Category Archives: Being Gentle With Yourself

Obstacles May Be Closer Than They Appear

One of the first pieces of writing advice I ever received was that if you want it to be your occupation, you need to treat it as a business. That doesn’t mean that you have to have a business plan — though it doesn’t hurt — but you do have to set regular working hours, make goals, and keep them. Part of that, especially when self-publishing, is to set a publishing schedule and to stick to it. However, sometimes keeping that schedule is not always possible.

I do realize that there has been a great deal of discussion about publishing delays lately, and I’m not going to give any opinions on someone else’s schedule. It’s none of my business whether or not (insert name of big author) is publishing a book this year, next year, or at all. The only person whose publication schedule I can comment on with any authority is my own and as it so happens I’ve had to make some difficult choices of my own.

Knowing that my debut novel was launching last June, I started writing the next book in the series at a writing retreat the month before. I managed to write the first third that week and figured that at my normal pace, I could probably finish it by the end of the summer, October by the latest. That would have given my beta readers plenty of time to read it, and time for me to put together a short story collection (and possibly release it in the spring). It was also plenty of time for revisions so I could release book 2 in the summer. Well, we ended up being really busy and short handed at the day job over the summer and that left me too exhausted to get much done on the book. It took me the entire summer to write two chapters. That’s it. That’s all I got done.

As far as progress goes that’s dismal. However, I’m not going to feel guilty about it. I did get something done and it was impossible for me to do more. All of this meant that I had two choices. If I wanted to finish on schedule, I’d pretty much have to work myself to death for eight months. The other option was to put off the short story collection for another year, and postpone the novel release until sometime in 2019. It seems pretty straight forward as far as decisions go but what of the fans? There are people eagerly awaiting the next Oneiroi War book. Plus there’s the reader anxiety that seems to pop up these days anytime an author talks about a delay. On the other hand, I really don’t want to work myself to death for that long. It’s not healthy and the extra pressure would probably cause me to hate the book in the end because of what I had to go through to complete it.

I really don’t want to work myself to death and I don’t want to hate the book (because it’s really awesome) so I chose the latter but I do still feel bad about it — which is a bit insane. I shouldn’t feel guilty for putting my health and wellbeing first but letting down my fans still isn’t something that I wanted to do. It certainly isn’t something that I want to do lightly or make a habit of.

So what does all of this have to do with making goals? I think one thing that often is forgotten is that when setting goals it’s impossible to plan for every contingency. Yes, we can definitely keep our goals realistic, but that still isn’t going to prepare us — or our readers — for when things go sideways. When they do go sideways, it’s important to reassess the situation, and adjust the goal accordingly. Most importantly, it’s important not to see it as a failure; especially if circumstances were out of your control and you did your best in spite of it. After all, a goal is not a promise or a contract. It’s a determination to attain. The goal is still attainable…it’ll just take a bit longer than you originally planned and that’s okay.

 

Holiday Reflections

Just got back from a whirlwind trip to Colorado and back for Christmas. A major part of the trip was to carry all my daughter’s stuff up there from Arkansas since she has just moved into an apartment. That meant hauling my trailer, which keeps my max highway speed somewhere around 65mph, or less. We left Saturday morning, got there about 2am Sunday morning after dealing with blizzard conditions for the last four or five hours (guessing why I left Colorado?) and almost being the victim of a spinout in front of us on I-70. Then after spending Christmas eve unpacking and helping my daughter set up her apartment, we spent most of Christmas day doing Christmas stuff. Then we headed back around 6pm, taking two days to get back since I have to get to work tomorrow morning and didn’t want to deal with coming home at 2am and getting up at 6am to go to work.

So…

Image result for Frodo it's over

Now, having said all that, I do have some thoughts about the holiday season in general, and specifically as a writer.

I find it difficult to write during holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are so many demands on a person’s time, between shopping, getting together with friends or family, cooking, driving from one place to another and back… I generally consider Thanksgiving through New Years as “down time” and any writing I can get done is a bonus.

I figure there’s more than enough stress in the holiday season without adding writing 2,000 words a day to the list. I know there are many writers who have no problem with that. I don’t appear to be one of them. At least not this year.

If other writers are struggling with the same thing, my advice would be to try to avoid the stress of the additional demands of self-imposed deadlines on projects that are not committed, especially not financially committed. Just as business folk are reminded frequently that nobody ever wished they spent more time at the office when on their death bed, even writers can look back and wish they had spent more time with their families. Especially on the holidays.

2017 In Review: On Big Wins, New Wounds, and Old Demons – A Guest Post by Shannon Fox

A guest post by Shannon Fox.

