When I was about five or six, I saw the movie The Exorcist. I want to say this is where my ‘dark’ began, and where this ‘dark writer’ must have come from. Don’t misunderstand me, I am disgustingly positive and filled with light to a goddamn T. However.
This blog photo made lovingly with PicMonkey
I’ve been writing in a journal every day since January 1st of this year. In 2006 I made a similar commitment to myself, but this year, I’m also snapping a picture of myself to add to each daily post, just for fun. I guess you could call it a selfie a day. (Don’t worry, they’re private–I wouldn’t do that to you.)
Selfies are interesting. On Instagram, there are hundreds of selfies (thousands probably), and I don’t really mind seeing them. I read an article somewhere about how we should forget about the people who get annoyed at people who take selfies–if you’re looking fabulous on a certain day, then why the hell not?
I’m really craving a story to tell. I’m sitting in my room with my feet up on a Sunday morning, sipping my coffee, listening to the sounds of the city. I just finished writing in my daily journal, and for some reason that always gets me fired up for some hard core story telling. Maybe it’s because when I write there I’m storytelling my life, and the writer in me craves spicy bits of fiction to sprinkle in.
It feels awesome to finish something. January has been amazing so far in terms of productivity, and I can’t think of a better way to finish the first month of the year than with the accomplishment of having finished my very first ebook!
Okay so here’s the part where I get all modest and talk about how it’s not all that great. I mean it is, but really, it not a big deal, haha. I really just wanted to reward my subscribers with an ebook. After hours, days, (weeks?) of pondering what I could possibly write an ebook about, my sister finally said (as you may remember from the bottom of this post) that it would be great if I compiled an ebook filled with my favorite resources. Because apparently I’m “always talking about some new cool thing.”
The following is a guest post by Melissa Field, writer and blogger at Crossing Oceans.
For me, one of the things I had to unlearn after I started my writing journey was this: the only way to succeed is to never stop writing. Always move on after something doesn’t work out.
On the surface, it sounded like great advice. Don’t give up is the meaning behind it. But over the years I’ve come to realize that this isn’t the only way to succeed. It’s true that for some people just keeping their engine going for project after project has worked for them. But I started to wonder, how many successful authors wrote dozens of books before hitting it big? And how many wrote a few or even just one and hit it big? When I think of people who hit it big right away a lot of names come to mind. One of them being Katherine Stockett, who wrote The Help. The Help was her first novel and she spent five years writing it. I didn’t really care for The Help, it wasn’t my cup of tea. But I did get a huge lesson out of her story. I learned that believing in your book no matter what counts for as much, maybe even more, than writing endlessly.
I’ve even started to think this “just move on and write more” mantra was hurtful for me. It made me feel that when something didn’t work out it either wasn’t good enough or wasn’t meant to be. What I feel now is more important is to never, ever stop believing your work is good enough. No matter what. Don’t let anyone ever tell you when it’s time to move on. If you believe in something then keep on believing because it’s yours to cheer for. You created it and only you get to decide when you want to be quiet about it.
I now prefer to put the energy I used to put into generating tons of new material into other things. One is to just take care of myself, because if you burn out you aren’t going to be creating anything for a long time. Burn out is going to stall out your engine until you get the rest and peace that you need. I also put that energy into looking for fresh ways to promote what I do have, and also just into quiet time. I sit quiet and let new stories come to me. I don’t start writing in a panicked frenzy because I’m afraid if I’m not physically writing I’m not a writer.
