Dear Writers: Don’t Be Afraid To Rest!

writer rest

Last fall, I had a spate where about six different deadlines hit me within two months. It was INTENSE; I was working for hours each day just to stay on top of things, and by the end of the two-month stretch when I turned in everything I’d been working on, I’d developed a persistent pain in my forearms that I thought was tendonitis. I’d had similar issues off and on throughout college, but they’d never hit the point of being completely debilitating, and I figured that once the deadlines went away the pain would, too.

Instead, even with greatly reduced work activity, the pain increased – to the point that I could hardly scroll through Twitter on my phone without feeling agonizing jolts from my fingertips all the way to my elbow. I made an appointment with my physical therapist, hopeful that it would be a quick fix. Instead, she informed me that the pain was not due to tendonitis – it was due to several injured nerves in my forearms, similar to carpal tunnel but more widespread. She gave me a host of exercises to do, but warned me – and has repeated this warning several times in the intervening months – that really, the only thing that was going to truly heal my nerve injury was rest.

Over and over again, something has emerged in talking with my writer friends: We writers, as a whole, are terrible at taking a break. We’re terrible at resting, at self-care, at allowing ourselves to have fallow spells in order to fill our well creatively. More writers than I can count, especially those who’ve been published or have books under contract, have worked themselves into illness or injury – repetitive stress injuries like mine, repeated colds, severe anxiety, depression, and more. Often, I see writers Tweeting about having just finished an especially grueling work in progress, and how they were going to celebrate by – you guessed it – diving right into something new.

I’ve seen friends refuse to give themselves breaks (even when they weren’t on deadlines!) through serious sickness, family disasters, the deaths of loved ones, and day job stresses. I’ve seen writers keep pushing themselves even when they’re so stressed by publishing that they’re breaking down into tears every day or two. Some of this is due to punishing schedules imposed on them by external deadlines, yes – but often, the pressure is completely internal.

Now, I love the creative rush of having a project that’s consuming all my waking thoughts just as much as the next writer. But between the nerve injury slowing my pace enormously and a recent bout of serious illness due to my cystic fibrosis, I’ve had ample time lately to think about the importance of rest and gentleness to ourselves. And here’s what I’ve come to:

  1. Without rest, we will all hit our breaking points. Whether it’s a panic attack in the middle of the grocery store, depression so intense you can’t get out of bed, a repetitive stress injury that impedes your ability to work, or something else, we all have our limits – and if we push too hard, we’ll eventually reach them.
  2. Self-care is, in some ways, even more important for writers than for people in different fields. As a writer pursuing publication, it can feel like the goalpost is constantly moving. First, it’s getting the agent. Then, getting the book deal. Then, getting good trade reviews or blurbs from the authors you love. Then, selling well. Then, getting the next book deal – and the next, and the next, and the next. When there is always something else to aspire to, it can be hard to recognize and celebrate the moments when you ARE succeeding. I’ve have friends who are NYT bestsellers who still struggle with crippling self-doubt and still feel like they’ll never get where they want to be. If left unchecked, this kind of pattern can leave us anxious and stressed, unable to muster any of the joy that drew us to writing in the first place. It’s crucial to take time to connect with ourselves, to do the things that bring us happiness, and to celebrate the small successes – even if that’s just “I finished this draft!” or “I wrote a scene that was really tough for me!” Self-care and self-celebration are vital to make sure that we’re not burning ourselves out constantly chasing the shifting goalposts of our field.
  3. It’s okay to take breaks. I sometimes get the feeling that we worry we won’t keep being able to call ourselves writers if we don’t have a project in the works 24/7. But sometimes, the circumstances in our lives – or in our bodies or our brains – demand that we step back, take a break, and allow ourselves to focus on other things for awhile. This might be because we’re struggling with our latest rejections, or because we’re battling illness or injury or mental health concerns, or simply because something else in our life has become more pressing for the moment. Regardless of the circumstances, It’s okay to take a break. It’s okay to have a little while go by without cranking out the words every single day. It’s okay to be gentle and forgiving to ourselves, and treat our own bodies and spirits the way we’d treat those we love.
  4. Sometimes a fallow period leads to greater creativity later on. Nobody is a machine, and sometimes when we’re exhausted, taking some time away can be exactly what we need to recharge our creative tanks. I try to remember when I’m in these fallow periods that I’m not being lazy or slacking off – I’m letting my brain and my spirit connect with the things that feed my creativity, so that when I’m ready to get writing again, I can have inspiration when I need it.
  5. We MUST get help when we need it. The only thing worse than continuing to work ourselves into exhaustion when problems are rearing their ugly heads is to do that and to neglect treatment for those problems, too. I made that mistake last year, and I’m still regretting it: Because I thought it would go away on its own, I was slow to get in touch with my physical therapist to deal with my nerve injury. I wonder all the time if I could’ve saved myself a lot of pain and been able to work much more right now if I had just called her up as soon as I started feeling the first twinges of pain last fall. Likewise, whatever the problem that’s besetting us, it’s important to recognize when we need help – from a doctor, a physical therapist, or a mental health professional. Far too often, I think we undermine our own problems, brushing them off as not being that big a deal – until they suddenly reach the point where they become completely crippling.

