Posted by Liz Talley Aug 7 2013, 1:55 am in doubt, encouragement, encouragment, liz talley, writer's life, writing
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 :))