I’ve shared this post with y’all last year, but it can’t hurt to hear it again. If you’re like me, you struggle to sit down with your work in progress during the busy, busy holiday season. So I thought it would be fun to share some coping strategies once more. I’ve added my 2 cents worth for 2013 near the end. :) Happy Holidays, everyone!
It’s December, and we are currently knee deep into the annual holiday season. As women, we are usually the ones responsible for the planning and plotting that goes into holidays, even if they aren’t being held at our house. The same is true for me—I do the planning, my hubby does the inviting (usually without telling me until the last minute). We end up with a house full of family and friends who eat, talk, laugh, and play games all Christmas day. That’s after a month full of other parties, family celebrations, gift buying, etc. Something I enjoy with a heart full of gratitude.
But all this partying makes it tough to get any writing done. The list of things to do can extend to infinity sometimes (or at least feel like it). All this extra party planning can really cramp my writing style. I’m sure even you non-writers find time short during this busy season. So what’s an author to do? Here are a few tips: 1. Up your word count on the days you CAN write.
I know this sounds like it will take even more time, but when you do get uninterrupted writing time, do your best to up the amount of your goal. My usual goal for weekdays is 750 words, but for December I’m aiming for 1250. This way, I can manage a few days off during the month without guilt or getting really behind. So push yourself to do more, and enjoy your reward later. 2. Take it One Small Step at a Time
It can be overwhelming to sit down and face a 1000 word goal, but how about 250 words? Oftentimes, I don’t write my whole goal in one sitting. I can’t, because I have very few uninterrupted chunks of time in my day. So here’s how I approach it: During my morning break at work, I plot out the scenes I’m going to work on that day. Then on my lunch break (30 minutes) I type on the Alphasmart. I also have 1 hour set aside for writing directly after dinner. I try to keep that sacred (doesn’t always work, but I try).
Then thirty minutes while the kids do homework or clean their rooms or 30 minutes while the hubby watches a television show. Just 30 more minute before bedtime, then I can sleep. You’d be surprised how much easier it is to tackle any large project in smaller steps. 3. Be Prepared
For plotters, this is much easier. But it is also doable for pantsters too. Before putting down your pen for the day, take a few moments to write out the first few sentences of your next scene. Make sure your notes on the coming pages are complete and you have a decent map for where you are heading. This will make jumping into the next session much easier (no staring at a blank page wondering what the heck you were thinking to have them break into the warehouse so soon…) and your writing will flow more quickly from the start.
I find a To Do list essential for big projects and my writing is no different. This way, I can see how much time I have, then jump into whatever task I have time for, without worrying I’ll forget what else needs to be done. 4. Utilize the Buddy System
Find a writing friend who needs to accomplish as much as you do at this time. Vow to keep each other accountable. Daily emails require you to send in those totals, even if the sum is 0 (and embarrassing enough to force your hands to the keyboard). Set up times for write ins (getting together for the sole purpose of writing—bookstores are great for this).
And don’t forget a reward. Plan an outing to get your nails painted or a massage when all the hard work is done. A night out to dinner with some girlfriends. Or form an accountability group where everyone pitches in $10, and the top three performers during the holiday season get to split the pot for After Christmas shopping! This will give you a tangible reward, other than the relief you’ll feel when you see all those words on the page. Addition: New Thing I Learned in 2013
One of my goals in 2013 was to learn to enjoy life in the midst of chaos. I have a full time day job, write at least part time, have 2 kids and a very supportive husband. I felt like I worked from the moment I forced myself to roll out of bed in the morning. About halfway through the year, I realized I wasn’t really LIVING. So I’ve tried different approaches to try to remedy this. Here’s 1 for the holidays: Don’t feel guilty when you aren’t writing. I know it sounds counterproductive, but guilt is only going to bog down your writing, not help it in any way. When you are at a party, or chillin’ with your family, enjoy it. Don’t spend it feeling bad about what you’re not accomplishing. Oddly enough, when you get back to the page, you’ll be MORE refreshed and productive without all that negative emotion hanging around. So there’s my 2 cents worth for this year! My hope is that you’ll be able to be as productive as I hope to be this holiday season. We’re all busy. I know that. But you can still manage something (this is me giving ME a pep talk here). So tell me your best advice for getting writing (and other holiday tasks) done during this busy time. (because I need all the help I can get!)
