New Writers: Developing a Thick Skin.

As writers, we are told one of the things we need to have in this writing venture is a thick skin; especially when we are just starting out. The sooner we start giving our work to beta readers and submitting, the better our chances of developing this thick skin. There are, however, certain obstacles that prevent us from doing so. One in particular comes instantly to mind – fear.

For years, I spent the vast majority of my time happy in my little writing cave; my work never seeing the light of day. I had grown accustomed to the outward negativity towards my career choices, be they writing related or otherwise. My best defence was to keep quiet, but continue writing regardless. The only disadvantage to this was that I knew that one day, for me to become published; I would have to let others see my work eventually.

It became a gradual metamorphosis. I attended writing groups, where I always preferred to be the last one to read my work. My hands would shake and I could feel the heat rise in my chest and quite a few times people would ask me to speak up. Yet in the end, I found the others in the groups to be helpful and saw the potential in my writing. It was around this time that I began blogging, gradually putting myself out to an even bigger audience. By doing these two things, I began to grow that thick skin and submitted my work to publications and entering competitions. I had some poetry published in a small publication and won a writing competition. Things were looking up, but I still had a long way to go because the feeling of fear never left me.

The feeling of fear I felt (and still do) was not one of failure, but actually one of vulnerability. Putting myself out there for all the world to see would leave me exposed, open to abuse and ridicule. This was always the dilemma. It was a Catch-22 that I had to come to terms with and develop that thick skin sooner or later.

It has only been within the last twelve months that I might finally be getting better at this. I have some new beta readers who are helpful and encouraging and are only too keen to read more of my work (so thank you). 🙂 Recently, I submitted a short story to an anthology, but received word that I was unsuccessful. Usually I would be down in the dumps for a few days at least, but not this time. This time, I accepted it, shrugged and moved on. I was quite surprised at how calmly I had taken it. Years of study at University taught me that writing is subjective.

I’m still working on developing that thick skin as I have yet to have my stories published, but it has taken me years to reach this level. I usually find, more often than not, whenever I’m afraid of something, things usually turn out better than what I had expected. There is a lot of truth in the saying ‘the only thing we have to fear is fear itself’.

What steps have you taken to develop a thick skin? Does fear prevent you from sending your work out or getting critiqued? Have you allowed the negativity of others to control your life?

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Main Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Back to the 80s: P is for The Promise.

This week for my Back to the 80s Challenge I’m focusing on a band that remains a bit obscure. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even remember them and once again my husband had to help me out. I guess this is all part of the fun of undertaking research – that it is not always easy and it can be a voyage of discovery.

The Promise was formed in Brisbane, Australia in 1983. The band’s first single ‘Heart to Sell’, released the following year was well received, reaching the Top 30 in their home town. The follow-up single ‘Walking with a Weight’ in 1985 reached number 67 nationally. Two more singles followed and the band built a considerable live following. They supported Australian bands such as INXS, The Angels and The Divinyls and released their first album in 1987. Believed to be on their way to becoming another Australian success story overseas, things fell apart for them on the eve of their American signing, never realising their full potential.

With that keyboard and bass guitar, ‘Heart to Sell’ has a real 80s sound. 😉

Other bands formed or who had hits in the 1980s starting with the letter P include:- Pseudo Echo, The Proclaimers, The Police, Pet Shop Boys, Party Boys, Psychedelic Furs.

What kinds of difficulties have you had when undertaking research? Do you enjoy the prospect of learning new things while researching? What other bands of the 1980s that begin with the letter P can you think of?

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What Are Your Pet Peeves When Writing?

It’s the start of another month, so it’s time once again for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG), a blog hop to share and encourage other writers.

The question for this month took me a little while to come up with an answer and it wasn’t until I realised that one pet peeve tended to manifest itself into another, that I discovered there were actually quite a few. So with my answer for this month, I’ve come up with what I’d like to call ‘The Illustrated Guide to my Writing Process’.

1. I’m a perfectionist.

2. Being a perfectionist makes me a slow writer.

3. Being a slow writer means I think about things a lot more.

4. Thinking too much leads to self-doubt.

5. Self-doubt leads to stalling tactics.

6. Stalling tactics eventually leads back to No.1 (no pun intended 😉 ).

Yet, somewhere between pet peeves 1 and 4, I do actually manage to get the writing done (and that includes re-writes), otherwise, there’s not much point. In order to write, one must persevere, despite setbacks.

Realistically, looking at those peeves that I’ve mentioned, these are self-induced. I have allowed myself to believe in the negativity that had accompanied my writing ambitions for many years.

With the writing process, comes a learning process regarding ourselves as writers. And that can be the longest (and hardest) process of all.

Do you have a similar writing process? Are you a perfectionist? Do you have trouble concentrating sometimes? What are your pet peeves when writing?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Back to the 80s: O is for Oingo Boingo

Another week, and it’s time once again for my Back to the 80s Challenge – my very own A-Z Challenge! This time, we’ve made it to another one of those awkward letters, where I’m left scratching way back into my memory banks – and this is where the help of my husband usually comes in. 😉

The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo were formed in 1972 and were a musical theatre troupe. In the late 1970s, they shortened their name to Oingo Boingo and released an EP a year later. They released three albums during the early 1980s and their music began to appear on a number of movie soundtracks. Their best known song ‘Weird Science‘ was written for the movie of the same name and appeared on their album Dead Man’s Party. Song writer and front man Danny Elfman, then began composing for major films. They released three more albums and explored different musical directions, but eventually played their final concert in 1995. Danny Elfman continues to compose for film and television and has been nominated for four Academy Awards.