Do you struggle with taking breaks in your writing life? Have you found especially good self-care tips that help you balance your writing career with everything else? I’d love to hear about them!

 

 

headshot1Cindy Baldwin is a fiction writer, essayist, and poet. She grew up in North Carolina and still misses the sweet watermelons and warm accents on a daily basis. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of writing the kind of books readers can’t bear to be without. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter, surrounded by tall trees and wild blackberries. Her debut novel, Where The Watermelons Grow, is forthcoming from HarperCollins Children’s Books in July 2018.

Depression & Writing

I went months without writing.

I sent lots of emails and drafted blog posts and proposals and such, but when it came time to really look at my fiction, to really dive into the craft, I could find all kinds of things to do besides write.

There were some big life changes that happened. I’d like to say it was just that.

There were some nuances I had to figure out with my mental health and body chemistry. I’d like to say it was only that.

But the reality was I was in a sort of writing depression. I felt like, for the most part, I’d gotten the big D depression that impacted my overall life under control, I’d been able to return to a new normal in most of the other aspects of my life, but when I thought about sitting down to write, all the negative everythings started swirling, growing ever heavier, and I started to look to TV episodes I’d already watched, mindless games I wouldn’t normally play on my phone, EVEN laundry during my free time. I didn’t care what it was as long as it felt like an okay excuse justify my reasons for not writing.

I was scared of my book.

I don’t write scary books.

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I had to really explore where my fear was coming from. When I started this story, I was at a writing retreat and cranked out 16,000 words in two days. I knew this story, knew where it was going, knew what the character arcs were – I was cruising. But when I came back from that retreat, I started realizing I was, in fact, engaged in a wrestling match with my mind, one that I thought I’d already won. I tried to work on this book but couldn’t. I took months to play around with another book, started to like it, then received a recommendation from my agent that this one, this really hard one, was probably where my writing should go next.

And I just – I couldn’t. I wasn’t sure that I could write this book. I felt – still feel – strongly that this is a story I can tell, that it can resonate with readers in a way that will be meaningful.

So . . .

So.

The first thing that I did was go back to the drawing board. I looked at the story I had, where I wanted to the story to go, where things had become stuck before. I got insights about character arcs from my critique partners, I read craft books, I looked again and again at this document, and then closed it, making myself keep focused on the story I wanted it to be.

And I put A LOT of effort into taking care of my writerly self, just as I have learned to do with my mental self. I fed my mind words – good, good words – to remind myself what they looked like. I took the time to find representatives of my characters, to dive into their personalities, where they live, what they want. Still didn’t write a word in the manuscript. I went to movies – the movies that were getting great buzz – and let myself sit and absorb and fall back in love with story.

And then I revised the first two chapters. It took a long, LONG time. And I sent those two chapters to my critique partners and held my breath. I was prepared to hear that they needed to be dismantled, re-written. I was ready for them to say I needed to start over again.

They didn’t.

The whole meeting, the critiques were super nit-picky. Do you know what that means?

The foundation of the story was good.

As anyone with mental illness will tell you, the moments when you can tell what is truth and what is just a thought with no power, when you can identify the source of the thoughts, things start to get better. This is also the case (and has been the case) when I have these kinds of slumps. I have to fight, and clear all the distracting chaos. I have to be able to see the things that my not-quite-well brain & writerly mind have tricked into existence for what they are – lies.

Yes, this kind of thing can happen to all people. Maybe it’s a little worse for people like me who have regular mental health issue. And I know there are all kinds of people who say there is no such thing as writer’s block, but there is absolutely a kind of creative block. Our job is to do the really hard work to determine, first, what we are experiencing; second, if we need to push through or pull back and heal, and third; have the courage to open the manuscript, to trust our creative soul, and to craft again.

