The Lie We Write On Ourselves

You are a story.

You are a human-shaped piece of paper. There are doodled facts on your elbows, and virtues and vices have been etched into your finger bones. There are blazing truths rattling echoes through your ribcage, and fragments of about-to-be-told story lodged in your lung tissue.

People have written on you without your permission, and you’ve erased some of the scribbles you’ve realized aren’t true. But there’s this itchy spot between your shoulder blades where people carve hard-to-reach lies sometimes, and you can’t find an eraser big enough to scour yourself all the way clean.

  • You’ll never be as good as [insert name].
  • Writing is just a hobby.
  • Books are entertaining, but don’t you want to do something that really matters?
  • You need a thick skin to make it. You’re not tough enough.

On and on the lies go. Some are just scratches that heal over after hours or days. Some dig deep, clawing through skin and sinew till they’re so far inside you it’s hard to know where they end and you begin. Some are written by others, but the most heartache and hurting ones are in handwriting you recognize all too well.

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The only antidote to a lie is the truth, to write over the falsehoods till they disappear altogether. So pick up your pen and write those blazing truths down. Write them deep, and write them true.

  • You are finding newer and truer words. You are building worlds and breathing life. You are pulling magic out of the sheer white nothing of the empty page. You are a creator. You are the pop-sizzle-crackle of the new and the now. You are enough.
  • Creating brings you a measure of joy you can’t find anywhere else. You are meant for this. Whether you devote zero minutes or hundreds each day, this is a part of the entirety of who you are.
  • Stories inspire empathy—they help us learn compassion. Stories inspire imagination—they help us see the legion of possibilities stretching out before us. They matter. Oh, how they matter.
  • You are a human, not a dragon. Your skin is beautifully vulnerable. You are allowed to hurt. You are allowed to struggle. You’re allowed to stop for a while and start again when you’re ready. You’re allowed all the human qualities those itchy lies between your shoulder blades want you to shun.

Your words are the answer to the itch and the etch. Use them to tell yourself all the truths the paper of your soul is hungry for. Tell yourself who and what you are. Tell yourself who and what you have it in you to be. Don’t give lies co-author credit for the story of your life. Don’t let small minds and small words steal the wide and the stretch of your aspirations.

2018 is coming, an infinite blank canvas, waiting for words and stories only you can tell. Sometimes they’ll come in dribbles, sometimes in monsoon-level pourings, but whenever and however they come, they’ll be yours. They’ll be you.

You are a story. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t be written.

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kimKimberly VanderHorst is a YA author who cherishes a love for all things quirky and strange. Claims to fame include running Prism Editing, co-hosting the annual Pitch Slam contest, and serving on the committees for the annual LDStorymakers Conference and The Whitney Awards program. Despite being a city girl with a tendency to cuss a lot, Kimberly is married to an LDS minister and lives in rural northern Canada. There, she helps raise their four lovely daughters while pretending not to be afraid of the neighbour’s chickens.

 

New Year Old Fear

“Sometimes your destiny is wrapped up in a veil of fear to check if you really have the courage to face it.” — Marcus Hades

So, did you do it? You know, state “new year, new me” at the top of new year? It’s okay. I did too. The only problem is that I said the same thing last year. Don’t blame the motto though. You can and should strive to better yourself, but if you keep carrying around that old fear of the unknown you’re likely to be that same old person you were.

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So here are a few things to help you into becoming the new you your writing self deserves.

Stop fearing failure.

“Failure is part of the creative process. If you’re afraid of it, you can’t really create.”Danny Devito

Writing is a challenge in itself. However if the goal is to see your work out in the world there is another challenge waiting for you. Actually putting it out there. Gasp! Don’t allow the voices that say you can’t or no one cares take over. You have to be willing to take that leap.

Stop telling yourself there is no time.

“I put a piece of paper under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.” — Henry David Thoreau

It’s easy to convince yourself that you’ll never have enough time to finish that novel. But there is. Even the time reading this is enough time to scribble a couple of words down which will propel you closer to completion. Carry little notebooks and a pen, get apps on your phone, use a voice recorder. Finish that book!