Thanksgiving is the time of year where the concept of thankfulness is visibly front and center.
By personality and profession, I’m a problem-solver, instinctively attuned to recognizing, and then correcting, problems, exceptions, deviations and anomalies. Sometimes I need a reminder to break out of problem-solving mode, and consciously acknowledge the things I’m thankful for. Thanksgiving gives me that reminder.
Things I’m Thankful For, in no particular order:
Good health: For those of us living with chronic illness, the concept of good health is sometimes a day-to-day thing, but all things considered? 2013 was a pretty great year. I barely met my insurance deductible! Speaking of which: I am thankful to have health insurance.
Modern medicine: Every time I grumble about how many sticks it takes for me to have blood taken, I try to remember that had I been born even a decade earlier, I likely would have died during my teen years. I’m thankful for butterfly syringes, with their small-gauge needles!
Employment: I survived yet another round of corporate layoffs – oh, excuse me – “limited restructuring.” In this economic climate, I feel so fortunate to have a job that challenges me, and a regular paycheck, when so many equally capable people don’t. And did I mention, yay health insurance!
Family and Friends: They may not always understand me, but they always have my back.
Democracy: I feel fortunate to have been born to parents who live in a democratic society, where, within the scope of the laws of the land, I can say anything, do anything, be anything. As someone who lives some aspects of her life outside prevailing cultural norms, believe me I don’t take this for granted.
Last but not least…
READERS!! This year, I reconnected with the joy and exhilaration I felt when I wrote my very first book – before I sold and writing became /gulp/ a job.
Thank you to READERS everywhere, who give writers yet one more reason to listen to these voices in our heads, and to push our words out into the world.
10/31/13 Update: Thanks to everyone for stopping by! Our randomly selected winners are: Autumn and Amanda! I’ll be in touch, ladies!
True story: Last summer at the RWA conference, just as I was about to leave the hotel room for my first ever Literacy Signing, my lovely and talented cousin, Cara Connelly, proudly took a photo of me and sent it to family back home. Our dear aunt—who’s my biggest supporter and unfailingly honest—immediately texted Cara back.
Something along the lines of: “Tell Annie she needs to amp it up a little if she wants to make it as a romance writer. Good grief, she looks like a schoolteacher. She’s got to WORK IT.”
Cara jumped to my defense—sort of: “LOL, I know. But I think she might be showing a *little* cleavage. Will try to get her to put on some red lipstick at least.”
Me (grabbing Cara’s phone): “Will everybody please stop hating on my classic cardigan and sensible heels?!”
Geez, you’d think I was dressed like a nun or something. Wait, never mind.
I guess the point is, I seem to be missing the risqué romance writer gene. I don’t like drawing attention to myself or taking risks. My life, in general, is distinctly un-scandalous—and I like it that way.
But when I’m writing (or reading), it’s a completely different story. In books, the more scandal, the better—and my second book, ONCE SHE WAS TEMPTED, has plenty!
Everyone thinks Miss Daphne Honeycote is the sweet, innocent younger sister, but it turns out that she’s been hiding a shameful secret. Two, actually. Because she once posed for a pair of risqué portraits, and if they fall into the wrong hands it will mean ruin for her and, worse, for her beloved family. (You see, kids, this kind of risky behavior can get you in trouble!)
Anyway, I thought it would be fun if there was a way for risk-averse people like me to experience the thrill of posing for a scandalous portrait without actually, you know, getting naked. So, I created Daphne’s Scandalous Portrait Generator. Just answer the five completely innocuous questions below to find out what your portrait would look like. I dare you to give it a try!
Also, since my book releases today, I’m going to give away two copies of ONCE SHE WAS TEMPTED to random commenters (U.S. only, please). Now, go get your portrait!