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Tasha Headshot Color

Tasha Seegmiller believes in the magic of love and hope, which she weaves into every story she creates. She is passionate about helping women nourish their creativity and is a member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, where she serves as a board member. The former high school English teacher now assists in managing the award-winning project-based learning program (EDGE) at Southern Utah University. Tasha married a guy she’s known since she was seven and is the mom of three teens. She is represented by Annelise Robey of Jane Rotrosen Agency.

Writer, Defined

Last month, I wrote a pep talk of sorts for people dealing with an existential crisis about being a writer. I received a lot of positive feedback from friends who said that it really helped them. And while I’m thrilled to hear things like that, I have a confession: I wrote that post as much for myself as anyone. This post is a companion to that one, in which I am, to reference the name of this website, just thinking through my fingers.

I’m about to do something that promises to be even more mind-blowingly meta than the time I ran the operation instructions for my new paper shredder through the paper shredder. I’m about to look up the definition of the word “definition” in the dictionary. I hope the universe doesn’t collapse in on itself.

Definition. Noun. (deh-feh-ni-shun).

From the Latin “definitus,” meaning, “set within limits.”

  1. A statement expressing the essential or intrinsic nature of something.
  2. The action or power of describing or explaining, or of making precise, specific, and clear.

As writers, definitions are absolutely crucial, because words are our business, and meanings matter. Indeed, definitions are the standards on which all language is based, and the very load-bearing beams of civilization itself. If people cannot agree on what words mean, then all communication breaks down, understanding falls apart, and confusion and chaos will be all that is left! Dogs and cats, living together…MASS HYSTERIA!

But I digress.

I’ve been thinking a lot about definitions, about how we as writers define ourselves, and about what definitions we choose to accept from others. When did you first think or yourself as a “writer?” When did you first respond with “I’m a writer” when someone asked what you did? What qualifies one to say, “I’m a writer” with confidence?

For some, the answers to those questions are simple. They’ve been thinking of themselves as writers for much of their lives, and they have no problem saying it to others, because they see the word “writer” as the expression of their essential or intrinsic nature. It’s clearly and precisely who they are. It’s their definition.

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For others, however, that definition doesn’t come quite so easily. I have enjoyed writing for a good portion of my life, but it has always been hard to refer to myself as a writer. Even when my first book was published, I found myself struggling to say “I’m a writer” when talking with others. I always pictured “real writers” as people who wrote full time, who earned every penny of their income from words they wrote, and who took up several inches of shelf space at the bookstore or library. But that definition didn’t seem to apply to me. Defining myself as a writer felt inauthentic. It felt fraudulent. After all, I only had one book published, and I still had a day job. How could I call myself a writer? Instead, I would tell people “I wrote a book,” and even that would come out rather sheepish in tone, bordering on apologetic, as if I was about to follow that statement up with “…and I’m sorry.” To this day, in fact, even with multiple books under my belt, it still feels a little weird to say the words “I’m a writer” out loud. I half expect someone to vocally challenge me every time I say it.

Definitions such as “writer,” like so many things in life, are often easier to see in others rather than in ourselves. What is much easier, unfortunately, is to accept the negative definitions that come from others. We allow ourselves to be set within the limits that other people have chosen. We base our entire identity off of one bad review that some thoughtless person pounded out in a fit of anger. We define our self worth based on the amount of our royalty checks—or the lack thereof. We are so quick to give buoying words of support to other struggling writers, yet just as quick to dismiss those words when offered to us.

We’re an interesting bunch, aren’t we?

One of my all-time favorite films is The Iron Giant. In that story, a gigantic extraterrestrial robot falls to earth and, because of damage to its head, suffers from a sort of amnesia. The giant has no idea what he is at first, and gradually learns to see the world through the eyes of a young boy who becomes his friend. The boy tells the giant that he can choose to be whatever he wants to be. The giant, having heard his new friend tell stories about a comic book hero, decides he wants to be Superman. However, the giant eventually discovers the truth about his identity—that he is, essentially, a giant weapon. But the giant refuses to accept that definition, stating clearly, “I am not a gun!” He then flies away to save the boy’s small town from being destroyed by a nuclear missile, and his last word before sacrificing himself is said almost as a smile: “Superman.”

The most powerful lesson I take away from that story is this: No one gets to define me but me. I am a writer because I write. You are a writer because you write. It doesn’t matter if you’re published, it doesn’t matter if you don’t make any money at it, and it doesn’t matter if you only do it because you enjoy it.

