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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Writing: Focus on the Positive.

Recently in a blog post for the Insecure Writers Support Group, there was discussion regarding the thought of quitting the writing life. Quitting because our work gets rejected, because we think what we are writing is rubbish and because we feel we are not going to make it as a writer. But despite all of that, a lot of us still keep going.

Rejections can hurt. I know; I’ve been there too. For me, sending my work out is the hardest part when it comes to this writing process. I’ve entered competitions, sent my short stories to magazines, and more often than not, hear nothing but crickets in reply. Rejections can be seen as a learning curve, because the more effort we put into our craft and the more times we send our work out, eventually, we begin to see some progress.

One of the first pieces I ever had published was regarding the birth of my first child. I had sent it off without giving it a second thought and was pleasantly surprised to receive a cheque and a couple of copies of the magazine as payment with my piece inside. About eight years ago, I submitted a couple of chapters of my first novel to a competition and became one of six successful applicants. The prize was attendance at a writer’s festival, with meals and accommodation paid for, as well as a writer’s workshop. Of-course, opportunities like these would never have happened if I gave up.

There can be a lot of toxic people out there too. People who don’t want you to pursue writing and/or become successful. Speaking from personal experience, it’s hurtful when those toxic people are members of your own family. Because of my obstinate nature, I saw this as a challenge and began doing courses, where I received positive feedback. It was this that kept me going. If you are surrounded by toxic people, you need to do something similar or join a writing group and/or be part of the writing community online.

I think it’s easy to be discouraged when we receive negative feedback. Sometimes, it’s as if we are expecting it! If we tell ourselves we’re not good enough often enough, we begin to believe it. So, when we begin to receive positive feedback, we can be pleasantly surprised and I think they stay in our minds a heck of a lot longer. Write them down if necessary, but keep them safe and close to you, maybe even pinned to your wall at your desk. Since I began this writing journey, these are the ones that stick out the most for me over the years:-

You have great potential. Something I don’t say to just anyone.

I can see this story as a film.

This is like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Your writing is macabre.

This is great – no, brilliant!

You’ll get published one day. It’s just a matter of when.

I really like this. I think it’s the best thing you’ve written so far.

Some years ago, a clairvoyant once told me that I would make money from my writing. Now, whether you believe in fortune telling or not, you have to admit that saying such a thing to a writer is a positive thought. 😉

Praise for our writing is encouraging and despite all the rejections and disappointments we may get (and we will), we can always refer to the times when we have been given those small words of hope. It’s little things like these that keep us going.

What keeps you going as a writer? What is the nicest thing someone has said to you about your writing? Do you have toxic people in your life? Do you find it difficult to send your work out?

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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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Have You Re-Worked An Old Story?

stack-of-books-1001655_1280When it comes to writing, I’m a bit of a hoarder; I don’t throw anything out. Next to my desk is a chest full of notebooks, manilla folders and scraps of paper containing story ideas, incomplete manuscripts and research notes. It’s what some people like to call ‘an organised mess’. However, this mess could be a goldmine for a writer.

Every once in a while I go through this collection, surprised to see how long it has been since I’ve looked at some of these pieces, seeing the possibilities in a many number of them. I keep asking myself why I’ve never bothered to continue working on them. There is one in particular that stands out.

89f02ba9c66e17313a433a4b6daba917About ten years ago, I wrote a young adult novel. It was complete in that it had a beginning, middle and end – only trouble was it was less than 30,000 words (and contains a number of subplots not suitable for a novella). Clearly more work needed to be done. At the time I gave it to a beta reader for feedback. The feedback I received was: – ‘This story was great – no – brilliant!’  And this was just in its very first draft! So, with positive feedback such as this, what did I do? Being in a group of insecure writers, I think you all know the answer that that one – I let fear get the better of me.

Over the years, I have worked on it, believing that this story has potential. It has only been within the last year or so that I have thought of the possibility of turning this into a series. For now though, I just need to concentrate on this one, making it the best I possibly can and worry about the other possibilities later.

Have you ever pulled out a really old story and re-worked it? Did it work out? Are you a hoarder when it comes to your writing? Does fear hold you back from working on a piece you think has potential?

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Is Your First Piece of Writing Gathering Dust?

mortality-401222_640It was some years back in the early 90’s when I decided to summon my courage to send my writing off for publication. At the time, I had been writing for many years, purely for a pleasurable hobby and during High School I had let some of my friends read what I’d written. All the time though, I had it in the back of my mind to be published; I always had a dream of being a published author.

After leaving High School I did some correspondence courses on writing and had written some incomplete stories, but I really wanted to try my hand at writing a short story to get it published in a magazine. It was then that I wrote my first ghost story. I was working full time and let a co-worker whom I trusted to read it. ‘You wrote this yourself?’ she asked, clearly surprised that I had done so. Now, whether she thought that was a good thing or a bad thing, I’m not sure, but she seemed to think what I had written was alright and I sent it off to a popular Australian women’s magazine.

