Tag Archives: career

Recalibrating the Focusing Apparatus

You may have noticed, astute reader, that I haven’t been talking about writing very much on the blog lately. Instead, I’ve been waxing lyrical about body image and issues of ableism and feminism and doing the odd book review, all of which is well and good of course but not exactly what one might expect from the blog of a person who claims to be a writer.

This is, naturally, a dreadful situation, for which I apologise.

It’s not because I’ve been going through a period of ‘block’ – a phenomenon I’ve been reading about on a lot of blogs lately, with some people deciding it exists and others saying it’s nothing but fear/laziness/lack of ambition, which I don’t believe to be true – or that I haven’t been actually doing any writing. I have been writing, and it has been flowing; sometimes more in a trickle than a gush, but it’s been there in one form or another. The problem is this: I’ve been going through a period of ‘The Fear’ again. My brain’s been rushing around like a mayfly, trying to do everything possible in a very short space of time, resting nowhere, focusing on nothing, giving everything a scant flicker of attention instead of doing its best to focus on one thing at a time. I have had a head full of ideas and plans for the past few weeks, and I’ve been trying to think about my life long-term and what I want it to be. All of this, without question, has diverted my focus from what I should be doing, which is putting words on paper.

Image: bepositivemom.com

Image: bepositivemom.com

I started back into ‘Tider’ with a vengeance yesterday, forcing myself to sit down and calm my oscillating mind long enough to get back into the story. It wasn’t easy to do this, and I don’t think I fully succeeded with it, but I know I did the best I could. I did manage to get some words out, and I’ve moved the story on a little, and things are – on the surface, at least – perfectly calm and under control.

My brain, however, is still twitchy.

This morning, before I started writing this blog post, I wrote out some ideas for ‘Tider’, and where I’d like to bring the story. I’m not used to writing without an exhaustive plot, which I’ve spent months working out, sitting beside my computer keyboard, and as freeing as it is to work the plot out as you go, I’m wondering if this is part of my attack of The Fear. It seems silly to admit that, but I do think it’s true. Who would have thought the style of plotting for a book – such a small little thing! – could be so terrifying? I keep reminding myself that what I’m writing at the moment counts as a first draft, with all the freedoms that go with it – I have permission to turn out a piece of work that is less than perfect. That’s what first drafts are for. But perhaps because I’ve had ‘Tider’ in my head for so long, in various forms, and I’ve written it before, it’s hard to remember that this is a first draft. I’m treating it, on one level, like a piece of work for which I have a looming deadline and which absolutely has to be perfect before that date.

I'm wondering if taking this up would be a good idea... Image: anthonybasich.com

I’m wondering if taking this up would be a good idea…
Image: anthonybasich.com

A rational examination of my life yields the following results: the book is working fine, I am still writing, everything is okay. I am on track.

I still feel afraid, though. Also, yes, I do realise how out of whack all this sounds.

It’s probably a result of a lot of factors – preparing for a future career and trying to plan for it, dealing with the rejections that are still coming in and about which I do not talk (stiff upper lip and all that), trying not to lose faith in myself and really doing my best to maintain my belief that this writing thing – in whatever form I can manage it – is where I need to be, and where my life is going.

It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, even though I’m used to working alone, and keeping myself focused toward an end goal. It’s so tough to quieten your inner voice, the one that wants to bring you down and make you fail just so it can say ‘I told you so!’ It’s difficult to keep shoring up the foundations of your confidence when the world erodes away just another little piece of it. So far, I’m managing, but I have a lot of support, and I know that’s the only reason I’m still here.

So, I’m taking a few deep breaths and facing into a new day. I’m opening my computer file like it’s taking a step into a playground, where I’m allowed to have fun, and I’m going to try to keep reminding myself of that all day long. Hopefully, before too long, my brain will remember how to settle and focus, and we’ll get through this thing.

Happy Tuesday to you; I wish you peace, fulfilment and joy, happiness in whatever you’re doing today, and the success of a satisfied mind.

 

 

Monday Musings

It’s ‘that day’ again. Let’s not speak of it. I’ll draw a veil over it, shall I, and we can move on with the rest of the post? Marvellous.

If I may begin with an observation – weekends never seem to last long enough, do they? I’m still not fully convinced time behaves the way it’s supposed to. When nobody’s looking, I think it speeds up or slows down as much as it wants to, just for the fun of it. There’s no other explanation for why it seems to take so long to do the housework, say, or work your way through your manuscript, or whatever it is you might need to do between Monday and Friday, and then the weekend comes and you don’t even have time to take your shoes off before it’s Monday morning again.

Anyway.

Despite the fact that it was so brief that I barely knew it was there at all, I managed to have a nice weekend. We didn’t do a whole lot – in fact, I can hardly remember Saturday, which is probably not a good sign – but I’m pretty sure it was a good (if mentally vacant) day. Unfortunately, however, I didn’t get my manuscript edited. My aim for the weekend was to get the first edit of ‘Eldritch’ completed, and be ready to begin the second run-through this morning, but my brain had other ideas.