Say it with me: I. Am. A. Writer.

Now say it again.

Now one more time, with feeling.

Scribo ergo sum. I write, therefore I am.

That is who I am.

That is who you are.

No one else gets to define me but me.

No one else gets to define you but you.

Is that clear enough? Is that precise enough? Is that enough of an expression of your essential nature? If not, let’s go to the dictionary for another definition:

Writer. Noun. (rie-ter).

  1. One that writes.

Synonyms: author, wordsmith, scribe, novelist, essayist, storyteller, biographer, journalist, tragedian, poet, scrivener, litterateur, blogger, columnist, scribbler.

SEE ALSO: YOU.

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Dennis Gaunt has worked as a slushpile reader for Deseret Book and Shadow Mountain publishers since 2000. All those years of reading other people’s words inspired him to take a crack at writing himself. His first book, Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon, was published in 2011, and he has since published other books and magazine articles in the LDS market, and has even recorded talks on CD for LDS youth and young adults.

Though primarily a non-fiction writer (for now), he loves reading and talking about what makes great fiction stories work. His years of wading through the slushpile from the other side have given him a unique perspective on the writing and publishing processes, and he’s excited to be a part of Thinking Through Our Fingers.

Dennis lives in the Salt Lake City area with his wife, Natalie, who still has the text he sent her all those years ago that read “Holy cow–I think I’m writing a book!” In his spare time, he enjoys photography, playing the guitar, cooking (hold the onions, please), going to Disneyland, and Godzilla movies.

Resolve to Quit! But if you can’t…

“Kids, you tried your best, and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” – Homer Simpson.

It’s a new year, and that means new goals, new plans, and new resolutions. It’s a time for fresh starts, rededications, and the Rocky soundtrack on a constant loop. It’s also the time of year when everyone writes a blog post about the importance of sticking to your guns and never, ever quitting.

This is not that kind of a blog post. I’m just warning you up front.

I’ve seen several people I know struggle greatly with writing over the years, and not the usual “I’ve hit a plot hole and I can’t get up!” sort of struggle. I’m talking about friends who seem to be at an existential crossroads of sorts; who aren’t sure if they have the strength or will to ever write anything again; who want to set fire to their laptops and be done with it all.

Maybe you’re at a similar crossroads with your own writing. Maybe it’s because you just got your fiftieth rejection letter. Or your hundredth. Maybe the thought of having to do one more bit of self promotion gives you stress hives. Maybe you discovered a book on the bookstore shelf that has the exact plot you’ve been wrestling with for the past two years. Maybe it’s because you’re just tired and burned out. However you ended up at these crossroads, know that you’re not alone. Every writer ends up here at least once in his or her career. The question is: what to do about it?

Here’s my first suggestion: Quit.

No, I’m serious. If you just can’t take it anymore, then quit. Please note that I am not referring here to simple writer’s block, or the rough days where nothing seems to be coming together, such as are common to all writers. But if writing has lost all joy for you; if it is affecting your emotional or physical health, or negatively impacting your personal relationships with family and friends; if writing has become, in the words of Chuck Wendig, “an endless Sisyphean misery,” then why on earth are you still doing it?

You have to ask yourself hard questions: Is this really for me? Is this really what I want? I can’t answer those questions for you, nor would I ever try. I’m not saying that every moment of writing should be sunshine, sparkles, and dancing unicorns. I don’t know any writer who experiences that all the time. Writing—or any worthwhile creative endeavor, for that matter—should be a struggle, and should stretch you and challenge you. But for heaven’s sakes: if you’re not experiencing any enjoyment whatsoever from writing, isn’t that telling you something?

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Okay, I hear the sounds of angry mobs sharpening pitchforks and lighting torches out there. You’re upset with my first suggestion to quit. That’s good. That means there’s still a spark inside you that won’t let you give up just yet. For you folks, here’s my second suggestion, taken from a quote from Rick Walton: “Quit. But if you can’t, then do the work.”

Think about why you started writing in the first place. What led you to do it? Was it a school assignment that awoke something inside you didn’t even know was there, or have you always felt compelled to tell stories? Think about how it felt when you wrote your first story, about the thrill that came from typing ‘THE END’ and knowing that this story was all yours. Think about the first time you were brave enough to let someone else read your writing, and they actually liked it!