What are your passions? Writing has been one of mine since my 2nd grade teacher published my Christmas story in the local paper. Eventually I became a mom and my priorities shifted to include my growing family. I became supermom, ready to turn frowns upside down with my arsenal of homemade puppy-dog-face cookies and castle cakes. Other interests crowded in, but for the most part, family and writing remained my top passions in life.
Castle Birthday Cake
Two and a half years ago I was given a third. I woke up in a hospital room to the words “it’s cancer” and life thrust me onto the most brutal topsy-turvy rollercoaster ever imagined. Teal ribbons, weekly chemo infusions, pills, doctor’s appointments, mouth ulcers, CT scans, shedding of ALL hair, a mailbox filled with get well cards, casseroles, flowers left on my doorstep, pain, panic, “who will you play with in heaven, Mommy, if I’m not with you” became my life.
When I first saw the chemo ward at the hospital, and all the bald, tired people hooked up to beeping machines with bags of drugs snaking into their bodies through various tubes, I cried on my husband’s arm. “They look dead, and I’m going to be one of them.”
What I didn’t realize at the time, but discovered quickly, was that those people are warriors, battling with everything they’ve got. I was proud to get to know them and to become an Ovarian Cancer Warrior, fighting for my right to live and be a mom, daughter, friend, and wife, fighting a beast that stalks women silently.
OC is the deadliest of the GYN cancers as it is the hardest to detect. I was diagnosed because I happened to mention some pelvic pain and mild bloating to my general practitioner when I went in for a possible broken hand. So I was diagnosed at stage IIc with a 70% chance of living 5 years. If I’d waited a couple more weeks, it could have easily moved to stage III with only a 20% chance to survive 5 years. So early detection of these whispered symptoms is crucial to survival.
Suddenly I had a new passion. My husband and I started the SHOUT Against the Whisper campaign with a mission to educate women about the whispered symptoms of this terrible beast. So…I have three passions in my life: writing, my family (although I’ve retired my supermom cape), and OC Awareness/Cancer support.
Me & my Highland Hero
One thing we can do, as passionate people, is to blend our passions together in a way to enhance each one. But doing so must be done thoughtfully.
My third book was about to release when I started chemo. Part of me wanted to scream “I have cancer; buy my book!” But the sane part of me knew that wasn’t appropriate (unless perhaps I was writing cancer books, which I plan to do BTW).
I swore to God, the universe, and to my friendly kale juicer that I would use all my talents to educate and help save women if they would keep me alive to do so. I am a public speaker and I write, and I plan to use my skills in any way I can to spread the warning, not just because I swore back in those grim days, but because I’m genuinely passionate about not letting cancer win.
So in the back of my books, I list the whispered symptoms. When I do book signings or workshops or interviews, I give out symptom cards and ask for articles to list them. This type of cross-promoting is very appropriate.
However, this doesn’t always work in the reverse. When on the chemo ward, if someone was reading a romance, I would tell them about my books, quietly and in conversation. I donated some to the ward. At my OC Awareness events I might give away books for collected donations to OC Research or Education, but it is a minor part of the big push of alerting women on how to save their lives. Every time I try to cross these two passions in my life, I must be thoughtful, because promoting my writing in the face of suffering can come across as crass and just plain wrong. Which can completely turn people off to your work, something that should be avoided, obviously, at all costs.
Some passions hit around the same level on the emotional/life importance barometer and can be intertwined easily. If you are passionate about wine and wine features in one of your books, touting your book to wine lovers, on Twitter or FB or in person, can be appropriate after you’ve set up a friendly relationship with them. You still must remain thoughtful so as not to come across as only being an advertisement, but the promo is less tricky than trying to sell romance books to someone who is fighting to stay alive.
Healthy Mom Again!
I am now finished with 15 months of chemo and am getting my life back in order, though I will never be the same. I’ve learned too much, felt too much, to be the same. Actually I think I’m better for the experience. In some ways cancer has connected me to readers. One woman wrote to me after reading the acknowledgments at the end of CAPTURED HEART where I detail out the symptoms. She was an OC survivor herself and thanked me for putting the symptoms out there in the world. I think she will be a reader of mine for life now. Sometimes there is cross-promo between very different passions, even passions that fall on very different levels. But it is something that cannot be forced.
