For the past few weeks I had been doing well with my writing. I had finally found the ‘voice’ for one of my protagonists, yet after taking an unscheduled break, I found myself hitting a wall. I had lost my ‘mojo’, and with it my confidence.
I had always believed that what prevented me from writing was fear, yet I could never actually put a finger on what exactly that fear was. What actually prevents me from writing is a lack of confidence – a fear that has always been my life-long battle. It is a difficult one to overcome because it can affect you physically as well as mentally. It has prevented me from doing many things, yet writing and putting my work out there has always remained constant, therefore it is a battle I wish to overcome.
Here are some of the ways I’ve tried to avoid these problems:-
- No-one is going to see what you’ve written first time around. Don’t waste time on getting everything perfect straight away – the important thing is just to write it down.
- Remind yourself that other people have been published. If they can do it, so can you!
- If you have been praised for some of your earlier efforts (preferably by strangers), hold on to that praise – use it to keep you motivated.
- Read about other people’s efforts, whether they be novels, blogs, articles or on social networks. Every writer had to start somewhere – use their successes to help fuel your inspiration.
- Find some good writing quotes and keep them where you can see them – keep your thoughts positive.
- You know as well as I do that there are some books out there that in hindsight could have been a whole lot better. If these books can get published, so can yours. You just need to make sure your work is the best it can be.
- Work on various projects simultaneously – it stops you from going ‘stale’ and keeps you motivated.
- Read books on writing or self-help books, like The Power of Positive Thinking.
- Surround yourself with other writers; get some beta readers, an accountability buddy. Talk about your feelings and your writing. Other writers have been in the same position – listen to their advice.
- Above all else – write! The more you write, the more confident you will become. The only way to get better at something is to keep practicing.
What are some of the ways in which you overcome your fears?
For the past few months, my husband and I have had to deal with such a shoddy business, we wonder how they have remained in business for so long. I won’t bore you with the details, but it made me think of the business side of writing. I have read that writing should be treated like a business, rather than trying to win the lottery. Treat writing more seriously, and you will be taken seriously.
This is what I have learnt about being in business, staying in business and how it can be applied to writing:-
- Treat your customers with the respect they deserve; without them, you have no business. It comes in handy before you start writing to know who your customers are and what they’re interested in. You then know who and what to aim for. You’ll understand their needs and will be placed in a better position on how best to serve them.
- Be polite to your customers and keep them informed with what is happening. Keep customers informed by websites, blogs and social networks and make sure they are updated regularly. Do not let the customer have to chase you. Present yourself in a friendly, helpful manner – this will help endear you to your readers. By taking a blase attitude of ‘if you don’t like it, go somewhere else’, then chances are your readers will.
- You are there to supply a service – customers expect it of you to provide that service. There is no point in providing a service that you yourself are not interested in, nor can you possibly remain in business if you do not do your job properly, or even at all. Nobody; readers and editors alike will want to bother with you.
- Do not make promises you can not keep. If you have trouble with something, it’s easier to be honest about it, rather than letting editors wonder what is going on or leaving your readers wonder when your next book is coming out. If you can’t do something or deliver on time, say so and stop wasting people’s time.
By providing a top quality customer service, you’ll ensure an honest working relationship with editors and a loyal following with your readers.
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Recently I was asked to become a beta reader for a friend on-line. I jumped at the opportunity, but at the same time was uncertain on what exactly a beta reader was. I soon discovered it was just a fancy way of saying ‘critique partner’!
I’ve critiqued before, but not enough to confidently voice my own opinions onto other people’s work (and thus I’m still quite hesitant on getting my own work critiqued). Pushing such thoughts aside, I threw myself into the task, and felt a bit like a teacher with the red pen. In the end, I believed I analysed the work the best I could within a tight schedule (this was between assignments) and throughout the process, I thought of my own works in progress.
Here’s how becoming a beta reader helped me analyse my own writing:
- Are my characters actions and reactions plausible? Are they more than just cardboard cutouts?