Now think about never writing again. How does that feel? If it makes you dig in your heels and put up your dukes and want to fight me for merely suggesting it, then it means you’re still in this. But it means you’ve got some work to do. It means taking yourself seriously enough to actively and consciously arrange your time to write on a regular basis. It means working through that plot problem that has been kicking your trash for the past three months by any means necessary. It means finishing that book, that chapter, that scene, that paragraph, or that sentence. It means sitting down and opening a blank file and writing “Chapter One.” And it means doing it today.

Don’t worry that your first draft will suck. Your first draft is supposed to suck. That is its whole job. Your job is to make that first draft exist. Your job is to get the words out of you and down on the paper. There is time to fix them up, rearrange them, and make them look all sparkly later. Just get it done. You know you can’t quit, so go do the work.

A big part of doing the work is to keep the proper perspective. Too many writers focus too much on this nebulous, ever shifting goalpost called “success.” This skewed line of thinking reduces success to a binary choice between all or nothing, as if to say that anything less than being the next Stephen King or JK Rowling equals abject failure.
Emily King said it well: “Success is a dangling carrot that motivates us to work harder and persist, no matter where we are on our personal journey. Fame. Fortune. Rubbing elbows with important people. Notoriety. Independence, creative or financial. One person’s perspective on what success looks like will change to the next, and our interpretation will change as we taste nibbles of it. In essence, success is something we chase, not something we achieve.”

My advice is to focus on SATISFACTION, not success. Success can come quickly, and be taken away just as quickly. It doesn’t mean you should stop chasing your dreams and goals, but it does mean that you can—and should—learn to be grateful for where you are. Don’t define yourself based on something that hasn’t happened yet. Give yourself credit for what you’ve already accomplished, which is likely more than you realize.

J. Scott Savage also had wise words on the subject: “Am I against making money by selling what we write? Heck no! Make as much as you can. You have earned every dime. What I am against, is taking an art, a talent, something that blesses your life and the lives of those your share it with, and turning it into a job that is only worthwhile if it makes lots of money. I am against seeing people asking if they should give up a God-given talent that brings them joy, (even when it is very hard), because enough other people didn’t buy their work.”

I echo those words. I believe in God, and I believe He gives us talents to help us grow and develop in this life. Think of how many people in this world have a talent for music. How many of them are superstars, with all the fame and fortune, and what does that mean for the rest of us? Does that mean God totally screwed up when He gave me a love of music? Am I somehow a failure in life, and displeasing Him just because I only play my guitar for fun, and I’ve never played Carnegie Hall? Not hardly.

It’s the same with my writing. Don’t get me wrong: getting paid for what you write is awesome, and I highly recommend it. But the NYT bestseller list is not the only way to honor the talents you have been given. Your gifts were given to you for a reason. Your voice is needed. Only you can tell your story the way you can. That’s not something to walk away from lightly.

Now, if you’re still feeling burned out, here’s my final suggestion: Quit. But just for a little bit. Everyone gets burned out from time to time, and it can be healthy to take a little break now and then. You’re still a REAL WRITER even if you’re not writing every single day. Take a sabbatical and do something completely different. Travel. Try a new hobby. Take a class. Go to a writing conference. Do something that will jump-start your brain and get you back on track.

This new year, resolve to quit feeling sorry for yourself. Resolve to quit beating yourself up. Resolve to quit listening to those negative voices telling you that you can’t do it. Resolve to quit giving up, and get back to work.

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Dennis Gaunt has worked as a slushpile reader for Deseret Book and Shadow Mountain publishers since 2000. All those years of reading other people’s words inspired him to take a crack at writing himself. His first book, Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon, was published in 2011, and he has since published other books and magazine articles in the LDS market, and has even recorded talks on CD for LDS youth and young adults.

Though primarily a non-fiction writer (for now), he loves reading and talking about what makes great fiction stories work. His years of wading through the slushpile from the other side have given him a unique perspective on the writing and publishing processes, and he’s excited to be a part of Thinking Through Our Fingers.

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.

 

The Human Revision

Revision is a necessary evil when it comes to writing. You plow through the rough draft only to edit and revise until what you started with is barely recognizable, but considerably better. We have to do this for the betterment of the story, the craft. Yet do we do the same with ourselves?

Renewal is great for the soul and the body making for a better you. A better you makes for a better writer. Don’t wait for the new year. A new beginning can start at any time. Here are a few ways to renew yourself for the betterment of you.

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Breathe

Find time in your day, even if it’s a small moment, that’s just for you. Sit in the car before work and jam out to a song you love, lay claim to the shower for ten minutes when you get home, grab a cup of coffee from a local coffee shop. Something. Anything that is just for you! Reconnect with you.