So when you take stock of your life and your own passions and interests, do think of ways to use them to help promote your writing, but please remember to do so thoughtfully. What ways have you been able to cross-promote your passions?
Bloating, Pelvic Pain, Feeling Full quickly while Eating Less, Urinary issues.
Other symptoms may include fatigue, constipation, pain during intercourse, menstrual issues, indigestion, and back pain. If you have a symptom for 3 weeks or more, see your GYN for a pelvic exam.
If something feels abnormal, a trans-vaginal ultrasound and a CA125 blood test should be ordered. If you have a mass to be removed, your #1 way to survive if it is cancer, is to have a GYN Oncology Surgeon remove it.
It’s often said that writing can be a solitary business. And it’s true. Unless you have a ghostwriter, this is one job you can’t delegate to others. We cleave ourselves from the rest of the world in a quest make the scenes playing in our heads come alive on the page. Occasionally we might venture out to conferences or critique groups, but for the most part, we are…alone.
But no writer is truly an island (I know – another cliché. I’ll stop soon.). We need a companion. Someone who’ll listen without judgment to our rants about rejections or bad reviews. Someone who reserves the right to remain silent when we’re up against a deadline. Someone who’ll give us random cuddles, especially if it’s cold or there’s a stray dog roaming outside…
Yes, that someone I’m talking about is a cat. Felines are wonderful writing companions. This fact was not lost among authors like Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, and Hemingway. (Check out the Writers and Kitties tumblr page.) Contemporary authors Haruki Murakami, Neil Gaiman and Stephen King are notable cat guardians, and cats can often be found slinking in and out of their pages. Figuratively, of course.
Sigmund Freud once said, “Time spent with cats is never wasted.” My two cats’ snores, purrs, meows and mere presence have the power to inspire and comfort. When those critters fall asleep on my lap while I’m typing, I’m loath to get up. So I keep writing – it’s a win for my productivity.
Not every cat is always up to the role of “wonderful writing companion.” Mine demand to be fed at precisely 7am and 6pm. The claws really come out if these times are not observed. Pinklepurr and Possum view laptops not as my most treasured writing tool but as a warming device for their tummies. If I let them outside, they’ll want to come back in immediately, and vice versa. Possum likes to play with whatever stationery I require at that exact moment. They even have their own blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. (I’ve had to put a stop to all that because supervising their online activities is a huge time suck…). But all is forgiven when they settle back into my lap and gaze up at me with a look that says, “Mum, do finish writing the damn book and feed us at 6:00, m’kay?”
Do you have a four-legged writing companion? How do they help or hinder your writing process? Ever been tempted to give your pets a starring role in a book?
The following post is actually a blast from the past. On occasion, I look back and see how far I’ve come on this writing journey. Recently, I dug up this post—my first on the Ruby blog, and probably my first blog post ever—which I originally posted waaaaay back on October 6, 2009. That was before I was published, when I was still shopping my Golden Heart manuscript (which was published by Carina Press in September 2011.) I was shiny and new in so many ways, and have learned much on this journey, but I think the message of succeeding through perseverance and finding a supportive community is still relevant.
(And, as an update, I served 4 years as President of my local chapter and don’t regret a moment. During that time I sold three books. My two terms ended eight months ago, but during those years, I grew so much, and made lasting connections I treasure.)
“Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!” No doubt about it, the craft of writing and the world of publishing can be a scary business. But…
You are not alone.
I can’t tell you how many times I have to remind myself of this. Daily? Actually, some days it’s hourly. Yes, my friends, we’ve chosen a career fraught with rejection, self-doubt, downswings, and loneliness. But as I travel farther down this yellow brick path – sometimes skipping happily along, and sometimes dragging my feet with every step – I’m meeting all kinds of people. Their paths may be different, but they intersect or even – at times – run identical to my own.
I am not alone.
I discovered this when I became more involved in my local chapter, setting up a plotting group in my home so that I could get to know people on a more personal level and making friends that I know will always be there for me when I stumble. I rediscovered this when I finaled in the Golden Heart and found a whole group of sisters I never knew I had.
