself aside and change your pattern. Good advice :)

  11. What a fabulous post, Liz. Loved the analogy, and I needed to hear this today. I’m about to dive into edits for the latest contracted book, but feeling discouraged (for various reasons). My editor loved the book, but most days I feel like I’m spinning my wheels for nothing…I’d forgotten to step back and enjoy what I get to do each day.

  12. Rita Henuber says:

    Hugs my dear sister I understand how you feel. I internalize everything. Don’t like to talk about my ‘little’ problems when everyone around me has much more difficult struggles. Admittedly, I see things decidedly different than most, which is why I refuse to watch any news and have left many online groups. Sooo much happier. I recently restricted my internet interaction and I didn’t die. Turn off email a good part of the day. I’m slowly working back into FB and twitter. I have set times to check them. I refuse to turn in the latest MS which I have a prequel to, and am working on a novella. Like Anne Marie I feel like I’m spinning wheels.
    I will say if one of my sisters dare quit writing you will one night, when you least expect it have an old, short, fat, woman in a ninja costume jump out to the bushes and beat the crap out of you.
    Not a threat a promise.

    • I love the image of Ninja Rita coming to get me!

      Wait, I think we just invented a new drink to help us get through the rough patches: the Ningarita!!!!!!

      I’ll start working on the recipe immediately. :)

    • Liz Talley says:

      I get you, Rita. I’ve actually stopped visiting so many blogs (just the ones like this one that offer me encouragement and craft) and I try to spend less time wondering about how I can promote myself. I just don’t. I visit FB and I tweet every now and then, but much of it, I just stopped doing. I think unplugging a bit is not a bad idea because being plugged in all the time makes me feel lesser as an author and I don’t need that.

      I’ll be careful around bushes if I ever quit.

      But I won’t.

      Cause I got ninja sister willing to kick my butt into gear :)

  13. June Love says:

    Well, Liz T.,
    1) I’ve been worried about you because I knew how disenchanted you’d become. I didn’t get much of a chance to visit with you in Atlanta. Our long dinner table at Einstein’s wasn’t made for visiting with everyone. Next year, we need a place where we can walk around and mingle. My point is, I’m glad you’re feeling better and have found your way back.
    2) I’ve learned a lot from you about how it is on the inside. You’ve given us insight that doesn’t always paint a rosy picture. I appreciate that. By sharing it all with us, you’re saving us from falling into that same “This isn’t the way I thought it would be” trap.

    Thank you!

  14. Gwyn says:

    You know me, Lil’ Sis, I love a good analogy, and this one is excellent.

    All things considered, I’ve often given thought to stepping off this gerbil wheel permanently, but it seems my destiny to write. I can’t escape it. Whenever I try, someone comes along to breath new life on the dying embers. I will say the times I’ve doubted, my stories tend to boil forth to object. Sometimes they even morph a bit, reflecting something that I didn’t have to give them before. Thus, I’m grateful for the delays and the resurgences; the stories are stronger—as am I. {{{Hugs}}}

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