Writing through the Fear

Like most writers, I am definitely an introvert. I crave time alone and behave like an evil genius when I get it. At least, I used to. Now? Now I have all the freedom in the world to write, and I can’t think of a blasted thing.

I can, however, find a million things that have to be done – anything to pull me away from my rough draft. Like binge-watching ten seasons of Supernatural….seriously, it had to be done.

I took a gigantic leap a couple of months ago and made writing my priority. I was on fire, excited and eager to turn my dream into a reality. I was determined and absolutely positive that I could do this. Nothing was going to stop me.

It’s funny, really. When I was working, all I could think about was writing. I would jot down notes on anything, anywhere, at any time – ideas came easily and the desire to write was insane. It was like an itch that I couldn’t quite reach until I was able to steal a moment at home.

I finally have to admit to myself what the real problem is. I’m just plain terrified. I’ve put all of my apples into one basket and I’m scared to pick it up. The desire is still there, and the urge is still strong. But I’m letting fear beat me to a pulp.

Oh so true:

That epiphany pisses me off. I’m facing the fact that I’m afraid of failure, and I’m allowing it to paralyze me. I’ve had sixty days that could have been filled with writing. Sixty days. That’s a lifetime for a full-time writer. For a rough-draft, that’s about 60,000 good words that I’ve squandered.

Sure, I’ve fiddle-farted around with my rough draft. Reading it aloud, fixing things that didn’t sound right, adding / deleting little snippets here and there. But it’s still sitting there, far from finished, staring back at me like the bully that it is. I can hear it taunting me: what are you gonna do now, crybaby?

as long as u get beyond 4:

What am I going to do? I’m going to write crap because that’s precisely where I am right now. I wasn’t afraid of writing crap before, so why should I be afraid of it now? It truly is part of the process. It’s akin to any sickness – you gotta get it out in order to feel better.

I’m officially declaring September 1st as World Crap-Writing Day. Heck, we could even extend the dates into a World Crap-Writing Festival.

So, let’s go write some crap!

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Keeping it Simple

It has been a little over one month since I walked away from a “normal” life.

It has been a beautiful awakening.

What I’m about to say may sound like I’ve taken refuge in a hippy-commune (which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing – peace, love, and happiness ya’ll). I’ve come to a place where I totally understand why people choose to walk away from lucrative careers and live off-the-grid.

I won’t lie: this place is a bit scary because of the sheer amount of introspection that occurs. But, it is also an eye-opening experience that I welcome with open arms and zero regrets.

We purchased a cozy little camper, just big enough for the four of us, and spent the first two weeks of my freedom camping. It was just the two of us for week one. It rained off-and-on for four days of that week, the pitter-patter of rain-drops only adding to our contentment. We would wake at dawn, share the quiet mornings with a cup of coffee, and simply be.

We had nowhere to rush to, nothing urgent that needed to be addressed. There were no outside pressures to clog my brain or my spirit. We did alot of walking, sometimes talking to one another and other times just enjoying our surroundings as no words were needed. A peace settled over us both in that first week.

Surrounded by the song of cicadas and the scent of forgotten camp-fires mingling with the mossy aroma of damp earth, I found myself again. That wasn’t my intention, but my soul began to feel as I filled a spiral notebook with descriptions of what I was seeing, hearing, and smelling.

I cried alot as my emotions became words on the page, a sweet release of tension and pressure that had surreptitiously taken root over the last several years. I bled out, getting rid of infection that was full of societal expectations and perceived responsibilities.

The kids joined us shortly after that, the second week being their last hoorah before going back to school. It all clicked into place as I watched my step-son head off to fish, looking like a teen-aged Opie Taylor (from The Andy Griffith Show) with his pole slung over one shoulder and a tackle-box clutched in his other hand.

My heart’s desire is a simple life. Uncomplicated, uncluttered, unfettered by what is currently considered “the American dream”.

 

Before anyone explodes, let me explain. By definition, the American dream is freedom for all to pursue prosperity and success. You may ask, what’s wrong with that? Nothing – not on the surface, anyway. Let’s dig a little deeper.

What is the definition of prosperity and success? Most would say wealth, or financial freedom. Financial freedom, in my humble opinion, is an oxymoron. We are all slaves to our bank accounts, regardless of how much or how little is in them.

Now, my idea of the American dream is the freedom to take risks, to follow our hearts and chase our dreams. It is the freedom to fail, and to fail fabulously. But, it is also the freedom to get back up, dust ourselves off, and march on.

So, now when I’m asked what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a writer. My answer is often met with raised eyebrows, which makes me smile. I already know the questions that are flying through the minds of the askers. One simple sentence should answer all of their inquiries, though: Because I can.

I’m a writer. That lone statement is the creation of my future, my American dream.

 

Paycheck VS Passion

It’s six a.m. on a Saturday and I’m the only one awake, as usual. Except for my cats, of course. It’s them who wake me up this early because, technically, it’s two hours past their feeding time. Apparently they have schedules to keep, even on the weekend. Go figure.

My day-job continues to be a hellish landscape. Text messages while I’m at home allow no escape from it. The stress and pressure follow me wherever I go, even the frozen food section of the grocery store as I am too tired to prepare a fresh meal for my family.

My mind is so tired from the business of the last two weeks that words simply escape me. I am exhausted, more mentally than physically. I still have the urge to write, the craving to do so, but my mind simply isn’t cooperating.

