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Posts from the ‘Writing Life’ Category

Don’t Make Decisions Out of Fear

We’re halfway through the year.

And what a year it has been for me! I started off getting major surgery and recovering from it. Now, I’m figuring out what the next step in my careers is going to look like. I say “careers” because I have two.

I have my records management career that I’ve stuck with for almost twenty years. Ever since I graduated from undergrad school, I’ve been involved one way or another in this field. I enjoy it and it feeds a particular part of my personality that enjoys planning and organizing.

My other career is the fiction writing. I’ve been lucky enough to be published a few times, but I really want to do more. I’ve been using my time in between jobs to really focus on writing and submitting more. I’m currently on chapter four of the novel and I have nine submissions out.

Through this whole year, I’ve been trying to focus on how I made big decisions in my life. So many times I’ve been pushed into a corner and had to make a decision because, if I didn’t, I thought things would get worse. One big moment for me was back in 2014. I had planned to take some of my savings and pay for my last class outright, instead of borrowing the money. As soon as I pulled the money out of my savings, I got furloughed. Worried I might lose my job, I stuffed the money back into savings and went even further into debt. If I had just taken a few weeks and let the fear go, I would’ve saved myself hundreds of dollars in interest.

Sometimes it is hard to know. For me, I’ve tried to set myself up so that I don’t have to make decisions out of fear in the first place. When I lost my job, I had enough savings that I could take a breath and figure out what was next. With my health, I plan on never going back into surgery like that again, so I will be much more vigilant and take better care of myself. Sometimes emergencies can’t be helped, but health issues of my own making should be stopped. I knew about a year before surgery that something wasn’t right, but I ignored it and told myself it was not that serious.

With my fiction writing, I think I’ve done better. I try not to self reject. If I see a open call and I think my work is a good fit, I send it to them. I try not to let the fear of putting myself out there hold me back. It’s easy at times to talk yourself out of submitting. You tell yourself, “It’s not that good.” or “I need to rewrite it again for the hundredth time.” or “I’m not important and this place only publishes famous writers.” That is fear telling you this.

The best advice I ever heard was from a video. The speaker said that no one can see the future (at least as far as he knew). When you talk yourself out of things, or make decisions out of fear, you are predicting the future. You already know that the outcome is going to be bad, so why try? Truth is, YOU DON’T KNOW THE FUTURE. You can’t predict what is going to happen. All you can do it make the best choices for yourself to your benefit. Fear is a lie telling you the future. So ignore it and try anyway. You never know what is going to happen.

As I put down more and more words for this novel, the fear comes on strong. This is a long work and part of me hates to work on it, only for it to fail. So I have to keep telling myself that I don’t know whether it will fail or not. No matter what has happened in the past, I don’t know the future. I have to trust in my ability as a storyteller that this manuscript will be successful.

I have to trust myself.

 

On Why My Fiction Writing is Necessary

To date, I haven’t earned more than $20 from my writing. To be a full time fiction writer is a dream come true, but the reality is that even if you have multiple books published, you still might have to do something else to support yourself (and your family). More practical people would see my work in the past years as a failure.

“Whaaa? You still haven’t published a novel?” they say.

It’s hard for me to explain to someone, who isn’t a writer, why I continue to write. There’s no money coming in from it, so why bother? It’s a hobby — a pastime, that I tinker with but don’t ever seem to get any traction on. At best, I’m an undiscovered genius. At worst, I’m a hack that is deluding herself.

Neither one of these is true for me.

I think I’m a good writer. I’m good enough to be on the shelf with my peers, but I’m not Margaret Atwood, or Octavia Butler. My ego tells me I’ve got something special and my common sense reels me back and says I need to work on that specialness. That sounds pretty healthy to me. You have to have some sort of ego to be any artist. You have to believe people will care about what you create. Otherwise why bother putting it out into the world? Just write your stuff in journals and stuff them under the bed.

As I look for new employment, I ask myself what made me stay at my previous job so long? I was there for almost eleven years. Not only that, but the job I had before, I was there for six and a half years. Clearly, I wasn’t there only for money. What were the traits of that job that made me stay so long and how can I find to same qualities in my next job? That’s the questions I ask myself as I comb through job announcements and email my resumes.

The first time I decided I wanted to write, I was twelve years old. That was thirty years ago! This is a hobby/hopefully second career that I’ve stuck with for more than half my life. So why have I done it?

First off, I’m an introvert. I’m not good at parties and I don’t want to be around people all the time. Even as I type this, I’m alone in my place with no plans to meet up with anyone today. That sounds great to me. Yep, I’m in the yoga pants, t-shirt, and house shoes.

Yet, I don’t want to cut myself off from the world all the time. Writing helps me connect because I can do it in the comfort of my house, but then share with all of you. I can be vulnerable and still feel protected at the same time.

Second, I do love stories. Not even kidding when I say that I can watch the same movies and TV shows multiple times, even if I enjoyed the story the first time around. (And let’s not forget I have a pretty good memory, so even if I remember the story-line, I’ll still watch it.) I just recently found the reruns of Monk on Hallmark’s Mysteries channel. They are still funny, wonderful stories. Also, I will reread some of my all time favorite short stories again and again. Recently, perused through Ted Chaing’s “Story of Your Life” again. (The movie came on Syfy.)

So I write stories that I really enjoy and want to read over and over. It’s a challenge and exhilarating. I love to push myself to go outside of the box and really write a story that is unique, but familiar. Odd, but comforting. I love the challenge and when I feel like I’ve written something good, oh my it is a happy day in my house.