There’s nobody who pushes me harder than myself. I set the bar high when it comes to my professional development and I’m constantly challenging myself with new goals. Sometimes I fantasize about what life would be like if I was the sort of person who was content to come home from work, eat dinner, and sit on the couch watching TV for the rest of the night. And then I get itchy thinking about all that wasted time and potential and quickly shelve that idea.

So when life gets in the way and forces me to revise my goals, I have a hard time being kind to myself and not feeling like I failed. Even if I ultimately accomplish everything I set out to do, I have a hard time seeing it as a “win” because I didn’t achieve it on my original timeline. I know it sounds crazy, but that’s just how I’m wired.

As I’m looking back on 2017, I find myself facing a surprising amount of objective wins: I rewrote an entire novel this year and started on the next revision. I attended two writing conferences, had some face-to-face conversations with literary agents, and pitched for the first time. I kept up with creating content for my book review and writing blog, Isle of Books, which saw more traffic that ever this year. I had several blogs and articles published by different companies in the equine industry. I even won a contest with one of those blogs! I started a free marketing resource site, Minute Marketing, and have been creating content for that as well. And Goodreads tells me I’ve read 65 books so far this year.

Yet, it’s too easy for me to focus on what didn’t happen:

My primary book about Nikola Tesla is still not ready for the querying process. So I still don’t have an agent and I still haven’t sold a book. My other books continue to sit around, gather dust, and wait for me to get around to fixing them. If I ever will.

And the worst of all the things that didn’t happened this year? My writing is still not where I want to be. I know that writing isn’t really a thing you master. It’s something you work at for your entire life. But I feel like I’m making glacial progress, which was further reinforced by a few incidents that happened to me this summer.

Simply put, I suffered a blow to my confidence that took me several months to get over. Portions of my book were reviewed in a couple of different public settings and let’s just say that it didn’t go well. The criticism itself wasn’t particularly savage, but it was relentless and hammering and left my confidence completely shredded all the same. Worse than the pain of that lost confidence though is that I really thought I was stronger and tougher than that. That I didn’t let people get under my skin anymore and that I could take criticism with the best of them. I’ve done so much growing over the years and have had to pick myself up and dust myself off so often I thought I had exorcised that particular demon. I guess not.

When I look back on 2017, I see some big wins and a few failures too. But with 2018 looming on the horizon, I’m working on being as kind to myself as I am to other people. I’ve been trying to be consistent about doing daily positive affirmations, which I do think really, really help. Not only do they make me feel happier and more positive, I feel like some really incredible opportunities have been showing up because I’ve been putting what I want out there so much.

In case this would be helpful to anyone else, here are a few of my affirmations that are writing specific:

  • I am working on my craft and growing as a writer.
  • I am refining my personal writing style and voice to make my stories uniquely me.
  • I am focusing on telling the best story possible.
  • I am attracting only those people who will help and support me in my journey and repelling that which doesn’t serve me.
  • I am open to receiving opportunities that will carry me further towards my goals.

If any of you are also struggling with having confidence in your art, I encourage you to try doing some affirmations before you sit down to write or edit – don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! I feel like my writing sessions are more productive and successful if I’ve done affirmations before starting.

2017 wasn’t the year to top all years like I’d hoped it would be, but I learned a lot and got more clarity on my career goals. I know 2018 has some really exciting opportunities in the pipeline for me and while I can’t share what they are yet, I am confident 2018 will be my best year ever! I know the journey certainly won’t be smooth, but calm seas never did make for a skillful sailor.

 

About Shannon Fox:

I have a B.A. in Literature-Writing from UC-San Diego. I write novels and short stories, particularly young adult, contemporary, historical, and science fiction. I maintain my own blog of book reviews and writing advice at IsleofBooks.com. I am a regular blogger for Equine Journal and Coastal Premier Properties. I have authored over 200 articles and blogs for online and print publication. I was also a research assistant to the authors for the published novels Teen 2.0 and Against Their Will. In addition to writing, my professional background is in marketing and advertising. I run a free marketing resource for entrepreneurs and small business owners at www.MinMarketing.com.

Year in Review

Oh boy. Do I really want to go over the entirety of my journey? Can’t I just brush it aside and forget it ever happened?

Well…no. There were some really good things this year. Things like the release of my first novel, getting into the Epic Fantasy Storybundle, my Monster Hunter Files story being well received. There have been a a lot of really great things this year for me as an author. But what I mostly remember about this year was my failure to accomplish my main goal — take better care of myself.

I won’t go into a tale of personal woe. The short of it is that this year did not go as planned and it was all around much harder to find the time and energy to get anything done that I wanted or needed to. I think the only thing that did go as planned was that I learned how to use Dragon and that with my acupuncturist’s help my arthritis pain is the lowest it’s been in years. Too bad the rest of my life isn’t falling into line. But there is still hope for next year. Onward and upward, right?