Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How to Stop Worrying and Start Writing

My list with my fuel and my work
Lists are usually thought of as some of the least creative writing a person can do. They have even been used as the low end comparison for terrible writing. For example, "My grocery lists have more narrative voice!"

But, like all simple things of utility, lists can have their place in a writer's life. Especially when that life is not simply a "writer's life."

I work full time (as a school psychologist--a position prone to high stress and bouts of crisis.) I am the mother of two kids. And I, like many women I know, am the acting ring leader of our household circus.

And as if that were not enough, I write books that have nothing to do with any of the above.

On any given day, I can wake up and immediately feel completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of actions items that need to be performed across the multiple domains of my life. These "must dos" spin, and crash, and fight for space in my brain. They make my heart race and my anxiety levels shoot through the roof, every one of them begging me to "Start with me! I'm the most important thing here!" So much drama--and I haven't even gotten out of bed yet!

Sound familiar?

Left unorganized, it has been my experience that all the THINGS can leave me in a complete state of paralysis in which NOTHING gets done. As an aside, this personal paralysis does not, I repeat, DOES NOT serve to reduce anxiety.

Ever wonder how impossible it is to write fiction when your brain is busy worrying about: day-job responsibilities; doctor appointments; scheduling flights; laundry; dishes; being out of milk, and eggs, and peanut butter; tooth fairy money; your office is a mess; your son's science project; there is something growing in the upstairs bathroom; paying bill; refinancing your mortgage; blah, blah, blah.

Enter, THE LIST.

Lists, for me, are the non-medicated solution to this anxiety because, the second I write the "must do" down, my brain stops worrying about remembering to do it. Lists have the power of a personal promise to yourself--This is what I will do today. Lists help your brain see, in a very concrete way, exactly what needs to happen in your life. They provide the structure to prioritize those things.

And when my brain stops worrying about ALL THE THINGS, it is able to think creatively about my characters, settings, and plot. My lists help to shut off all the noise so that my brain can tune into writing books.

So, while lists are hardly the most creative writing I do in a day, they are often the most powerful tool that helps me get to my writing.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Expert Opinions Are Still Just Opinions

My backyard this morning

You might be surprised to know that some people hold to their particular traditional publishing beliefs VERY tightly--very. I have tried to make it a practice to always at least listen to "experts" in the field, even if and when I didn't necessary agree with their opinion.

Here is something I have taken away from all this listening.

1. Frequently people socialize within a fairly small, like minded group (on Twitter, Facebook, or New York) and that small group tends to hold the same, or very similar, beliefs. Everyone is standing around patting each other on the back and so it can become one big circle jerk of same information.

2. People can feel quite hostile in the face of information and or beliefs that threaten their livelihood.

3. Rarely does any one person have a birds-eye, complete big picture view of a situation--I don't care how many Twitter followers they have.

So I try to always listen, especially when my knee-jerk instinct is to cry BS--but ALWAYS consider the source.

Change can be difficult and scary and sometimes people struggle to visualize their role (because maybe they won't have one unless they are willing to overhaul their current practices) in the "after" image.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Which Road--Traditional or Self Publishing?

With so much changing and in flux with the publishing industry, it can be difficult for a writer to know what are the best options, the best choices, to make for their writing and their career.

When I started writing, it was simpler simply because there were less real options. Write a book. Query agents. Get rejected.

Or not (if you were really, really, really LUCKY.)

And then, your agent sent you out on submission--and you got rejected.

(unless you were really, really, REALLY lucky)

So it was simple, even if that simplicity was ultimately a depressingly horrid existence that wrecked havoc on the majority of writers' innately delicate egos.

Today, with the ease and accessibility of self-publishing, there are more options, more choices--but we lose the simplicity of non-choice. Some writers yell to the heavens, "THANK YOU! THANK YOU!" Then stride happily on in full command, for better or worse, of their projects.

But some get a little paralyzed at where the roads diverge in that yellow wood.

With a completed manuscript in hand, which now equally traveled road should we head down?