I always thought that the song ‘Stay’ was a love song, but when I looked further into it, I’ve come to the conclusion that it may be about suicide. And as it is from their album Dead Man’s Party, it seems to make sense.

Other bands formed or who had hits in the 1980s starting with the letter O include:- Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

What other bands of the 1980s that begin with the letter O can you think of? What are you thoughts about the song ‘Stay’ – do you think it is about suicide? Is it just me or does Danny Elfman have a creepy looking vibe going on in that video and do it really well?

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Listening to Audio Books.

After finishing reading a book on my Kindle recently, I decided to try something a bit different. I wanted to read more books, but minus the hassle of physically reading one. I visited the library and grabbed a couple of audio books (okay, four to be exact).

I’ve listened to audio books once before, but they involved CDs, which made it a bit awkward when it comes to being portable. This time around, all I need to do it put in one AAA battery, my headphones and I’m off and running. Much easier to operate, so I guess it’s a matter of finding what kind of device is more suitable to our needs. What I also like about this new selection of audio books is that on one side it has all the play buttons, while the other has a book cover (so cute) – and it fits perfectly into the palm of my hand.

So, why audio? As I am currently working on re-writes of two of my own novels, as well as outlining and researching for a new short story which will pan out to become something bigger, I felt I needed to read a book that was easier on my time. With audio, I can either sit and listen, listen to it while I go for a walk or listen in while doing household chores. I enjoy the flexibility of audio, and as a writer there is also the added bonus of actually hearing the book being read. Using our sense of hearing, rather than continually seeing the written word helps with our own use of words, especially when it comes to imagery.

At the moment, I am still at the experimental stage when it comes to audio books, but so far I have found them to be a great alternative to physically reading a book. After all, Frank Zappa did say:

Do you listen to audio books? What do you like about them? As a writer, do you find listening to books helps with your own writing?

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Back to the 80s: N is for New Order.

It’s time once again for my A-Z Challenge of 1980s music. We’re just over the half-way mark now, so we’re getting closer to the end of my biggest blogging challenge yet.

It’s certainly been interesting and at times, a bit of an eye-opener, regarding some of the bands I’ve covered so far. It’s good to know that some of these bands and musicians don’t always follow the road to obscurity after they’ve reached a certain level of success.

New Order were formed in 1980, with the remaining band members from Joy Division, after the death of Ian Curtis. Gillian Gilbert was invited to join the band in the same year to play keyboard and guitar. After the release of their first album, New Order were introduced to post-disco and electro, which saw their music go in another direction. In 1983, they released their second album and ‘Blue Monday‘ was released as a separate single. The song would go on to become one of their most successful, being widely acclaimed and widely covered since its original release.

They released four more albums, including Brotherhood in 1986, which featured ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ (later to be ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 500 greatest songs of all time), but it wasn’t until 1990 that they had their first No.1 UK hit. Over the years, there were issues with band members and recording labels, but they released more albums, toured and worked on various side projects. They continue to release albums and tour to this day.

Other bands formed or who had hits in the 1980s starting with the letter N include:- Noiseworks, 1927.

What other bands of the 1980s that begin with the letter N can you think of? What has been your biggest blogging challenge?

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Writing & Creating Change.

Recently, I began working on the re-writes of my first novel. By starting with the first chapter, I tried to get an idea of my main character. I sent the first couple of pages to some of my beta readers for feedback and all seemed fine. All was ready to go, but I quickly froze in my tracks.

Re-writes are not always a lot of fun and takes a fair amount of time and hard work. I have reworked my short stories so many times it has almost made my eyes bleed! My most recent short story is just over 8,000 words; the longest I’ve written so far, and my beta readers really like it. For something so ‘short’, it certainly took a fair amount of work. For some reason, the re-writing of my first novel was different. To help work around it, I printed my NaNoWriMo novel from last year (2016) and began re-writing.

I was now faced with a dilemma – do I really want to be re-working two novels simultaneously? It made me realise that this is pretty much how professional authors work – they alternate with writing a new WIP, re-write another novel and plan/outline another. It helps with their productivity. Taking a step back, I realised I had a problem with time management. I needed to work harder and smarter in order to achieve my goal of publication. Some things needed to change.

Trouble is, habits are hard to break and not all of them are good for us. Making any necessary changes takes both time and conscious effort. Continuously coming up with new ways to be productive can be very effective and helps us find new ways to improve. We really need to want the change if we want to succeed.

Perhaps I am too close to my first novel or it may still need some work; perhaps both. I can still chip away at it a bit at a time until I’ve reached a point where I am satisfied with it. Like an artist’s canvas, this is still a work in progress. Pretty much like myself, really. 😉

Do you have trouble with re-writes? Are you continuously coming up with new ways to be productive? Do you have problems with managing your time?

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