Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hiatus break for Insecure Writer's Support Group



It's that time again, time to send our fears and insecurities out into the internet and hope they help someone else. If you've never seen one of these, I recommend heading on over to the Ninja Captain, Alex, and jumping on the Linky. Also be sure to check out this week's co-hosts Sheena-kay Graham, Suzanne Furness, and Laura Eno.

This month, I'm offering advice (or more specifically, advice I'm trying to give to myself).




Whenever someone asks me about writing, my answer is always “Just write.”

“But Rena, my novel about space pirates who steal ice to survive in a post apocalyptic Earth is crazy. How can I put all my time and effort into something so crazy?” My advice is always the same: Just write it (and for that specific example, also go watch the movie Ice Pirates, it’s a hoot to watch corny movies from the 80s!).

For most writers, it’s the fear of failure that quells their writing, keeps their words hidden in drawers and collecting electrons on hard drives. But over the last few weeks, I felt another fear: success (I didn’t actually gain success mind you, I just got some positive feedback). Success is a strange creature. I’ve spent most of my life practicing how to handle defeat gracefully. I never won the contest (second, I come in second and third all the time), and I was never part of the group to win sweepstakes, or take it all the way to the top. So I’ve practiced lots of defeat, but I’ve never really had the opportunity to practice success. It's like that quote "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." (you can go see a lot more detail about that quote and who said it here).

Realizing that success is just as paralyzing as failure has been really helpful to me (let’s just say I’ve had fewer chocolate attacks recently), but I decided that acknowledging an issue wasn’t good enough. I sat down and wrote a list of what real success meant to me. I outlined it—hey, I’m a scientist, I do nerdy things like make lists of my lists; I’m a lot more like Twilight Sparkle than Rainbow Dash, if you get my drift—I made sure that I included everything that would mean success to me. Some of it was crazy optimistic, like earn enough money from my writing to take my family to Disneyland (CRAZY TALK RENA!). Then I took that outline and I listed everything that I could do to make that success happen. I cut out everything that relied on someone else (like get an agent, and sell my book to a publisher), and focused only on the things I had real control over.

Do you know what that list boiled down to?

Just write.

Write this book. Revise it. Rewrite it. Query it.

WRITE THE NEXT BOOK. Revise that book. Rewrite that book. Query it.

Write the book after that. Revise it. Rewrite it. Hopefully I won’t need to query it (but you always need a query letter).

That’s right, my 12 steps to ultimate success is the advice I send to my CPs, my friends, and my sweet but shy niece who wants to write:

JUST WRITE.

Write everything that strikes your fancy. Write the dark places of your soul. Write your guilt at not writing. Everything isn’t going to be published, but every word committed to paper is one word closer to THE END.

I’ve heard successful authors quote numbers of words, and I’ve never seen someone quote a number lower than half a million words (and frequently, they quote a number greater than a million). Usually it’s something like “The first half million words were crap, but things got better after that.” (this isn't necessarily true, your early words could be great, but for most of  us mere mortals, it's a big freaking number).

Be those writers. Don’t quit. Write. If it scares you, write that. If it makes you smile at inappropriate times, write that. It’s a simple plan to success (again, simple doesn’t mean easy). Write this book. Write the next book. Revise, rewrite, work on your grammar. Write a book. Write a poem. Write a blog post. Write another. Write. Write. Write.

26 comments:

  1. First, mutual high fives on the lists...I too have made lists of lists. It's just how I roll.

    Love that quote and I agree the answer is to write and keep writing; and I'll throw in reading. Read good books, bad books, resource books, research books...read it all!

    And I totally think you'll be able to pay for Disney World...you're talented, motivated, and smart...nothing to stop you!!!

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    1. This is absolutely correct. Reading is just as important as writing. Thought I sometime get more nervous about the writing when I'm reading something really good (I definitely suffer from "This is awesome, how will my stuff ever be half this good" syndrome).

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  2. Rena, I sooooooo needed this! Thank you! This post totally touched my soul. I love it. Thank you for your inspiration and motivation!!!