Lastly, I do write stories for you the reader. I love to brighten someone’s day. Make them laugh and forget the crap they are dealing with. Make them say “Wow, what fun!” Making someone else feel better, have empathy, see through fresh eyes, or simple helping them escape for a few minutes is the best job in the world.

I’ve been fiction writing for thirty years, and I plan to do it for at least thirty more.

Keep Going!

Today I was reminded that it has been a year since I put a down payment on my first home. Two years ago, I lived in a different place and was plugging away at my goal to save up money. Time seemed to move much slower while I worked toward my goals. The days repeated over and over.

I felt like I would never get there.

I feel like that now. I’m plugging away at my novel and stories, but not really making any progress. Things are still unfinished. I know that I will be done one day. But that day seems so far off.

I have to remember that sometimes when you are in the middle, it is tough to see the end, but it is there. There is an end. You have to keep going and trust that you will get there.

I’ve done it before. I’ve gotten degrees, paid off lots of debt, saved up large sums of money, and written novels (and lots of short stories). All long-term goals I achieved. This should be a familiar thing to me.

And it is, but sometimes I need to be reminded. I need to keep going and until I get to the end.

Don’t Wait For Permission

When I was in my twenties, I was an insecure writer. Just starting to form my voice and style, I wasn’t sure people would get me. I wasted a lot of time wondering what people would say about my writing. Whether I was good enough.

The thing is, everyone around me was encouraging. My parents, my friends, and others were nothing but kind when I would mention that I wanted to write fiction. Still there was a voice in the back of my mind that kept telling me I wasn’t good enough. Instead of plowing ahead towards my goal of getting published. I wrote and rewrote and rewrote my stories. They were never finished.

I would go to work shops to get critiques and even there, with people saying I how talented I was, or how unique the story was, I still shied away from putting myself out there.

I was waiting for permission.

Permission to be a writer, even though I already was one.

I was waiting on the writing gods to bestow upon me some benevolent sign that I was ready to be published. I did submit here and there, but not with any gusto. Basically, I was sitting on the couch waiting for life to happen to me. I was waiting to be discovered, instead of trying to make my voice heard.

It took me a while to realize that I didn’t (and shouldn’t) need anyone to tell me that I was a writer. I had to get over the self-doubt, the fear, the anxiety, in order to get to the place I am now.

What’s the saying? Everything you want is on the other side of fear.

Once I moved past the doubts and started to re-imagine myself as a writer, I realized I no longer needed anyone’s permission to be the person I wanted to be. I didn’t wait any longer for someone (like a famous writer) to put their arms around me and say, “Hey I think your talented. Let me show you the ropes.” I was too busy doing to wait for that conversation.

If you are someone who is waiting for that permission (whether you are a writer or not), I’m giving it to you now. Be that person you want to be. Go after that dream. It’s not silly. It’s not wasteful.

Do It.

Now.

I Did It! 30 Straight Days of Posting!

Hearts stand for the days I wrote.

Here we are at the end of the month. It was either March 30 or 31 when I decided to embark on this expirement. I figured I shouldn’t think about it too hard. I would go for it and see what happened.

For the first few days I didn’t even want to say publicly what I was doing. Many times I say I will do something and then life happens and I don’t get to it. So I thought I would post for a while and, if I made it to day ten, then I would say something. Not only did I make it to April 10, but all the way to day 30.

So what did learn by doing this?

First, as I said earlier, I do have the time to write. This month I had a birthday, worked full-time, had some personal and professional bad news, and had all the everyday pressures we all have. Also this month was arguably the biggest month for pop culture. Through all of this, I managed to post everyday. Sometimes it was late at night, but I posted.

Second, my fiction writing fell way behind. Although I wrote everyday, I didn’t write much fiction. Easter was the big fiction writing day, because that post was very short. I figured most people would be busy. This is partly why the posting will scale back to one a week. (I’m thinking Wednesday.) I want to keep up the daily habit, but apply it more to fiction.

I have a big goal this year to write 100K. Plus I want to fix this problem with my novel and finally finish it. Also, I have 5 more short stories to write this year. Clearly, I have no shortage of projects that need my attention.

Thanks to everyone who read and shared these posts. It was fun. Maybe I’ll do it every year in April.

And a big HELLO to all the new people who are following!

Some Thoughts on Craft Advice

Here on this blog, I try not to give too much craft advice. First, because I know I’m not the best when it comes to craft. I will never be known for my inventive sentences structure or harrowing prose. Second, because I truly believe that one fatal flaw for a writer is to forget to be a storyteller. As I was reminded on Saturday by author Mary Amato, writers get caught up in the writing of sentences, they forget to tell a story.

I would encourage writers to learn the basics of craft: dialogue, show don’t tell, building a character, etc. But then step back as ask yourself if you are telling a story. I’ve been guilty of this. I write something cool, but it’s not a story. There’s no tension. There’s no arc. And yes, you need to have these things. I think people get annoyed when nothing happens in the story. I do.

Also, aside from knowing the basics, I think writers should work on developing their own style. I call it your “creative expression.” This only comes from writing and figuring out what works best. Know the basics and then work on developing your own way of telling a story.

It’s not bad to see how other writers do things. In fact, it can be really helpful. But don’t rely on it. It’s almost better to know how you are supposed to do something (like dialogue) and see how the writer does follows the rules and how they break them. But don’t take it as gospel. It may make you seem like a lesser version of the author. Not good.

And don’t forget to tell a story! You want the reader to turn the page, to follow the reader, and make a connection. That’s what you’re aiming for.

We’re almost at the end of the month! Can you believe it! One more post to go.