It is preoccupied with the busy-ness of life. It won’t allow me to take flight into my imagination because one part of it knows that it’ll take me all weekend to get the laundry caught up. It wonders if I have enough scent-beads to make it through all those many loads.

While I yearn to jump back into the make-believe world of my novel, my brain is making a meal plan and grocery list instead of allowing me to see what my characters are going to do and say next.

I’ve stopped laughing out loud when my favorite character, Ella, pops off at the mouth with her usual silliness. Her frame of mind has morphed into my frame of mind, and she has become tired and boring.

That’s not good writing.

I have never seriously considered quitting my day-job. Until this week.

I am the primary bread-winner. My paycheck is a necessity for survival.

But what about my own survival? What do I do when that paycheck is squashing the very thing that makes me feel alive?!

Reading and writing are what fuel me, bringing out everything that is passionate within me. If I were ever stranded on an island, I’d need three things to survive: a good book, a pen, and paper.

Yeah, I would starve to death but I would die happy.

I have vacation scheduled next month, and I strategically planned it around it my family’s activities so that I could have a “stay-cation”. I plan to stay in my jammies, my big bootie at my desk, and write.

Blissfully uninterrupted, laser focused, completely responsibility-free.

I will block the numbers of my co-workers. They’re on their own.

I am steadfastly determined to finish my novel that week. I look forward to the rewrites, revisions, cuts, and all the hard work that will follow.

This is the difference between passion and paycheck. I welcome and embrace the work produced by my passion, while simply earning a paycheck is stripping me bare.

It’s two completely different types of survival.

I’m hoping, during that week of “stay-cation”, to determine a solid path that will allow me to survive with passion.

And, I hope that returning to work after a nine-day absence won’t make me lose my mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing?

I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time this week researching the pros and cons of both traditional publishing and self-publishing. I think I’m more confused now than before I started. I had to take a class that touched on this subject, but that information really didn’t enlighten me, either. The discussions with my classmates were primarily opinion-based, and I quickly realized how self-publishing was looked upon solely as a means for bad writers to get published.

I wholeheartedly disagree with that opinion. And not just because the thought of query letters and perfect submissions scare the crap out of me. Self-publishing is a valid platform for writers to get their stuff in front of noses. Period.

It’s the representation part that concerns me most. I feel like I would want someone in my corner, helping me to make my book the best it can be, fighting for me, and holding my hand when necessary.

Now this wandering path takes me back to self-publishing. I see this as a sort of way to take back control of our work (and our income), but that has it’s drawbacks, too. There are more expenses up-front (editors, cover art, etc.) and no marketing team when you’re finally ready to launch. On the other hand, there are no query letters (yikes!) nor incessant worrying about if you’ve followed submission guidelines to a T.

Hence, my confusion.I have reached the point of thinking both avenues are akin to a slow death: painful yet unavoidable.

Writing is hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s pull-your-hair-out frustrating. But, we love it and we do it anyway. It’s because of this love that I want to move forward carefully and with my eyes wide open.

Having said all this, I would love to hear from others regarding their experiences with either. My formal education in this regard wasn’t as insightful as I hoped, and I can only assume an attempt was made to avoid pushing students in one direction or the other.

Please feel free to leave comments. Some “real world” teaching would be most welcome. I realize it boils down to a purely personal choice, but I’d like to take a voyeuristic peek at the fire before I jump into it.

Thank you for reading!

 

 

 

Back to the Basics

I think I have writer’s block.

It’s been over a week since I’ve had homework to worry about, and I can’t tell you how much better I feel. I’ve spent an hour at my keyboard every morning before work, doing what I call “warm-ups”. I usually get some pretty good ideas, gain perspective on a WIP, or simply empty my head of yesterday’s garbage. It’s a sort of purge, I suppose, in an effort to find clarity in my writing.

I am lost in the forest right now.

They’re not joking when they say you have to write every day in order to keep the juices flowing. That’s truth right there.

I find it rather ironic that I forgot that truth while pursuing a degree in English / Creative Writing. That’s a real head-scratcher.

Anyhoo, a couple of nights ago, I picked up William Zinsser’s On Writing Well and began reading it again. I also grabbed my copy of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and plan to read that one again, too. Both are marked up with notes and highlights already, but that’s okay because it takes me back to where I was before my brain got muddied with algebra and computer science. Ick.

I’ve also reloaded my Kindle with things I want to read. I have time to read again! And I don’t feel guilty about the condition of my kitchen! Yay! My living room is spotless, though, because that’s where my writing nook is and, hey, that has priority over dirty dishes.

I digress.

Sometimes we have to take a step back in order to move forward. That’s life. And the life of a writer is not an easy one. It’s not a choice; it’s a need. Occasionally, that need demands a reverse in direction.

I am so there.

But, the knowledge that I can reignite that spark into my own personal bonfire is so exciting!

The same can be said for whatever your dream may be. Don’t give up! That desire was placed inside of you for a reason, and it is very much a part of who you are and who you will become. Do-overs are allowed for dreamers. You will never see a sign that says “NO U-TURNS ALLOWED”. Feel free to make as many as you need to reach your destination.

Me and my Kindle have numerous dates next week. With temps in the seventies all week, I’m itching to sit in my backyard after work, with a mason-jar of sweet-tea and a few good stories. This is my U-Turn.

Start thinking about yours.