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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Main Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing, Writing Process

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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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Life Lessons, Writing

Writers: Did You Ever Say ‘I Quit?

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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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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This Writer's Life, Writing

Writing Within Toxic Relationships.

Since finishing my University studies, I took a well-deserved break. However, that break has since made my return to writing become a very slow journey. It has left me questioning my motivations and wonder if I really want to do this writing gig anymore. The simple answer is yes, it is who I am; yet I’ve become to realise that what is holding me back is a complete lack of self-confidence, brought about by toxic relationships.

Toxic relationships can happen in the form of friends, and although painful, it is easier to keep such relationships at a distance. However, toxic relationships in the form of family can be an even tougher challenge.

A few years after I left school, my mother laughed at the idea when I told her I always wanted to be a writer. To this day she insists I never knew what I wanted to do when I left school; either she refuses to listen or refuses to accept my career choice and who I really am (after all, ‘there’s no money in the arts’). She also insists that ‘you never had any self -confidence’. I hear it over and over again – the trouble is when you get told a lie often enough, you begin to believe it.

Despite how this all sounds, I’m not bagging out my mother; I’m only trying to demonstrate that some people (and often those closest to you) can destroy our self-esteem without even realising it. We want our family and friends to be proud of our achievements and support us in what we do, yet their good intentions to protect us from getting ourselves hurt can often backfire. We reach a certain age where we’re old enough to make our own decisions and learn from our own mistakes; this is what life is all about. Why should we let someone else’s opinions rule our lives?

After speaking to my cheerleader and accountability buddy (ie. my husband) about it he began showing me some motivational quotes. This is the one that spoke loudest to me:-

motivational quote

I’m beginning to find that by reading some good motivational quotes, walking and listening to writing podcasts and music early in the day helps to make me happy, and in turn, motivates me to write. It can be a long process, but finding that belief in yourself, in the end, ultimately begins with you.

Are you surrounded by others who lower your self-esteem? What do you do to keep up your motivation? Do you find it is more your family than your friends who try to demolish your dreams? What type of things has been said to you?

Image via theBERRY

Writing

A Writer in Progress.

In a recent conversation with one of the mothers at my son’s new school, she looked at me and asked ‘You don’t work?’  I quickly replied that I do casual work.  Straight away, I jumped into the safe, acceptable job, rather than tell her I’m a writer.

I have been down this road a number of times over the years.  During my mother’s generation, one was frowned upon if women went to work, rather than stay at home and look after the kids.  Now it’s the complete opposite; I may not get dirty looks, but I can certainly feel their scorn.  They think I stay at home and do nothing all day.  Very few know I write, and only a handful know that I study.  It is those mothers who don’t know me that are always so quick to judge.

Yet, a tiny voice inside my head refuses to allow me to tell anyone that I write.  That voice is the voice of self-confidence.  Because I am just starting to get myself out there and have very little publishing credits, I believe I sound like a fraud in saying I’m a writer.  I know how it would sound.  People would ask me what I’ve written (meaning published) and I would reply very little.  They would look dubious, and I would feel ashamed.  Rather than let that happen, I continue to be in an acceptable role.

And so I continue to be a writer in progress; practicing my craft and trying to make it as perfect as I possibly can.  Putting my work out there is the first step to self-confidence and letting people know who I am: a writer.

Image by Debbie Johansson.

Writing

Writing: Letting Go of the Fear.

Growing up I never had a problem watching scary movies or reading scary books.  Roller coasters always made me scream and laugh so much I cried.  So what’s stopping me from trying to move forward as a writer?

I guess the real fear I have is a lack of self-confidence.  Now that was something I always lacked as a child and has continued into my adult life.  It has prevented me from doing many things.  It is the fear of the great unknown, the fear itself of actually trying and making a fool of oneself when unsuccessful.  The trouble is I have a tendency of thinking too much, instead of just getting on with it and doing it.  For many years, for example, I have put off freelance writing just through fear alone.

Writing is something I can do, and always wanted to do.  I have been told that I can write – it’s just a matter of time when I’m going to get published.  My husband believes in me and is very supportive, yet the fear continues.  Sometimes it’s like riding an emotional roller coaster; I’ll beat myself up for being so stupid and get really confident, while other days the self doubt takes a strong grip and refuses to let go.

There have been times when I have refused to let the fear take hold and afterwards, been left wondering why I was so worried in the first place.  As you get older, you don’t necessarily become wiser.  I just don’t want to get older and look back on these opportunities with any regrets.  Funny, how I have to resort to an advertising slogan to help me.  ‘Don’t just dream about it – do it!’