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Posts tagged ‘Frustration’

How Important is Your Time?

I’ve come across a few articles in the last few weeks about managing your time better. Most talk about how we waste time on unimportant tasks and not enough on what we care about. For example, I watched Avengers Endgame again last night instead of, say, writing more of my novel. I had a busy day doing all the adulting things we need to do and when I got home, I just couldn’t muster the energy to focus and write. It happens. I let it go and this morning I was back at it searching for markets to submit to and writing more.

But it also go me thinking about how much time I waste submitting to literary journals. Most doing respond quickly and a story can sit for months, if not years, with no response. Yes I’ve done the simultaneous submission route, but still I feel like my time is being wasted.

To be honest – I’m tired of the treadmill.

Round and round my stories go. Sometimes they find a great place, but most have been sitting waiting for (more than likely) a rejection. I don’t blame the journals. They have hundreds, if not thousands, of submissions to comb through and little time and man power to do it. That’s is the nature of the business. There is a lot of competition. I know this and accepted it.

Maybe this is a repercussion from my layoff, but I’ve been taking a hard look at my career (both of them) and asking myself, “What do I want?” Is this part of the dream to keep submitting, or do I want to move forward in a different way? Like limiting the number of submissions and then, self-publishing them myself. Or should I let go of stories and lean harder into my novel? I love short story writing, but sometimes I think I use it as an excuse not to take on an ambitious work. I shy away from something longer, because I have other stories that I can finish and submit right away.

Something has to change. I’m unhappy with my progress as a writer and I want to shake things up. Focusing on my novel, would consume more of my time, but I would have something BIG at the end. Over a decade ago, I wrote a novel and it never went anywhere. I’m glad it didn’t get published, because I’m a better writer today. Through the practice of craft and classes I’ve taken, I’ve grown into a better writer than my twenty-something self could ever imagine. I think it is time to go all in.

As for my short stories, I like the idea of a limited submissions. Maybe 5-10. If nothing happens, I’m going to self-publishing them and call it a day. All I really want is for people to read and enjoy my stuff. Having journals and magazines publish me is always a treat, but I am not going to chase this need to be a worthy writer. That’s for others, who want it more than me.

I’m going to spend my time in better ways.

A Turning Point

About a month ago, I mentioned that I got some bad news. Last week, the news got worse. After almost eleven years, I have been laid off from my job. The company closed its doors and is no longer doing business. All of my co-workers and I are sad about the end. It’s a new reality for us.

In some ways I feel like I am going through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. If I’m being honest, I’m probably in between the depression and acceptance phase. I have all these reminders around me of work left unfinished. There is a lingering voice in the back of my mind, which chime at two o’clock in the afternoon telling me I should be working. I realize now that I can leave it unfinished. I can pack it up, or throw it away. No one needs it anymore.

I do feel lucky. Lucky that I got myself out of debt, so my bills (for now) are manageable (emergency fund, unemployment, etc.).

Lucky that I had all of my surgery and other medical procedures done early this year. I’m healthy and have never felt better.

Lucky that I have friends and family who I can lean on for support.

And I’m lucky I got to work as long as I did at my former company. It’s rare to find a place with great people and work that allowed me to pursue my dreams too. At eleven years, I was one of the newer employees. There were folks who had been there twenty plus years.

So for now, I’m job hunting and focusing on my fiction writing (and sticking to the plan I thought about last month). I’m sad about the end, but, if I’m being honest, I’m excited by the future. This is a new opportunity for me. A new path, I didn’t see coming. I don’t expect it to be easy, just different. I thought my life was going one way, but the universe had a different plan.

Let’s see where it goes.

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.

How I Found My Literary Voice Part 1

In December 1997, I quit writing for the first time. I was twenty years old and had just finished the first semester of my junior year at college. This was the end of my first writing class and I was completely disillusioned. My first real, honest-to-God creative writing class was so disappointing, I wanted to quit right then and there.

The professor was more interested in not teaching, than teaching. We would show up and he would walk in and say, “Go off and write.” I had a friend in the classroom next door and she said to me one day, “Do you ever have class?” It was a general writing class, so there were a lot of students from other disciplines. Once we were sent on our way, everybody would pretty much blow off writing in favor of video games, TV, or doing work for other classes. Ya know, the ones where we actually had to do work. I could count on one hand the number of classes we actually had and then when I did turn in work, it was no good. The criticism felt fake to me, like he didn’t read my work, and instead gave generic guidelines. I remember on the last day walking out of the building thinking, “Well I’m done with this! I need to think of something else to do, because writing is not for me.”

The next semester, everything changed. A year earlier, I applied to an exchange program, so I spend the spring of 1998 at the University of New Mexico. Not only did I change schools, but I changed climates, school size (UNM was a whopping 25,000 students compared to my campus of 2,500.), and campus life. I was still an English major, so I kept taking literature classes, but the grades didn’t transfer. All I had to do was get C’s or better and I would pass the class.

There are two classes that are important for the story: Advanced Creative Writing and Spies and Private Eyes. I started out just going through the motions of attending class, reading the books, and writing whatever I was supposed to. It was too late for me to change classes. (I had to get special permission for each class when I registered.) I liked the classes fine, but I wasn’t invested. I did enough and nothing more.