So what do you do to counteract those down periods when you’ve received a rejection, are immersed – or drowning – in self-doubt, or just feeling isolated? Just as Dorothy had her traveling companions on her journey, we have friends, critique partners, and organizations to help us out on ours. So…. What would Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion say about the challenges along our path?
Scarecrow, my brainy friend, scratches his head and looks at the odds. “There are a lot of writers out there. But you won’t succeed if you don’t continue to submit. Persistence is the key.”
“Yes, but how long must I persist?” I ask. (Okay, it was more of a whine, but still…)
“As long as it takes,” he says simply, that drawn-on smile never faltering. “You never know when your manuscript will land on the RIGHT desk at the RIGHT time. In the meantime, keep developing your craft, editing your work, and sending it out. And listen to your writing friends when they say, ‘Don’t give up!’”
Tin Man, my sensitive friend, smiles at me softly with a sympathetic tilt of his head. “You have a lot to give as a writer. It’s a calling, otherwise you’d be able to set it down and walk away. Besides, you’re writing the book of your heart, right?”
“Psshaw,” I say, jaded. “That was four manuscripts ago. Now I’m searching for the book of my dream editor’s heart.”
“But there’s no way of knowing what that will be,” Tin Man points out, taking my hand as we continue down the yellow brick path. “Don’t lose the love for your craft. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, why do it? And,” he adds, “I suggest you join a writers group, where you can give back to others. There’s joy in that, and the passion of others is addictive.”
Tin Man was right. It was in joining my local chapter, and stepping forward to be their president when they needed one, that I found deeper and lasting friendships and found a common passion. I rediscovered the “heart” of romance writing. And I started to enjoy my craft again.
“Cowardly Lion, I know you feel my pain,” I say to the next friend along my path. “Every time I lick that envelope to send away a submission, my heart quakes. Can I stand the rejection this time?”
He straightens to his full, furry height, hands on his hips and stares me down. “You know the answer to that. If you are rejected, you will survive. You always do. Be brave.” He leans down and grins. “Chocolate helps. And friends do, too.”
And finally, there’s Toto. Can’t forget him. I carry him with me everywhere in my little basket, my constant reminder of the quiet love and comfort that’s waiting for me at home. Not everyone has a Toto to turn to when times are scary and confusing. When the people who should love and support you the most step on your dreams, who do you turn to? It’s my hope that you’ll find a group of like-minded people – writers, critique partners, Ruby Sisters – or that you start one of your own. Trust me, there are others out there like you, sometimes lost in Kansas, twisting in the wind and just looking for home.
You are not alone.
If you find yourself feeling alone, join your local RWA group (or if you already belong, volunteer for a position to become more active and get to know your fellow chapter mates). Or, offer to help judge a writing contest. Cruise the internet for writer resources or loops you can join. Or, just take your writing with you and get out of your lonely surroundings and into a bustling coffee shop or library, where you can see that other people exist.
One of the best things I ever did was say “yes” when my local chapter asked me to be their next president. Was I worried about the additional workload and the fact that I’d never (ever!) served on a board before, let alone as president? Heck, yeah. At the same time, I’d volunteered to help my online chapter with their annual contest. I didn’t know what I was in for there, either. But saying “yes” opened so many doors for me. I’ve met so many amazing writers, discovered several new resources, and discovered I am not alone. (And, if you happen to believe in karma, I must say that my career has grown by leaps and bounds this year – my first request for a full from an agent led to signing with that agent, and was followed soon after by a Golden Heart nomination and win. I’ve been very blessed, and can’t help but wonder if what I put out into the universe is coming back to me in some way.)
You are not alone. We are on this twisty, winding path together, and the emotions at the peaks and dips are universal. Am I scared? Yes. Thrilled? Yes! Confused? Oh, yeah, sometimes. But I’m still going forward, one step at a time, and I hope you are, too.
Are you feeling alone on your path? Who (or what) have you encountered along the way that helps push you to take that next step when you need a gentle shove? Tell me about your journey, and your traveling companions.
Anne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling. Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.
She writes to reclaim her sanity.
Anne Marie publishes the Mindhunters series with Carina Press and is currently hard at work on some new projects. Find ways to connect with her at www.AnneMarieBecker.com.