This is literally what the inside of my brain looked like this weekend. Image: artsandcatsmovement.wordpress.com

This is literally what the inside of my brain looked like this weekend.
Image: artsandcatsmovement.wordpress.com

I’m sure this is a ‘fail-safe’ mechanism, built into the brain; a ‘Do Not Edit’ function which kicks in when fatigue would make it dangerous to approach your WiP. It’s not just an excuse to let your brain ramble off down the highways and byways, gathering berries and singing to itself (though there’s nothing wrong with that, of course.) I felt the need to read this weekend, which I did – I got through ‘Eight Days of Luke’ by the majestic Diana Wynne Jones, and I started ‘Mortal Engines’ by Philip Reeve, which has been on my ‘To Read’ list for months. This takes the books I’ve read this week (if you count last weekend, too) to 3.36 approximately, which is a point of pride for me. Last weekend, I enjoyed ‘Robopocalypse’ by Daniel H. Wilson, and ‘A Tale for the Time Being’ by Ruth Ozeki, which is one of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read. My imagination feels fat and sleek at the moment, pulsing with inspiration and life. It’s just a shame my brain feels like a piece of lint.

Sometimes I feel that a change of scenery can be a very helpful thing to do if you’re feeling a little bit unmotivated. I spent a lot of Friday in Dublin city, which was great – the weather was wonderful, and it was refreshing to be among people and the hustle and bustle of a city again. I have a feeling, however, that I enjoyed it so much because I knew I’d be going home at the end of the day to my sleepy little one-horse village, where three people on the pavement at the same time constitutes a crowd – but in any case, it was great. I really enjoyed feeling like a pretentious auteur, sitting at a café table with my WiP spread neatly around me, being held down by coffee cups and milk jugs and random pieces of detritus, hoping someone would walk by and be stunned into awed silence by the sheer brilliance of my words. That last part didn’t happen, of course, but I enjoyed myself nonetheless. So, in an attempt to recreate that feeling of hipster-inspiration, I’m going to take myself off to our one and only coffee shop here in Countryville, order the most complicated coffee on their menu, and break out the red pen. I’m just over two-thirds of the way through ‘Eldritch’, so I am hopeful I’ll see the end of Edit One before the week is out.

So far, the editing has been going reasonably well. I’ve run into a few difficulties with regard to the book’s structure and its central narrative conceit, but I hope I’ve smoothed those over – that’s what I spent a lot of Friday doing. I am planning at least one more read-through before I start the query process (don’t worry about that noise you’re probably hearing right now – it’s just me, hyperventilating), and once ‘Eldritch’ is out of my hair, it’ll be time to go back and tackle the almighty mess that is ‘Tider’. I’m hoping my memory has made a bigger mess out of it than is actually the case in reality, and that I’ll be pleasantly surprised when I get back to it.

I guess it’s good to be an optimist.

Image: acceler8or.com

Image: acceler8or.com

So, I’m off to pack up my manuscript, my editing pens, and my wizened motivation, and hit the café. I’ll try not to wear black, or a beret, or sigh heavily at random intervals, but I can’t make any promises. Fingers crossed I’ll get the work done before I keel over from a caffeine overdose, or run out of money.

Whatever you find yourself doing this wet and miserable morning, good luck with it.

Dealing With Disappointment

Perhaps this post is tempting fate. If my mother were here, she’d no doubt tell me to put the laptop away and go to bed, and not to be writing nonsense all over my lovely blog. But she’s not, so I’m going to take a short trip down a dark and scary road, and talk a little bit about disappointment.

disappointmentAnyone who stops by here on a regular basis (hello and thank you, by the way) will know that a writer is what I want to be. Anyone with half a brain will know that it’s not exactly a secure or lucrative thing to do with your life. You may also have gathered that I’m sort of new to the whole writing scene – I’m just beginning to dip my toes in the cold, unforgiving water that is A Writing Career. I’m green, full of ‘notions’ (as we say in Ireland), perhaps even a little too optimistic. I’m aware of all this, I know that it’s not very clever, and I know that I will, at some stage – possibly in the very near future – have to deal with disappointment.

The bad thing is, I know from personal experience that I don’t deal well with disappointment. I’m almost afraid to get feedback on my writing, because it (both my writing, and by extension, the criticism) feels so personal to me, and if the feedback isn’t good, it feels like a laceration across my heart. This is ridiculous, of course – I’m well aware of it, too. But it’s a hard habit to break. Thinking about it logically, here and now, I realise clearly that interpreting someone’s opinion about something I’ve written as a direct judgement upon me as a person is completely nuts. But still I do it. And because I tend toward that way of thinking, I often wonder why I’m choosing to put myself in the firing line, and why I’m leaving myself open to huge disappointment and rejection. I know that writing professionally is a long, hard struggle. I know that overnight success doesn’t happen. I know that I’m setting myself up for a fall, followed by another fall, followed by another… Knowing it isn’t the same as experiencing it, but I hope it’ll help, when the time comes.