All that changed in March 1998. As my class was starting in Spies and Private Eyes started, my professor held up a copy of Raymund Chandler’s Lady in the Lake. She said, “What kind of book is this?” Various answers were called out. “It’s detective fiction!” “It’s a mystery book!” She nodded her head and said, “Yes, yes, it’s all of those things, but there are some people who feel like this is literary book too.”

If a thought bubble could’ve appeared over my head, it would have said, “That’s the kind of writer I’m going to be. Wait… didn’t I quit writing? Aren’t we supposed to be looking for a new career?” Too late. My intellect was peaked. My brain was off and running with new ideas, inspired ideas, that I wanted to write down. I left that class with my head full of ideas.

So much for quitting.

Advanced Creative Writing¬†was changing me too. We had an honest-to-goodness real class with homework assignments that worked on various techniques. We would read and analyze stories and write our own work to be critiqued by our classmates. It was my first time ever being critiqued and not as bad as I thought it would be. To this day, I consider Tim O’Brien’s story The Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong to be one of those definitive stories that would shape me as a writer. I read that story in this class.

I left UNM in May 1998 feeling renewed as a writer and excited to keep working. I would have another year before I would graduate. In that time, I would continue to write, while I finished up my degree. I didn’t have anymore writing classes, but I continued to read and hone my craft.

Tomorrow, in Part 2, I’ll write about what happened after I graduated.

2018 Recap – The Highs and Lows

Hi Everyone. 2018 is almost done and I thought I would share the good and the bad that happened this year. Usually at the beginning of the year, I have such lofty goals. I tend to aim high with my writing ambition, but reality always has a way of bringing me down to earth. In a way, this is good. “Swing for the fences,” I say.

But it can be a bit of a let down when you get to the end of the year and you’re nowhere close to where you thought you would be. Still I did accomplish a few things.

First, let’s recap the tough stuff:

  • I didn’t publish a blog post once a month like I said I would last January. Honestly I got too busy with the day job, house hunting, and health stuff (more on this later). Now that I finally have a few days off, I can post something.
  • No story acceptance this year. If you don’t submit, you don’t get accepted. In the first half of the year, I didn’t submit anything. I got better in the second half and got a couple of personalized rejections (always nice), but I was so used to getting something accepted that I am kinda bummed I won’t have a new publication to share. Still maybe this means I will have more than one in 2019.
  • I didn’t write enough this year. What is enough? Yes it’s arbitrary, but I wanted to finish far more than I did this year.
  • I wasn’t a good literary citizen. I didn’t go to any¬†book festivals or conferences. I didn’t go see any writers speak, nor did I buy many books this year (I got a gift card for Christmas, so this will soon change.)
  • Finally, my health declined somewhat. Starting around February, I noticed that I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t feel bad, just different. My energy level was low and I felt a familiar ache in my lower abdomen. Needless to say, my fibroids, that I had surgery for 8 years ago, had grown back. I couldn’t have the surgery right away because I didn’t have enough vacation days. Pair that with an outpatient surgery on my right breast (not cancer) to remove some abnormal cells and the anemia that came with the fibroids, and you see why my fall and early winter felt like an endless stream of doctor visits.

Now let’s look at the good:

  • I had a story published this year at 4StarStories. I’m so happy this story found a home! After years of rejections, this really gave me a boost.
  • Without any marketing, I managed to sell a few copies of my chapbook that I self-published a few years ago. Considering that most self-published books never sell one copy, I’m proud that a few copies made it out into the world.
  • I finished 2 stories this year. Despite my lack of writing, I did finish a couple of stories. And a finished story is always a good thing.
  • Despite having no acceptances this year, I did submit to new places. This year, I submitted to a few markets that I read, but never really considered submitting too. They were either doing a theme that I had nothing for, or I didn’t have any story at the time to submit. This year I tried my best to send something to new markets, even if I didn’t think it would be a great fit. In other words, I didn’t self reject. I submitted work that I liked and let the editor reject me. You never know until you try. (Side note: I submitted things that were still in the market’s parameters. I just didn’t let the voice in my head that keeps telling me to pass on the market because the story isn’t good enough win.)
  • I did a writing retreat this year. I’ve already written about it, but I loved it and can’t wait to do another.
  • I bought a condo. Even after months, I still have to get used to the idea. But so far, I’m liking it.
  • Even with all my health problems, I’m getting better. My first surgery went really well. I had very little pain and recovered quickly. My second surgery is this week, and I’m glad it is so early in the year. I want to start off 2019 with a healthy beginning. Plus, thanks to the iron pills for the anemia, I have some energy back. I think in about 2 months, I’m going to feel so much better!

So that was my 2018. After my surgery, I’ll post my “Goals for 2019”.

Happy New Year! See you in 2019!

End of September 2016 – Short Story September is a Bust

Not much left to say. This September challenge was a bust. Between my internet deciding after 4 years it would just not work anymore and me getting a bad cold at the end of September, I didn’t finish much.

Seriously, how did I get sick? I haven’t had a cold in…three (?) years? But there I was in the last few days of the month blowing my nose and guzzling cold meds.

Internet is all fixed too. I just felt like I was on the phone everyday. It would work for about an hour at a time. Then, I would have to restart something… again. Honestly, I’m tired just thinking about it. Glad it’s over.

So, I finished one chapter of my book. And started 3 other short stories. I’ll try to get the rest finished by the end of this month. So far this year hasn’t been very productive for me. I’ve gotten a few finished chapters of my book and two stories.

I’d like more, but it is what it is. At least I’m still writing, even if it is slow going.