Thoughts on writing from authors I thought you would enjoy.
Set your sights high, the higher the better. Expect the most wonderful things to happen, not in the future but right now. Realize that nothing is too good. Allow absolutely nothing to hamper you or hold you up in any way. ~ Eileen Caddy
If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place. ~ Nora Roberts
Keep a diary and one day it’ll keep you. ~Mae West
A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay
When things don’t go your way – change your way. ~ Me
The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. ~Agatha Christie
I think it’s bad to talk about one’s present work, for it spoils something at the root of the creative act. It discharges the tension. ~Norman Mailer
If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth the writing. – Benjamin Franklin
Some of us aren’t meant to belong. Some of us have to turn the world upside down and shake the hell out of it until we make our own place in it. ~ Elizabeth Lowell
Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth
Easy reading is damn hard writing. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne
I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions. ~James Michener
Women with clean houses do not have finished books. ~ Joy Held
All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
People do not deserve to have good writing, as they are so pleased with bad. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous. ~ Robert Benchley
I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. ~ James Michener
When you get to the point everyone else would quit –keep going. ~ Unknown.
Tell the readers a story. Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences. – Anne McCaffrey
The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.- Anads Nin
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. – Mark Twain
Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great. ~ Mark Twain
All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences. ~ Somerset Maugham
Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader -not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon. ~ E. L. Doctorow
Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for love, and then for a few close friends, and then for money.~ Moliere
I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard
When asked, “How do you write?” I invariably answer, “one word at a time.” ~ Stephen King
If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write. ~ Stephen King
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.~ Ernest Hemingway
It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way. ~ Ernest Hemingway
Rejection is not Fatal ~ Author Unknown
Now go and write.
Forget the guilt, -“Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving.”Erma Bombeck
Forget the housework. -“Housework, if it is done properly, can cause brain damage.” Erma Bombeck
Don’t worry about your family.-“No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed.” Erma Bombeck
Enjoy the moment.- “Just think of all those women on the Titanic who said, ‘No thank you’ to desert that night. And for what?!” Erma Bombeck
Please share your favorite quote.
Rita writes sexy stories about Military Heroines. Extraordinary women and the men they love.
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 )
It’s a special treat for me to welcome our latest Lucky 13 guest blogger, Talia Quinn Daniels. She’s not only a 2013 Golden Heart Finalist in Single Title Contemporary, she was a finalist in that category in 2012 as well with her manuscript NO PEEKING, so she’s also one of my fellow Firebirds. And she’s wicked smart and funny and awesome in so many ways. Oh, and did I mention she WON the Golden Heart last year? And gave one of the most moving speeches of the night?
Her 2013 Golden Heart manuscript, WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE, is a sexy contemporary romp. Here’s the blurb:
Darcy Jennings just bought a one bedroom condo, a gorgeous cliffside property in a coastal community north of Santa Barbara. It’s the first time in her life she’s ever had a permanent home, and it means everything to her. It’s especially sweet after what happened four years ago. That’s behind her now, and the rat who nearly ruined her career, one Will Dougherty, is history.
Will Dougherty just bought a one bedroom condo. He helped build the property with his green, clean designs, and he earmarked this unit to make his own. It’s up the road from his newly divorced sister, and it means everything to him. He’s come a long way since the day four years ago when his underhanded coworker, one Darcy Jennings, got him fired. Thankfully, he’ll never have to see her again.
They couldn’t be more wrong. Darcy finds this out the hard way when she stumbles into her condo after a long business trip, crawls into bed, and discovers a man there. Will Dougherty. And he says it’s not her bed, it’s his.
It seems they bought the same condo.
Now Will and Darcy have to live together twenty four hours a day until one of them admits defeat. When these two strong willed people are stuck together, sparks fly, in more ways than one. They get under each other’s skin and then some.
Don’t you just want to snuggle down into the couch with that one?? Okay, Lucky 13s, you all really, really, REALLY need to get these books published soon!
You can read about NO PEEKING at at Talia’s website: http://taliaquinndaniels.com. Be sure to check out her bio while you’re there–it’s very cool.
