We are thrilled to welcome back former contributor Jamie Raintree as today’s guest!
This year has been a crazy year. When I signed my first book contract, I knew I was signing up for deadlines, more responsibilities, more time spent on promotion, and more focus on my career in general. And I was–and am–100% in. The author life is everything I’ve dreamed it would be and I’m so grateful to have made it to this stage in my career and my life.
What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was how it would impact my creativity.
Up until that point, writing alone had taken up the majority of the time and energy I dedicated toward my career. I’ve been a regular blogger for many years, but otherwise, the best thing I could do was put as much effort into writing a great story as possible. It was almost never easy, but it was rewarding in a way that nothing else in my life was at that time. I loved it. I loved–and still do–watching my characters grow, immersing myself in their story, and the aha moments that hit at all hours.
And then things got busy. Really busy.
The thing about managing a publishing career is that: 1) there are deadlines and often, the things that aren’t as pressing have to get put on the back burner to take care of the things that are pressing. While writing Book 2 has been in the works since I first signed my book deal, the distant deadline meant that it was easy to put it aside to take care of production and promotion items for the more looming release of my debut novel.
And 2) most of those pressing items are left-brained activities and when you spend most of your day in left-brain mode, it becomes all the more difficult to switch into right-brain mode to write.
At first, it wasn’t a big deal. The deadline for Book 2 seemed like a lifetime away. And I was excited to watch my debut turn into a tangible thing. I wrote when I could but many days, I was too depleted to get myself in the headspace to write.
Eventually, though, months passed and that distant deadline wasn’t so distant anymore. I began to feel the pressure to produce, which only added to the difficulty of getting the words to flow. And the more days that passed without writing anything, the sicker I felt when I thought about opening my document back up to write. This book that I’ve been working on is actually the first novel I ever tried to write so it holds a special place in my heart, but I was coming to despise it. It seemed to represent this haunting sense of failure I couldn’t shake.
How was I ever going get it written–in a publishable shape, no less–when I could hardly bring myself to look at it?
This is not an uncommon feeling, I know. I’ve heard many authors talk about how publishing changes their writing processes. I’ve even experienced the struggle myself, during early editing phases when I was spending all my time focusing on what was wrong with my story, forgetting completely everything I once loved about it. Like a scorned lover, I just wanted some space, but deadlines make this impossible.
And thank goodness for that, because without a looming deadline, I may have forgotten what makes us fall in love with our stories:
I know it’s not sexy. It’s not very poetic or artistic in any way, actually, but while we may adore our characters and look forward to writing certain scenes, it’s easy to lose track of that when we go days, weeks, or months without looking at our projects. Distance does not make the heart grow fonder.
It really does come down to Butt In Chair, Fingers On Keyboard. I hate to beat a dead horse here, but I think it bears repeating. I think we’re always looking for that magic tip that is going to suddenly make writing easy (heaven knows I’ve searched for them all). We think that once we sign that contract, then we’ll be able to take our writing more seriously. We’ll have more support and we’ll really make the time to get it done.
There is no magic tip. Writing will never be easy. Life does not get more manageable once you sign the contract.
We must simply ignore the voice inside our heads that says we’re too tired, that we don’t have time, that this story isn’t going anywhere, our writing sucks, and we are complete hacks. That voice is pretty incessant for about the first couple of minutes of each writing session, but if you can work through that–and you can!–on the other side you will find all the reasons you started writing your story in the first place.
I am happy to report that I’ve since resumed my love affair with my story. I think about it all day and plan ways to sneak a little extra time with it when I can, and that is THE. BEST. FEELING. It’s the kind of relationship I always want to have with my writing. It is difficult to make this kind of consistent commitment my stories because the deadlines, they keep on coming. But like with any relationship, when it’s important to you, you just find a way.
Jamie Raintree is an author and a writing business teacher. She is also a mother of two girls, a wife, a businesswoman, a nature-lover, and a wannabe yogi. Her debut novel, PERFECTLY UNDONE, was released on October 3, 2017 by Graydon House. Subscribe to her newsletter for more writing tips and tools, and book news. To find out more, visit her website.
Set among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.
“Raintree’s lead characters are vividly realized, and readers will be moved…” – Publisher’s Weekly
“The most sensational, emotionally raw, and satisfying debut of fall.” – Redbook Magazine