Don’t go it alone.

“Surround yourself with the dreamers and the doers, the believers and thinkers, but most of all, surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it yourself.” — Edmund Lee

I had a little chuckle as I thought back to the original Legend of Zelda game where the old man in the cave offers you a wooden sword while saying “It’s dangerous alone. Take this.” Okay, nerd chuckle over. As lonely as writing is it doesn’t need to be. Have some writerly friends, start a writing group, make an online writing community. They can be accountable for you, and you can be accountable for them. Make a game of it to keep each other going, you know, do what non introverted people do.

That’s a few things to help with the new year, old fears. What do you do?

Until next time have a writeous day!

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Matt Williams is an avid reader, a collector of many pens, an ever improving father of two, and an all-around fanboy. When he’s not wrestling with cats or a long commute you can find him hunkered down writing something imaginative. He’s working on publishing his first book Beyond Here, a middle grade story involving a coma and a singing flower with a bent stem sometime in 2016, along with a few projects with his other daughter.

Looking Back and Forward

Can you believe 2016 is almost over? We at Thinking Through Our Fingers have had a tremendous year, from book deals, to agents, to tackling a new genre, to finishing a difficult manuscript. I asked my fellow contributors to share their best accomplishment as a writer from this year as well as what they look forward to achieving next year.

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Rosalyn Eves—My writing high for the year was two-fold: seeing an actual copy (ARC) of my book for the first time and getting to meet my editor and the staff at Knopf this past November.

My goals for 2017: finish writing book 2 and survive the launch of book one in March!

Cindy Baldwin—2016 was a red-letter year for my writing! After unsuccessfully querying two other books, I managed to land both an agent and a book deal with a third. I’m now prepping to be a 2018 debut author and couldn’t be more excited!

I have lots of things I’d like to do in 2017: write more books, master tricky craft aspects that aren’t my strong point, etc. But the biggest thing that’s been coming to my mind as I’ve contemplated moving forward toward my debut is how much I want to focus on mindfulness and gratitude in my writing journey. Writing carries so much angst and neuroticism with it, and I know that debut years in particular can provoke a lot of anxiety. As I prepare for mine, I’d like to really focus on establishing tools that will help me deal with that anxiety moving forward.

Amanda Rawson Hill—I signed with my dream agent and wrote the book of my heart.

In 2017, I plan to finish an R&R, write my fourth novel, and be proud of myself whether or not I get a book deal.

Wendy Jessen—I just finished a revise and resubmit on my self-help/inspiration nonfiction. Lots of growing as a writer and as a person.

Goal for next year: self-pub some contemporary sweet romance novellas and get my YA rough draft. Or that might change depending on what happens with the aforementioned R&R and there may be some more NF in the works. Clearly, I have a solid plan.

Jolene Perry—I wrote my first middle grade novel, turned it in to my agent, and it’s now on submission 🙂

Next year, I want to get one of my YA horror novels on submission and continue working on my adult historical. This year, and who knows how many other years, are dedicated to stretching my writerly wings in any direction I please 🙂

Elaine Vickers—On the publishing end, my debut came out in 2016, which was every bit as wonderful (and stressful) as I’d ever imagined.

In 2017, I’m looking forward to all the same things again–first pass pages, ARCs, signings, conferences, trade reviews, launch party, etc.–with a little more experience but no less enthusiasm. On the writing end, I worked and revised in 2016 but didn’t draft a whole new story. I’ve got one I’ve been itching to write for months now that’s still just a skeletal outline, so my main writing goal is to get it written in 2017.

Dennis Gaunt—Lots of good things happened to me in 2016, including being asked to emcee the 2016 Storymakers conference. But my biggest news is that the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley book that I helped produce, became available.

Looking forward to 2017, I have a couple of books that I’m working on, and am dipping my toe into the fiction world for the first time.

Orly Konig—Highs for 2016: Finished revisions on debut and got to cuddle my ARCs. Sold the second book.