Talia grew up in a New York City loft with her artist mother. Since then, she’s lived in a Craftsman house in Los Angeles, a carriage house in New Jersey, and now lives in Queens with her husband and son, not far from Archie Bunker’s old digs. She fantasizes sometimes about opening a sinfully healthy grain-free bakery, but then wakes up and realizes how much work would be involved. So instead she writes contemporary romance and YA.
In three months, September 9th, to be exact, my son will enter high school. This is obviously a huge milestone for any kid, but it’s particularly significant for us. I’ve been homeschooling him since the end of fourth grade.
I don’t know how much you all know about homeschooling, but the home part is something of a misnomer. We’re constantly out and about, heading to homeschool classes, field trips, and park gatherings. And when we’re home, there’s a ton for me to do. My husband works long hours. My son has some learning issues. I’m primary caregiver magnified tenfold.
This particular high school looks to be really good for my kid. It will be amazing for me. I’ll have time to write every day. I’ll be able to work at home. In my little home office. WIth music playing, the window open to the autumn breeze, a cat snoozing on the comfy chair nearby. Bliss.
Over the years, I’ve written in some strange places. In a way, these places tell the story of my life as a mom. For instance:
I wrote a commissioned synopsis for a children’s TV pilot (which didn’t get picked up) while sitting on the floor in the corner of a preschool classroom, my laptop propped up on a low bookshelf as I surreptitiously watched the kids playing and it sank in just how out of place my boy was.
I wrote much of my first novel (literary, heaven help me) in a library in Santa Monica, California during the three hour window while my son was in a therapeutic preschool getting much needed interventions. I had to keep moving away from the homeless man who muttered imprecations under his breath.
I wrote in the back seat of my car, which was parked on a side street near the beach. Same three hour stint. Less stink.
When I first joined RWA, I read time and again: when people ask what you do, tell them you’re an author. Own it and be proud of yourself. I do and I am. It’s a lot easier when I can follow up with “and my first book will be on the shelves in August 2013,” but I’ve become very comfortable talking with others about my writing. Readers and non-readers.
But I recently ran into a situation that made me think twice.
From the time I started writing, I’ve had to work up the courage to tell people I was an author. I still vividly remember the nervous churning in my stomach when I told my husband I wanted to write my first book. I’m a lucky woman. He was supportive of me as so many people have been along the way. Being outed as a romance writer at a church women’s retreat broke me of a lot of worry, since having 40 people take turns asking, “What do you write?” creates a bit of a thick skin.
But I’ve now found myself actively deciding to keep my authordom a secret. Only in one place – my new day job. I work in an office with six women, but only 2 of them know I write. Why keep it a secret? An upper management boss who only proves more and more how much of a problem this would be with her. She’s extremely conservative and holds to an old-school level of professionalism. She finds something to criticize, no matter how small. That shirt’s a little too low in the front. Those shoes aren’t professional enough. That subject is too personal for the office. While I wouldn’t lie if asked directly, I’m not going out of my way to “share”.
As more time passes, I realize how much of my true self I’m hiding each day. I’m living a double life and not very happy about it. So much of myself is tied up in my writing. I find it very hard not to share my writing triumphs with my fellow workers. To not mention when my characters are giving me a hard time while everyone talks about their rough days. I even have to keep mum about my plans for the weekends, since “writing, writing, and more writing” might raise some eyebrows. But I draw the line at hiding my writing on my lunch break. I usually have a notebook or laptop and what I’m doing on my time is no one’s business – and no one has asked directly yet. Much to my surprise. That particular boss has caught me in the break room and asked questions about my laptop, but draws short of questioning what I’m actually working on.
I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll say when she asks. Not because I’m ashamed of my writing, or what I write, but because I don’t want to be hassled over something that’s none of her business.
So my question for all of you is: When do you tell? When do you not? Are there certain situations you avoid, or have you become comfortable enough to share indiscriminently?
I’ll check in on my lunch break and after work! Another thing I’m not allowed at this job is personal use of the internet, which I understand a lot more but is very hard when I’d like to be playing with all of you!!! :)