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    1. The funny thing is that even though I've been spouting this advice for years, *I* desperately needed it. I'm so silly sometimes.

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  3. Yes, yes, yes! I'm finally getting back here. Keep a notebook in your purse/car/backpack/whatever so you can write whenever the fancy strikes you. I was sitting at the doctor's office and started writing out scenes for my characters. They are boring every day kind of interactions that won't be in the final story, but it's that kind of thing that helps me get back into their head.

    I agree to write everything. Especially the dark corners of your mind. Thanks Rena!

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    1. I hate when I get stuck somewhere and I don't have ready access to writing materials! It absolutely drives me insane!

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  4. Thank you. I need to be kicked in the butt every once in a while. And now I'm going to waste time by watching Ice Pirates (who knew there was something so amazing out there?)

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    1. Ice Pirates is FANTASTICALLY bad and fun and funny. I think I last saw it when I was 19, so that's not all nostalgia talking. I may have to watch it again...

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  5. I totally identify with this! Great advice :-)

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  6. I want to take my family to Disney, too, Rena! Great post. And for whatever reason, I had no idea that your a Scientist. That's stinking amazing! :)

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    1. The science has been taking more and more of a back seat to teaching and writing lately, but yes, I really truly am a scientist (complete with published, if insomnia curing, works). And goodness gracious have you seen the price to go to Disneyland or world???

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  7. This is so true!! And that's exactly what I've been doing.

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  8. What wonderful advice, Rena. A writer isn't a writer unless they write!

    Suzanne
    IWSG co-host

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  9. Interesting post - definitely a few things to think about here.

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  10. I was ready to sit down and start making my own list of what success means to me, until I read further. Just write. How did I not know that?
    Because we forget, tangled up in synopses and scene cards and character arcs and run on sentences.
    Thank you for another wonderful post!
    (And I crossed the million word barrier a year or so ago. I pretty sure I'm seeing improvement, but I think what's more important is that after a million words you're having too much fun to care how many words you have to write to get good anymore! :) )

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  11. Yes, I do that. But for me, I can't help it - I have to write. It's good advice for normal people though - I've spoken to people who've read all the self-help info etc, but haven't written the first sentence!

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  12. Thwe good thing about just writing, too, is that you get better, which makes it easier the more you do it.

    I'd like to think i'm more AppleJack, but i think she works too hard. I need a pony who's like a fat, lazy AppleJack.
    FlapJack? Yeah, that sounds about right

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  13. My last whacked-out idea was picked up on the first submission...as was the one before that. The more "normal" ones? Those take exceedingly longer, lol. I say the crazier the better! Don't fear your insecurity, embrace it! Excellent post! Tweeting this one :D

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  14. Awesome, and so true! (BTW, LOVE Ice Pirates.) Writing really is a question of practice, study, and more practice. Thank goodness for those little "umphs" along the way, eh? The successes that keep you pressing forward because you realize you can succeed. =)

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    1. Speaking of "umphs," here's a couple blog awards for you. (Whenever you get back.) =)

      http://crystalcollier.blogspot.com/2013/06/awards-coming-out-my-ears.html

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  15. You're completely right. I haven't written lately and I've been feeling bad about it. The longer I stay away the worse I feel. I need to just do it. Thanks for the reminder.

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  16. Perfect advice, Rena. A few years ago I read something called "Writers Write." The author talked about how wherever he goes he meets people who say they always wanted to write. The difference between the writers and the wannabe writers: writers write. It became my motto. :) I didn't want to always be a wannabe.

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  17. Be those writers. Don’t quit. Write.

    Absolutely spot-on advice.

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  18. Oh yeah. I'm busy preparing my book for publishing. And after months of dealing with my fear of failure, another has joined the ranks.

    What if I'm successful? Will my life change much? Will people suddenly start expecting things of me? And on. And on.

    So I'm just editing and trying not to think of it.

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  19. I've thought about both sides..but in the end, as you say, I just want to write.

    This was a great post!

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  20. I may need to bookmark this post :) Thank you! Hope you get to write today, I will be!

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I love comments! Let me know what's on your mind.