Which brings me to the other reason this mantra hurt me: I couldn’t do it. And it made me feel I wasn’t cut out to be a writer. And that’s when I started asking myself if all successful writers are writing machines, and the answer was no. Some are Stephen Kings and create more material than I’ll ever have time to read. Some are Harper Lee’s and write one thing that was killing them not to write, and that’s enough for them. I then breathed a huge sigh of relief. I started to sing Kenny Roger’s song “The Gambler” as the theme to my writer’s journey. I find that the chorus says exactly what it feels like when I’m working on a project:
You got to know when to hold ‘em
know when to fold ‘em
know when to walk away
know when to run
I find this pertinent because with each project you really do need to know when to hold on, when to quit in the moment but not for good, and when to just walk away completely. This is the thing that no one ever really told me: that each time you write, when to stop and when to go on is going to be different. I just always see people repeating the same thing, “When you’ve finished a project move on. Start writing the next one.” It seems people have taken this black and white approach up as the only way. It’s far from the only way though, and sometimes you need a break instead of an outright new game plan.
It can be hard to know if you’re pushing on when you really need a break. Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re taking a break when you should really walk away. I think this might be why people just toss something aside and move on so quickly. They don’t take a moment to reflect out of the fear that if you stop for a moment you’re done forever. Here’s the thing though: the more you just toss aside and rush on the more you’re losing faith in yourself. For each book you quickly deem not good enough or not right you’re risking subconsciously saying, “I don’t believe in it, and therefore me. I made the wrong choice in writing it, and I have to do better.” And the more you do so the more you’re losing your belief in your ability to know what to write, how to write it, and that you can succeed after you write it. What you need instead is to always tell yourself, “I’m putting this down for now, not forever, but for now. I believe in it, it’s good enough, and so am I. But right now what I need is a moment to breathe and get clarity.”
I’m not saying all of this to tell you to halt your process and just sit around. As I mentioned earlier it works for people, besides Stephen King you’ve got John Grisham, Isaac Asimov, Nora Roberts and Agatha Christie (who turned out an astounding 723 books!!!). I’m only trying to reassure people who don’t fit this style that it doesn’t mean they’re not fit to reach their goals.
These days when a story doesn’t sell right away I ask myself, “is it worth coming back to?” and if the answer is yes, I hold on. I wait until I have the energy for it again and go back in, seeing if it needs revising or just a new approach to my pitch.
What I wish I’d known when I started out was the advice to toss something aside and start anew was not going to motivate me. For me, that’s exhausting. I work with intense concentration on one project and I hold onto it because I know it’s up to me to keep it alive. It’s for me and only me to know when it’s time to walk away. And sometimes even after I’ve run away something happens, some spark goes off, and I go running back at full speed.
So whatever people are telling you about how the only way to make it is to just keep writing, keep churning out new, don’t worry about it. You have your own methods and your own speed to get where you want. You don’t want to give up on your version of “Harry Potter” because you felt the only way to succeed was to constantly create something new. And if you really feel unsure, turn on your speakers, play Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler” and enjoy the song. It’s got a happy beat and it might just get you tappin’ your toe and feeling good again. After all, each piece we write is a gamble, so you might as well have a nice theme song for your adventures. Here’s one final piece from The Gambler:
Now every gambler knows that the secret to surviving
Is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep.
‘Cause every hand’s a winner and every hand’s a loser
Written for A Novel Quest by Melissa Field, creator of Crossing Oceans
I’ve started this blog post three times already. That’s how you know blogging is terrible, terrible work. But it’s like Bukowski said. Find what you love, and let it kill you (amirite).
I feel like I’ve been writing a ton this past week, and I intend to write more, and more if more is not enough. I’m happy to say last week I got two guest posts published, like I mentioned a few posts ago, and you can find them live on Shanti Publishing and on a lovely little blog called A Caffeinated Brunette. Shanti Publishing is an actual publisher too, who helps self-publishers publish their books for reasonable prices, so needless to say I am VERY excited to now have a contact there. Deanna, the woman behind Shanti Publishing, has also invited me to write another guest blog post there in the near future, so I’m thrilled.
I’ve also been planning blog posts for this blog, as well as articles for that website project I told ya about at the end of my Plans post not too long ago. Everything I mentioned in that post has actually happened like I said it would, so I’m really excited about this once-in-a-lifetime follow through. And thank you SO much to the people who have entered my book giveaway. I’ve got 16 total entries so far, and I am beyond thrilled with that. If you haven’t entered yet, there’s only 3 days left, and I would love it. (You can enter here).