My goal for 2017 is to enjoy being a debut author and not get lost in the frenzy. Oh, and write the next book. 🙂

Tasha Seegmiller—Personally, I signed with an agent (Annelise Robey – Jane Rotrosen Agency) and revamped the book that got me my agent TWICE! I also got re-elected as secretary for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, oversaw the publication of four editions of a quarterly ezine (Write On!), and expanded the frequency of TTOF posts to five days a week. (YAY!!!)

Kristina Starmer—My biggest accomplishment in 2016 was to give myself permission to make writing a priority.

For next year, my goals are to revise my NaNo project and continue querying a previous work.

Ilima Todd—My writing-related highlight of 2016 was probably having a book released (my second) and signing with a new agent (my third) all within a month. Crazy times!

My goals for 2017 include finishing off a couple of projects that I’ve started and writing something completely new. I want to write a novel in a different genre/audience than I’ve ever done before. I’m excited!

Helen Boswell — This was a hard year for me for writing,  but I coauthored a paper with Tasha Seegmiller in American Biology Teacher titled, “Reading Fiction in Biology Class to Enhance Scientific Literacy.” It’s currently more important than ever that we promote scientific literacy, and fiction writers can help!

Goals: Butt in chair, hands on keyboard, and finish writing this damned book I’ve been working on for two years. Maybe get a standing desk to help, so I don’t have to keep my butt in the chair after all. 🙂

Annette Lyon—Probably the biggest thing for me this year was hitting the USA Today bestsellers list in July. I also went on my first round of submission with the book I got my agent with a year ago. I’m finishing (another!) round of revisions before we go on sub again early 2017. My hope for next year is that it will sell, of course. 🙂

Lauri Schoenfeld—My massive high this year is that I went through a complete revision of my novel—multiple times. And sending it off to my editor. This is a huge and new step. I’ve been working with this novel for five years.

Next year, I’ll be querying, finding an agent and writing a new baby. I haven’t written anything new for a while so I’m super excited about that stage too.

Jenilyn Collings—I suppose my high was: starting an MFA in writing for children and young adults.

My goal for 2017 is to finish the MFA program and query the novel I’ve been working on.

Emily R. King—My highs of the year were landing a fabulous new agent, Marlene Stringer, and selling my first two novels.

Next year, I hope to enjoy (and survive) the release of my first two books and sell a third (fingers crossed).

What was your high point for 2016? What goals have you set for 2017?

Whatever achievements you have accomplished or plan to attain soon, all of us at Thinking Through Our Fingers wish you a Happy New Year!

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Emily R. King is a reader of everything and a writer of fantasy. Born in Canada and raised in the U.S.A., she’s perfected the use of “eh” and “y’all” and uses both interchangeably. Shark advocate, consumer of gummy bears, and islander at heart, Emily’s greatest interests are her four children. She’s a member of SCBWI and an active participant in her local writers’ community. She lives in Northern Utah with her family and their cantankerous cat. You can find Emily at emilyrking.com

Considering the Cost

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The year is drawing to a close, and one of the themes that seems to be on everyone’s mind is time. It’s certainly on mine.

A couple of months ago, I was asked to speak to a group of students at the university where I teach. The topic? Time management. My gut reaction was, “Let’s find another speaker so I can listen to a talk on time management, because WOW, I need to hear that.” But I reluctantly recognized that the best way to learn to manage my own time a little better was to do the work of figuring some of this out for myself. So I got to work.

The students I was speaking to are like many of the readers of this blog: bright, motivated, and working tirelessly toward their goals. I asked them to start with this exercise: Write a list of the things that are important to you. No ranking, no set number of items on the list. You might include writing, family, work, exercise, sleep, activism or volunteer work, mediation or worship, travel–it’s your list! But there are a few to get you thinking. (This is the part where you actually take two minutes to write the list. Tasha’s insightful and inspiring post on essentialism might help.)