- Could the setting be somewhere else or does the setting actually fit into the story? Two of my novels are set in two different suburbs of western Sydney– is this evident within each of these novels?
- Plot development – does it flow easily from one chapter to the next? Is it plausible?
- Do I have enough description to help maintain an understanding of the characters surroundings? Do I have an even balance between description and plot, so that the reader isn’t bogged down with too much description?
- Is there an even balance between dialogue and narrative? Does each characters dialogue sound authentic?
I’m now becoming more confident in being a beta reader and plan to have my own work critiqued in the not-too-distant future. I’ve come to learn that becoming a beta reader can help make me become a better writer.
I have never really been one to embrace change. There are times when I am quite content to just sit back and let everything stay the same. On the down side, however, this can get rather boring and such circumstances will not allow me to grow as a human being.
During these school holidays there have been a number of changes in my life that have changed the way I look at things in my personal life as well as my writing. Here are some examples:-
- There is no point in worrying about what is out of your control.
- Only you get to decide what you plan to do in life.
- There will be times when people refuse to see anybody else’s point of view other than their own. They make their decisions and learn to live with it.
- No matter how hard you try, you can’t please everybody.
- Not everything is as it seems.
I have been busy looking inwards, thinking of who I am as a writer and where the journey will take me. I’m looking forward to the journey, knowing that change will do me good.
How willing are you to embrace change for the better?
2011 is shaping up to be a personal year for me. Events have taken place that I feel compelled to write about them and others throughout my childhood. Writing personal essays has now become a part of my writing agenda.
I have been reading books on essays, including Writing from Personal Experience by Nancy Davidoff Kelton and Writing Articles from the Heart by Marjorie Homes. I have found them both helpful and motivating and I have since compiled a list of possibilities to write about. Reading these books have also helped with my novels.
My first novel begins with a hit and run accident. I was left wondering if my writing sounded convincing enough when revealing the emotions of my characters. It was not until I was going over my personal experiences that I discovered I must have had some kind of repressed memory. I was in primary school when my grandfather was hit by a truck. He died instantly. Images and emotions of the days that followed flashed through my mind. I did know about such an event; I know how that feels. I feel I can now do my re-writes with more confidence.
It’s also funny how timing comes into our lives. Through my husband’s work, he forwarded on a link to a Victorian Roads commercial. This video is both graphic and confronting, yet it brings the message home. It, too, has allowed me to focus on the emotions and the people who are left behind. Since watching this video, I have discovered that looking outside the box is a helpful tool.
As Nancy Davidoff Kelton writes in her book: ‘Writing isn’t about going far. It’s about going far within’.
How far are you willing to travel?
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.
Recently I received the news that someone I know was getting published. Now, normally I wouldn’t have a problem with this scenario. Being a writer myself, I know how tough it can be. This particular case was a bit more closer to home, which brought out the green-eyed monster.
From my own experience I have also taken years to write the rough drafts for three of my own novels, however, my novels are still not of a high enough standard to send out to publishers. I began wondering why my novels were taking so long and asked myself ‘when is enough editing and re-writing enough’? Clearly, I was being unreasonable and too hard upon myself. This is what I did to overcome it:-
- I began telling myself that everyone’s road to publication is different. For some authors, they may have been writing only a few short years before they become published; others can take a great many years.
- I listened to music and went for walks. Exercising gave me time to think clearly and rationally, while music helped to cheer me up and de-stress.
- I shared my feelings with fellow writers. My writer’s group meets casually once a month, so this is where social networks really do help.
- I tried to stay positive, recalling what others have said about my writing. For example, a writing teacher once wrote that I had ‘great potential’ – something she didn’t see in many of her students, a member from my writer’s group said that my ‘writing was good. You’ll get published one day; it’s only a matter of time’. Stop the negative and embrace the positive.
- I began writing. The only way around a problem, is to work your way through it. To get better at writing, one must keep writing. Being a perfectionist, I need to realise that my rough drafts are bound to ‘suck’, but I will be the only person to see it in that form. Rough drafts can always be fixed.