Writing is basically worship for me lately. “You are on this planet to tell the story of what you saw here” is a quote that keeps churning over and over in my head by Catherynne M. Valente. There’s something wonderfully finite about our existence in that quote. You are here (for now). You were some fungus on a rock and by some miracle you are here, on a laptop, listening to rainymood.com while writing a blog post because the vacuum roaring in the apartment adjacent is distracting your peace.
Now what. What will you write. What will you do. Your body will be dust in some unknown year so while it still has heat in it, while your heart is still pumping all kinds of blood through little blood tunnels to keep you alive, what will you say and who will you be. And maybe the memory of you will survive for fifty years, and maybe in 500 no one will remember anyone because everyone will have died off or traversed to Mars or the moon maybe, and soon no one will remember what life was like on earth or who anyone was and what would it matter if they did? We’re so small it’s comical. Have you seen planes in the sky lately? Have you compared the little people in them to the width of the sky? To your very limited view of the width of the sky?
It gives me chills.
I get carried away. But this blog is for my carried away-ness. I like getting swept up in those kinds of thoughts because it keeps me grounded, humble, and grateful for these very keystrokes. Lately writing has been my closest friend in a room full of them. I feel grateful to work hard at a decent paying job, and come home to my writing, to my little desk, and my little projects. I feel in some way this is where I’m always supposed to be.
I hope you won’t be mad at me if you don’t like my stories.
Just a quick note:
I finished two more short stories for my compilation tonight. They’re truly, truly horrible. But they make me feel so good.
I don’t have a publish date. I don’t know when they will be done. But I have a title, I have raw emotions, I have a book illustrator, and I have a keyboard–so I’m just like everyone else, basically.
But having just finished a couple, I did want to warn you– they’re horrible. Mostly in the sense that they’re coming from really dark places I didn’t know I had. If I don’t finish before I die, don’t publish them. Unless you really, really like them. Then fine.
Passion Series post tomorrow night at 7pm. Be square. Or be there. Here. Whatever. It’s a good one.
You know that song “I’m Only Happy When It Rains?” by Garbage? Well, tonight I realized I Only Write When I’m Sad, and I don’t mean blog writing, I mean fiction writing, like short story writing, the kind you do for yourself and hope to one day get paid for.
For the past 6 months or so, I’ve been working on a compilation of short stories, and when I say short, I mean really short, like a page or less. The crazy thing about these short stories is, I only work on them when something has made me upset, and it’s usually not something from the present. Almost every time I crank out a one-pager, it’s because I’ve recently seen or heard something that reminds me of a time in my past when I was upset or depressed, and the only way for me to put that depressing time to bed is to write about it. Literally, it’s the only way for me to cope with it, and I’ll admit it’s the cheapest therapy there is.
I wanted to tell you this, because I feel like it’s important to understand where our passions come from. It’s times like these when I realize that I was actually born to write, because it is the one thing I turn to in all situations, the one thing that calms me, the one thing that comforts me, the one thing that makes insanity acceptable in the eyes of society. And by that I mean I make my fictional characters insane when I’m feeling mad, and by the end of the story I am healed, and the reader has had an adventure.
If you’re feeling insane, and want to dump all of your problems on other people, fiction is the best place to do it.
But before you start getting worried, I am perfectly fine. In fact, I’m only 5 stories in, which means I have only had 5 visits from Heartache in the passed 6 months. But I mean to say that I have realized this very night, that fiction (good fiction) only happens for me when I am upset, whatever that means. And it just so happens that I can’t crank out a single thing otherwise. I’ve been told that this might be a semi-normal thing with writers though. One time, at a Bret Easton Ellis book signing, someone asked if he was working on a new book, and he said he was done writing books because….he was healed.
I knew exactly what he meant, and tonight, that’s exactly what I mean.