Life Lessons · This Writer's Life · Writing

Writing: A Change in Direction.

For the past few months, I have been submitting short stories to competitions. I have been doing this on and off over a number of years and despite the continual knock backs, I have been successful once. Perhaps this is why I continue to persevere; after all, when it comes to writing, we do have to be in this for the long haul. However, there also comes a time when we have to admit when something isn’t working and need to consider our alternatives.

It was very timely, therefore that I read a couple of posts by Kristen Lamb Pay the Writer 2 – Out Hustle the Hustlers and Writing Exposure – Gamble or Grift? that got me thinking. The rules of publishing these days have changed. Many writers like myself are of the old belief that if we write and get exposure we are helping to build our CV. This will eventually lead to work coming our way. These days, however, the old rules no longer apply and that older way of thinking can be a bit hard to shake off.

The reality is that by sending my work out to competitions, I’m still waiting for that ‘validation’ for the gatekeepers to accept me. Because I allow my fear and insecurity to hold me back, I need someone to tell me whether I’m good enough for this game and each rejection adds to those insecurities. At the same time, though, those knock backs are a good way to help develop that thick skin. We keep holding on for that win. But the competition is fierce and the win may never come.

Writing for exposure is fine when writing is a hobby, but when it comes to taking your writing seriously and being paid for it, we may need to be a bit more selective. We should be the ones benefiting from our writing and not giving our work away so freely in order to benefit others. My one and only ‘win’ at least taught me that there can indeed be benefits.

One of my beta readers suggested I compile my short stories and self-publish. I’ve been thinking of doing exactly that for some time, but it is fear that is preventing me from doing so. I know that I have now reached a point in my writing where self-publishing is the road I will be travelling. It’s a long road and to begin with it’s going to be pretty rough. In the end though, I do believe that the journey will be worth it. So, who’s with me?

Does fear and insecurity hold you back? Will you be going down the path of self-publishing? If you’re self-published, has it turned out better than you expected? Have you won any writing competitions? Have you become more selective when it comes to your writing?

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Life Lessons · This Writer's Life · Up Close & Personal

Walk Away From Toxic People.

As writers, we need to develop a thick skin when it comes to rejection. The more we expose our writing to others, the more we learn to ‘toughen up’, realising that it is in fact, our writing and not ourselves that is being judged. However, there is also the rejection on a more personal level that we need to be aware of; being surrounded by people who are negative when it comes to our writing goals or just us in general.

Recently, I had such a wake-up call. Unfortunately, I’ve been down this road before once too often, even a long time ago (and is the spark of one of my works in progress) and once again, involves people closest to me. I’ve taken hit after hit for so long that I am reminded of this famous quote:-

It is because they are so close, that we endure their negativity, their bullying and even their desire to ignore us. No matter how hard we may try, sometimes people cannot change what they don’t acknowledge. However, there comes a time where we can only take so much and tell ourselves enough is enough. We need to do this in order to gain some level of self-respect. Sometimes we have to walk away from the negatives in our lives, and that can include certain people. It’s not always easy, but it is necessary for our own happiness and peace of mind.

So how do you overcome the pain of rejection? Focus on the positive; surround yourself with like-minded people and those who encourage you, do things that make you happy, listen to music, exercise. Use such negative experiences and turn them into positives by focusing on what you can do to improve your writing goals and/or yourself as a person. Enrol in courses, join the gym, find ways to further your employment prospects.

Perhaps it goes down to that old saying ‘nice guys finish last’ because it always seems to be the nice guys that get walked on – or perhaps it’s just that I’m not a narcissist. 😉 Unfortunately, rejection is a part of life. How we deal with it is one of the many ways we learn to grow and such blows can make us stronger when facing that next challenge.

Have you experienced rejection at a personal level? How do you overcome rejection? Have you had to pull away from friends and/or family for your own peace of mind?

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Life Lessons · Up Close & Personal · Writing Process

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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IWSG · Life Lessons · Writing

What Valuable Lesson Have You Learnt Since You Started 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.

When we first start out as writers, there are plenty of valuable lessons we need to learn. These include rejection, criticism and continually practicing our craft; however I think one of the most valuable lessons I have learnt since I started writing is getting my ideas down on paper.

I first started writing during my teenage years when I was in High School. During those early years, I was like an addict. Story ideas would appear and I felt the need to write the whole thing in its entirety in novel form, until the excitement fizzled out and I was onto the next ‘high’ (hardly surprising). Sometimes when an idea appeared, I didn’t write it down, foolishly believing that I would remember it. Sometimes I did, but others disappeared completely.

Ideas for stories can tend to turn up when we least expect it, making it difficult to get pen and paper (really, what is it about having a shower?) Other times, we can be scrambling to get just one little spark of an idea, which is lovingly referred to as writer’s block.

The interesting thing is that the more you write, the more ideas you tend to come up with (perhaps this is why some famous authors don’t believe in writer’s block). It’s getting them written down that can become an issue. Some authors have pens and notebooks scattered throughout their house and in their handbag for whenever an idea strikes. Over the years, I have learnt to use a similar tactic – grab a pen and paper quick sticks and write the idea down and make sure it makes some kind of sense for when you go over it.

In order for us to write, either fiction or non-fiction, we need ideas and plenty of them if we really want to succeed as writers. Of-course life would be a bit simpler if we had one of Dumbledore’s pensieves!

What is one valuable lesson you’ve learnt since you started writing? Do you have trouble coming up with ideas? How do you get your ideas down? Do you get ideas when you’re in the bath/shower and find that particularly annoying?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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IWSG · Life Lessons · Writing

Writers: Did You Ever Say ‘I Quit?

