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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Writing

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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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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Writing

When Do You Know Your Story Is Ready?

mailbox-808152_1280On a previous post I discussed my first piece of writing. Unfortunately, I sent my first piece out too soon – back then I had very little knowledge of how the journey to publication worked. These days, I have a better understanding, however now I guess I’m overly-cautious in sending any work out (perfectionism can be a curse). I have a tendency of going over and over my work until I get sick of looking at those particular pieces of writing; case in point are some of my short stories.

frustrationI’ve been sitting on some of these for years; I’ve even had some beta readers look over them for me. Recently I have gone over them again and am now waiting for another round of beta readers to read them. This time, though, I know my short stories are ready as the changes have been minor (sad I can’t say the same about my longer works just yet). Janice Hardy has a helpful post on this very topic, so perhaps that’s a good sign. 😉

push-itYears ago I learned the hard way of sending my work out too soon. As an insecure writer, one of the biggest challenges is letting other people read our work before sending it off into the big, wild world. With persistence and helpful critiques, you’ll know when your story is ready.

When do you know your story is ready? Do you have a tendency of going over your work so many times that you get sick of it? Do you suffer from perfectionism?

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Writing

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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Writing

Dealing with Writer’s Doubt.

keyboard-621832_1280For the past few months, I have been doing a fair amount of soul-searching; family health issues have made me question my own mortality and goals in life. This is why last month I wrote about perfectionism and self-criticism; criticism that also comes from those around us, which can sadly include family members. Such criticism leads to you doubting your own abilities, which therefore sets you up for failure.

So, what can we do to fix these self-doubts when it comes to our writing? I have come up with these five ideas:-

1. Become part of a writing community: Being with other like-minded people helps you understand that you’re not alone and they can help you get out of that rut that you find yourself in. Such communication helps to cheer you up, which can motivate you to keep moving forward in your writing goals.

2. Find some beta readers: Finding the right group of beta readers can take time, so you need to be clear in what you want from them. Letting other people read your work helps you to work on your strengths and weaknesses, as well as developing that thick skin.

3. Work to deadlines: If you don’t work to deadlines, you will never get that work finished; having no deadline helps you to procrastinate. If you don’t have a deadline, create your own and make sure that you will be held accountable when meeting that deadline (eg. sending work out to beta readers).

4. Blog: There are many benefits to writing a blog, but the main reasons for new writers to blog are that it gets you writing, you are sharing your writing with the world, creating a community and learning to work to a deadline. You are learning to put yourself ‘out there’ and making a name for yourself which is beneficial for when you publish your other works.

5. Sending work out: This is the big one, but if you really want to get published, you need to bite the bullet and just do it. If you have the support of a writing community and beta readers, this will help ease the fear and after sending your first couple of pieces out, it becomes a habit. As the saying goes, there is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Writing is a pursuit that not only should be habit forming, but one that needs an awful lot of perseverance. It takes time to make any real progress with this writing venture, so you cannot afford to waste that time on self-doubts and listening to those who insist on placing those doubts in your head in the first place (and yes, I’m taking my own advice 😉 ).

Are you too hard on yourself? Have you spent too long believing in the negative opinions of others? What do you do to overcome your self-doubts? Do you believe life is too short to worry what other people think? Have you had a health scare that made you question your own mortality?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

This Writer's Life, Writing

Writing in Isolation.

alone atomic-bomb-966008_1280Firstly Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all have had a peaceful and well rested Christmas/New Year break.

Over the Christmas holidays, I’ve been reading The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism and Writer’s Block by Hillary Rettig. It came as a recommendation after reading Veronica Sicoe’s blog post Perfectionism is Murdering Your Muse (thank you Veronica 🙂 ). There was one particular chapter in the book that summed me up perfectly; that was a chapter on the ‘Trouble with Invisibility and Isolation’.

As a child, I grew up within a critical family, hence my desire to escape – be it through books, film or my own imaginative world. I had learned how to hide and now as an adult with children of my own, I continue to hide from the world. I find it difficult to tell anyone I’m a writer for fear of ridicule or sending my work out into the world, feeling that if I am rejected, it is proof that I’m not good enough as a writer and therefore a failure. The ridicule would therefore be justified. This leads to shame, then isolation and an awful lot of procrastination. It becomes an endless cycle.

In this situation it feels a bit like being the Tortoise in the Tortoise and the Hare. Sticking one’s head out every once in a while to see if the coast is clear before moving on. If anyone shows up, then back into our hole. I tend to apply this technique to both my writing and social media.

Perfectionists live with constant, excessive criticism, hence the continual need to procrastinate. I have been sitting on some of my work for years, going over them repeatedly, believing that they’re just not ready to send off. The reality is I’m just stalling, letting the fear and my internal bully control me. The negativity you have been fed for years automatically pops up in your head, constantly shouting down your need to progress and achieve something. It can become a daily struggle to overcome it and can even take many years. If anyone so much as praises me, I become embarrassed, highly sceptical and back into the hole I go; so strong is that internal bully.

The first step to ending the cycle is to acknowledge the problem and know that the internal bully is nothing but a liar. He wants you to fail and if you continue to procrastinate, he has succeeded in his goal. He becomes the winner and you have become the loser that he has always told you you are. Don’t give him that victory; you are the writer of your own destiny.

It has taken me many years and yes, progress has been slow, but I believe I am ready to make the next step. All I need do now is take that giant leap of faith.

Do you suffer from procrastination, perfectionism and/or isolation? What have you done to overcome it? What have you been reading over the Christmas break?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing

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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Image courtesy of Pixabay

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

Self Doubt: When a Stranger Calls.

Recently, I received an unwelcome visitor.  It felt like seeing someone you once knew, a past you would rather not see again – too much hurt; too many memories.  An uncomfortable feeling, but you just have to grin and bear it.  Such is the feeling of self doubt.

It is unnaturally patient, eagerly waiting for just the right moment to strike.  It lurks in the shadows; ever watchful, ever hopeful for that opportunity to arise.  The slightest slip-up and it whispers in your ear, slowly but surely convincing you that it knows better than you do.  It has won a small victory, for you take the bait and you are left alone to weather the storm.  Satisfied, it returns to the shadows waiting for another sign of weakness.

Once again, self doubt consumed me into an almost depressive state.  I couldn’t write; I spent my time as a couch potato or gazed out of the window as I considered a career change.  Yet, the only way of shutting off that inner critic is to continue writing.  I believe it is my only vocation; one that my little stranger will just have to get used to.

Image copyright Columbia Pictures

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!’