Break Away From Normal

It’s easy to fall into habits to the point where if one thing falls out of place your whole day is ruined. But let’s turn that around. Let a little change be for the good. If you read romance take a stroll down fantasy lane. Try a show you never would have tried before. Shop at a different store. Doing one new thing can help rewire your mind and help you look at your writing in a new way.

Meditate

Relax and empty your mind. Find a quote or have an ideal to focus on throughout the day. Create your safe space in your head and carry it with you through the trials of the day.

Choose Your Happiness

Choose to be happy and make it so. Easy to say but happiness is totally a decision. And one that is certainly better than the alternative.

So as Christmas is around the corner (at the time of this writing) remember the best gift you can give to others and yourself is a better you. Renew yourself daily. Revise who you are until your story is perfected. Until next time have a writeous day!

Writing (or not) After Loss

This post is going to be difficult for me to write. Difficult, because that’s what all writing has been for me lately–difficult. And for a very good reason. . . .

writingloss

For many people, writing comes as a solace during difficult times. When someone experiences the loss of a loved one, for instance—like I did this summer—writing can be a way to either escape or process emotions. I actually felt like something was wrong with me because I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t even journal. The thoughts and feelings running through me were stuck inside my body and refused to exit onto the page. Fortunately, I had friends who were there to tell me this was okay, and not at all abnormal. They told me to take a break, take all the time I needed, and when I was ready to write again, I’d know it. And now I’m here to tell this to you, along with some other things that surprised me about writing after loss.

When I did eventually get back to writing (sporadically) about a month ago, I found I had a completely new perspective on my story and my characters. Interestingly, my main character’s father has died a month or two before the story begins, and oddly, it’s in a similar(ish) way to how my own dad died. This was not something that I added to the story after my own loss. Nope, it’s been that way since I first started writing it almost a year ago. Complete coincidence. However, I’ve been in my character’s shoes now, and I’ve realized the way my main character felt and acted in that first draft no longer resonates with me. It isn’t realistic anymore. So in the rewrite, I’ve been fixing that. And it’s (I hope) making my character so much richer. I wouldn’t say I’m thrilled about having this new perspective. If I could have gained it any other way, I would have preferred that. But I am grateful that I’m able to take this horrible experience and use it in a positive way. Silver linings and all that, I guess.

You may also find you’ve gained a new perspective toward your characters. You may find yourself adjusting things in ways you never would have thought to before. You may even find the story you’re currently working on doesn’t fit you at all anymore. That’s okay. Run with it. Fix it. Set it aside, if that’s what you need to do. My last finished novel—one I’ve queried and debated going Indie with, no longer fits me. At least, not right now. I’ve outgrown it, I guess you could say. As I see things now, I’m not likely to ever publish it. Or maybe someday, if I’m up to it, I’ll go back over it and make some major changes. And either way, that’s perfectly fine.

One more thing that has surprised me is how much less I’m censoring myself as I write. And by that, I mean I worry less about how my writing will be received by agents and publishers, and just write what I want to write. I write more for me now than I ever have before, and though I’m not completely oblivious to my future plans for this story, I’m pushing those concerns aside for dealing with when I actually get there. And what’s funny is, I thought I’d been doing this all along, but now I can clearly see that I hadn’t been. I’d been far too occupied with the dream of being published when I wrote my previous stories, that I’d become an anxious drafter, which made writing less fun and less satisfying. Now, the anxiety is gone. I’m not going to get into the psychology behind this, because I don’t completely understand why this has changed. But it has, and I’m good with that.

I’m telling you all of these things, not to give you any kind of road map or template for “when you experience loss, this is exactly how your writing will change,” because everyone experiences loss differently, and everyone writes differently. I’m telling you these things because they surprised me, and you may have some surprising experiences too. But whatever your experiences are, they are normal for you. And you may need to adjust some things, and that is perfectly okay.

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File Jan 15, 5 15 03 PM.jpegWhen she’s not writing, revising, or banging her head on the keyboard (it’s all the same, right?), Megan Paasch can be found playing her ukulele (badly), knitting (rarely anymore, unfortunately), or herding two amazing, but rowdy little boys (pretty much constantly) with her husband. A native to the Pacific Northwest, Megan earned her B.A. in History from the University of Washington. (Go Huskies!) Her favorite history subjects were, and still are, Women in History, the Tudors, and the Celts. You can read more about her here.