This month I’m back posting for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG). After posting last month, I noticed my name was not on the list. I didn’t think I had broken the rules, so a glitch, perhaps? Anyway, I’ve put my name back on the list, so you can’t get rid of me that easily, guys. 😉

When it comes to writing have I ever said ‘I quit?’ Absolutely! So many times over the years, in fact I’ve lost count. Every time I feel like throwing in the towel over this whole writing thing, it is always because of one reason above all others; the feeling that I am never good enough. Self-doubt gradually creeps in and takes over all reasoning. This in turn leads to depression and eating a whole lot of chocolate to make me feel better.

The reason I encounter those self-doubts to begin with is simply because I compare myself to other writers. I read the end result of all their years of hard work in a finished product and know I can never write like that. I can read pages or paragraphs of beautiful description and feel way out of my league. I see other people’s success as authors – all the books they have published and their many loyal readers, and I think of all the work that is required to get to that level. Yes, it can be very depressing and even in recent months I’ve encountered it once again. As timing would have it, I read a blog post by Kristen Lamb recently regarding this very issue.

The thing is that despite all of this, I keep coming back to writing. Why? I guess it’s because I can’t turn my imagination off. I think of other ‘real’ jobs I could be doing instead, but I have characters in my head that speak to me, wanting their stories to be told (yes, that’s cloud cuckoo-land right there). Writing is my creative outlet and the best way I know how to communicate to others (I’m uncomfortable talking to people).

These days, when I begin to compare myself to other writers I may feel down in the dumps for a little while, but I learn from it and move on. I find that by seeing other people’s success it helps to motivate me to keep on going. And that can only be a good thing. 😉

Did you ever say ‘I quit’? What happened to make you come back to writing? Do you feel like giving up because you’re not ‘good enough’? Do you learn from other writer’s success?

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Books · Life Lessons · Writing

Has Being a Writer Changed You as a Reader?

Some years ago I read a book that was popular at the time. It was not normally one that I would go out of my way to read, but there was so much talk about it, my curiosity eventually got the better of me and I borrowed the book from the library.

The book began alright and I gradually worked my way half way through it, when after a while, I felt the need to put it down. I began to wonder. ‘Is this it? How much longer does this go on for?’ The problem was – nothing was happening. There was no conflict, just people going about their business. I knew something had to happen eventually, so I picked it up again and persevered with it some more, but still, nothing was happening. There were no ‘blips’, just one long endless flat line. Boring! I didn’t waste any more time with it and returned it to the library.

A few years after this incident, another book came out that once again, people were raving about. My husband had become curious and eventually bought the book. He began telling me about the plot and thought the characters (made out to be intelligent people) must have been incredibly stupid if he could solve the problem before they could. Of-course the writer in me paid attention to that one straight away. My husband suggested I take a look at it. In all honesty, I could not make it past the first chapter. It was full of clichés and my writing brain couldn’t take any more. I began to wonder how this ever got published.

From these experiences I’ve come to learn that it is in our own best interests as writers to read widely. These two books may not have been ones I would usually read, but it made me aware of particular trends. It also gave me the courage to continue writing and work harder at my craft.

I quickly discovered that when a book doesn’t do it for me, to put it down and move on. Perhaps the real lesson here is that I shouldn’t fall for books that generate a lot of ‘hype’ and follow my instincts. 😉

How has being a writer changed you as a reader? Do you read books that ‘trend’? Is there a book that you’ve read recently that you just couldn’t finish? Do you see some published books as a way to improve your own writing?

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Life Lessons · This Writer's Life · Writing

Having a Writing Plan.

Giving up work to write full-time I think is every writer’s dream come true. The thought of simply writing what we want to write in whatever hours that suits us, sounds appealing, but that’s far from the reality. I’ve found out the hard way that writing takes a lot more time and energy than what we’ve all been led to believe.

A few months after I got married, I handed in my notice to my employer of almost ten years. It was a decision that was not made lightly, but one I knew had to be made. I had tired of my job and as far as I could see there was no future for me there. It was time I moved on to something different.

Excited by the prospect of fulfilling the writing dream of writing full time, I gathered enough notebooks and pens to last me a good while. I spent time making sure the computer had enough space to accommodate my works, and living in the Blue Mountains at the time, I had an inspiring view of the Grose Valley from my balcony. I was in a perfect situation in which to write.

With so much time on my hands, I began to squander it. Projects I had eagerly begun were tossed aside for the next project, only to see the process repeated. After these ‘failures’, doubts began to fester until I dreaded starting anything new and spent less time writing altogether. It was about this time that my husband landed a job in the country, and we relocated, giving me the chance to have some casual work within the same department. Almost two years later, I became pregnant with my first child. Writing during this time was very much on the back-burner.

Looking back, I realise that although I wanted to write, that period in my life was not the time; clearly I was not ready. Also I did not have a plan. It may sound simple, but in my eagerness, I had no idea where I going. Before handing in my resignation, I should have put more thought into what exactly I was going to do, have some kind of back up plan, consider finances, etc.

These days, I’m working to two different pieces of advice: plan your work, work your plan and finish what you started. Planning ahead can save you a lot of time and effort. It also allows you to focus on the task ahead and gives you the confidence you need to reach those goals.

Have you ever stopped working to pursue writing full-time and it didn’t work out? Do you feel guilty when you squander your time rather than write? Do you have any writing projects that are incomplete? 

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Images courtesy of Pixabay

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