The wait was excruciating and I can’t recall how long I ended up waiting, but in the end I eventually received a form letter in the mail with my story returned. I admit I wasn’t too happy, but when I read my story again I was horrified; with new eyes I realised my mistake. It wasn’t as good as I thought; clearly I had more work to do.

I sent my work out when I wasn’t ready and looking back, I now know that I wasn’t completely confident enough within myself at the time either (perhaps I was also aiming too high to begin with). It has proven a great learning experience though and that piece lies amongst many of my other papers hidden away somewhere, gathering dust. I keep it as a permanent reminder of just how far I’ve come.

What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

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Being a Writer: Worth Taking a Risk?

takingrisksI’m sure everyone has got at least one in their life; the naysayers, those bloodsucking vampires that want to drain all the hope out of our lives. They have a tendency to fill your life with such negativity, that you begin to believe what they say; that writing is not a ‘real job’; that you’re wasting your time because there’s ‘no money in the arts’. When you get told a lie over and over again, you start to believe in it (hey, it works for politicians).

Being surrounded by such people can become emotionally and sometimes even physically draining. The best thing is to stay away from them, yet it can prove difficult when these people happen to be members of your own family. Even to this day, for example, my mother feeds me the same old lines I’ve heard so many times before (at least I know what to expect). My interpretation: I’ve always been a problem because I’m not like my older siblings. When others fill you with negativity, you begin to believe in what they say and therefore begin to doubt yourself. That doubt then turns to fear and you find yourself hesitating in even wanting to try.

On Australian television, we have a show called Q&A, which consists of an audience asking questions to a panel of guests. Recently, one of their guests was astronaut Chris Hadfield. He had the audience, panelists and host alike all enthralled with what he had to say, he could have been the only guest that night. There was one thing he said in particular that caught my attention and I had to write it down.

“A lot of us just deny ourselves something in life because we’re afraid of it. We say I won’t do that because I’m afraid. Which things in your life do you decide are worth taking a risk? Give yourself a definition of what success looks like. What am I really trying to accomplish with my life? The real question we all face is not what do I want to be doing in thirty years, but what do I want to do next? Give yourself a long term definition of how you want this to turn out so that you can tell yourself is this a risk worth taking?’

He knew the risks involved in becoming an astronaut, but he did whatever it took to fulfill his dream. If he had any naysayers in his life, he certainly paid no attention to them whatsoever! And this is how it should be for those of us who also wish to fulfill a life’s ambition.

Being a writer can be challenging, but it can also be very rewarding. Life’s too short to worry about what other people think. As the saying goes – feel the fear and do it anyway.

Which things in your life are worth taking a risk? Are you surrounded by negativity? Do you pay too much attention to what others say or do you ignore them? 

* In November, I’ll be taking the plunge and diving back into NaNoWriMo – who’s with me? Also, in order to spend more time on my writing projects, I’ll be cutting back on blogging and will now be blogging on an intermittent basis.

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A Writer’s Journey: At a Crossroads.

crossroads

Have you ever had the feeling that you were at a crossroads in your life? That you are about to dive off and take a plunge into the great unknown, but at the same time you are also holding yourself back?

This is how I have been feeling these past few weeks. Perhaps it’s because there is a change in the air as Spring is beginning to reveal itself or perhaps because I’m feeling more confident in myself that the time has actually come to take a new step when it comes to writing. And yet there is that niggling doubt – fear, uncertainly and a lack of confidence. Once I step forward into that new sphere, what I’ve left behind will stay there. Where I am now will be gone; there is no turning back.

The reality is I’ve been in this current state for quite some time now. I’ve become too comfortable and therefore I’ve become scared of changing the status quo. When we are faced with this situation, and we sit on that fence for too long then all our efforts to get this far will be wasted. You will feel that you’ve become a failure and live the rest of your life with regrets, which only makes you unhappy. You won’t be living up to your true potential and you’ll begin to feel that you have let others down as well as yourself.

It’s a big step, an awkward step, one that you should be prepared to take, however tentatively. If you’re anything like me, you’ve spent years practising and learning your craft; all it takes now is to face the great unknown. That is the biggest challenge.

I know that I have people around me who are urging me forward and a husband prepared to support me every step of the way throughout that new journey. I hope that you too have found that support, even if it is only with one person; that can make all the difference in a writer’s life.

I’m prepared to take the next step into my writer’s journey. I hope you are too.

Are you at a crossroads in your life? Are you prepared to face your fears and take the next step forward? Do you have the support of others with you throughout your journey?

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