Okay. Now. Time is one of the most precious commodities any of us have to invest. I would assert that emotional energy may be the other, and that they are related through one of my mom’s favorite quotes:

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.” ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Consider, then, the goals you’re pursuing and the important things on your list. What is the cost of each–not only in terms of time, but the emotional cost as well? How much of your life are you willing to exchange for a finished manuscript, a book deal, an online presence? For a close relationship with your parents or children? For a physically and mentally healthy body? For the social or environmental causes that are close to your heart?

These are not rhetorical questions; there is no answer or position I’m guiding you to. But the cost of each of the things on your list–those most precious, important aspects of your life–is worth considering.

As you look toward 2017, reflect upon how you spent your time and emotional energy in 2016. Unless you’re perfect, there will be adjustments to be made. (I know there are for me.) But know that if you’re investing in the things that are important to you–even if the balance isn’t perfect, even if you sometimes feel you’re falling short–then you’re doing okay. Make those adjustments. Ask for help. And then be fierce and steadfast and work hard.

We got this. Look out, 2017.


profile-picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (out now!) and PAPER CHAINS (coming fall 2017) from HarperCollins. She loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. You can find her at elainevickers.com on the web, @ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.

Setting Realistic, Attainable Goals

Okay, so it’s almost the new year, and I’m sure many of you spend some time setting goals. I think it’s a great idea to constantly be evaluating your writing journey and making decisions about how to get where you want to go.

I do think, however, that sometimes, we as writers tend to set goals that we don’t have control over. I think it’s much better to follow a few simple steps before making goals that will help set yourself up for success in the coming year.

1. Look back at what you did this year. How many words did you write? How many manuscripts? What life events kept you from writing–a move, a new job, a baby, etc. Which of those life events are you anticipating for the coming year?

2. Only choose goals you can control. For example, you might have a goal to get an agent this year. But you actually don’t have any control over that. I know, I know. I may have just dashed all your hopes! Not really, I hope. But honestly, you can submit to every agent that accepts your genre, and they might not have room for your title on their list. They may have clients that write too similar things. They might be in a bad mood when they read your submission. This is a goal you actually have no control over.

3. After evaluating your past year and looking forward as much as possible — no one can predict a job loss, an illness, etc. — then you’re ready to start setting attainable goals.

My suggestions:

  • Word count goal per month — these are great, because you can actually control them. And you feel a measure of control over your journey, as well as a sense of accomplishment when you meet the goals. Be sure to evaluate as you go. If you set a goal for January for 25,000 words, and you can only do 20,000, don’t beat yourself up about that! That’s a lot of words in a month. Reset your goal for February. Just because you made a goal doesn’t mean it can’t change.
  • Manuscripts to write — do you have deadlines this year? Which MS’s need attention first? I make a monthly schedule for four months at a time. Sometimes I stay right on track, and sometimes I have to change things up every few weeks.
  • Publishing schedule (if self-publishing) — how many titles and when will you publish them? Be sure to give time for editing, cover design, etc.
  • Craft/workshop classes — again, something you can control. Sign up for in-person or online classes, work with a critique group, anything you can do to improve your craft. How many of these can you do/afford? Be sure to plan your production and publishing schedule around these times, as you generally won’t get as much writing/editing done at a conference. 

Things to avoid:

  • Sales goals — besides buying your own books, you really have no control over this. Sure, you can do marketing and whatnot, but again, it’s about as easy to predict what marketing tactics will work as it is to find a unicorn.
  • Book deal goals — I don’t think aspiring to have a book deal is a bad thing. But I do think it’s dangerous to consider your year a success or a failure based on something you can’t control. 

Now go forth and set those goals!

What are you aspiring to do this year with your writing?

Liz Isaacson writes inspirational romance, usually set in Texas, or Wyoming, or anywhere else horses and cowboys exist. Her Western inspirational romance, SECOND CHANCE RANCH, as is THIRD TIME’S THE CHARM, the second book in the series.

She lives in Utah, where she teaches elementary school, taxis her daughter to dance several times a week, and serves on her community’s library board. Liz is represented by Marisa Corvisiero of the Corvisiero Agency. Find her on Facebook, twitter, and her blog.