I suppose I’m taking this path in life because I want to write more than I fear being rejected; however, it’s taken me a long, long time to come to this point. It’s also good for me – I tell myself, at least – to start dealing with rejection and disappointment in a constructive way, and to learn (through being rejected and disappointed on a regular basis!) how to separate the feeling of ‘not being good enough’ from my concept of myself. I don’t have any secrets around how to get through the feeling of rejection after rejection – not yet, at least – but I hope that the mental preparation I’m trying to do now will act as some sort of armour when I’m sitting waiting for the phone to ring, or for an email to appear. Sometimes, reminders about what I’m facing come from the most unexpected places. A throwaway comment from a friend today, for instance, threw me into a funk of ‘what the heck am I letting myself in for?’-itis;  I went for a long walk in the evening sunshine, and thought about these issues deeply. I came to a few conclusions:

1. If/When I’m rejected, whether it be by beta-reader, agent, publisher, or whomever, it’ll hurt, but it’s not the end of the world.

2. If/When I’m rejected, I should take time to realise that it is not me who is being rejected. It’s my work which has not come up to scratch, and there may be myriad reasons for that. Tastes differ, the market might not be right, I may have made a huge error in my presentation, or in my work… whatever. It doesn’t mean that I’ve suddenly become a horrible person, who isn’t worthy of anything good happening to her.

3. Rejection, and the crushing disappointment that inevitably follows, is an opportunity to learn and grow. Weed out what’s not working, re-jig your work, and send it out again. Let someone else have the opportunity to read it.

4. Every rejection will make me a better writer, and – more than likely – a far better person, too.

5. When I’m disappointed, I need to allow myself to feel it, get through it, and get over it. Telling myself my own feelings are silly is another route to mental pain, so I hope I’ll allow myself time to recover between onslaughts.

6. Don’t Give Up. I’ve worked hard to get here.

(and my favourite, possibly because it’s my mother’s mantra):

7. All will be well, and all will be well, and all manner of things will be well (Julian of Norwich).

Anybody have any tips, or words of wisdom they’d care to share? For those who are old hands at the whole ‘submit work, which is rejected, which is re-worked, which is submitted again’ cycle – does it get easier with time? (Please say ‘yes’!)

puss in boots

Distractions

Maybe it’s because it’s Friday (yay!) or it’s because I’ve been away from the WiP for a few days now (not so yay), but I find myself struggling to get stuck in to the revising process this morning. Today, as you may know, I want to do one last (yelp!) read-through before I make all my corrections on-screen, and print out The Final Version of the book. There are so many distractions in the world though, aren’t there? I’m on Twitter, which is great fun, but undeniably diverting, and I’m thinking about another project; my brain is buzzing with about four or five ideas, including some plot details for a sequel to the WiP. No matter how much I tell myself ‘get the current work done first, and then think about new things,’ my brain still fizzes away. I feel like I’ve inhaled powdered Alka-Seltzer.

Plink Plink Fizz!

Plink Plink Fizz!

I’m not sure where all this manic mental energy is coming from – possibly I’m being fuelled by terror right now. I’m realising that I only have a month of the ‘suspended animation’ in which I’ve been living left – after that, it’s going to get real. After that time, I’ll have a much clearer idea of how the rest of my writing career will look, and the steps I’ll need to take to make my dreams a reality. Writing the book, despite how challenging it’s been (and continues to be) is only the beginning.

Given that I don’t like change very much, and it takes me, on average, about a year to make any huge life decision (besides saying ‘yes’ when my husband asked me to marry him, after I’d made completely sure he wasn’t joking), it’s sort of no wonder that I’m feeling a bit uneasy about what might be facing me in January. It’s very easy to faff about, writing a book and having a wonderful time indulging yourself in your favourite activity, but then you realise: hang on. This has to be a viable thing, a real option for me – it has to work. I’m a responsible adult with bills, and stuff. I have books to buy, for God’s sake! Writing is the easy bit, but being a writer? That seems harder. Self-promotion? Not very good at that. Selling your ‘product’? Yeah… not very good at that, either. Even when I worked in a sales role, I used to feel like apologising for having to charge the customer money for their purchase! That’s the kind of person I am. Why did I choose this path in life, again? Oh yeah – that’s right. It wasn’t really a choice. My brain strong-armed me into it.

The only ‘distraction’ I’m grateful for is the fact that I can read the blogs and Tweets of other people in the same boat as myself, and I can see how they do it. I can learn from their wisdom and get inspiration from those who’ve made similar life-choices to me (or, whose brains are made of the same stubborn stuff as mine, at least). That’s a useful distraction, and one in which I don’t mind indulging.

But really – I’d better crack on. This pile of paper won’t edit itself, you know! I hope you’re having a focused, productive and happy Friday, and that your weekend will make you look like this:

dancing dog