Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Care And Feeding of a Writer - Perseverance

Christine Fonseca first shared these tips on her blog and was kind enough to agree to visit us as a guest today.
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Pulling Yourself Back From the Cliff

As writers, we’ve all been there – ready to throw in the towel and send our laptops flying. Maybe it’s the rejections inherent in any creative endeavor. Or maybe it’s the writer’s block that seems to have overtaken every writing moment. Whatever the reason, we have all found ourselves on the cliff ready to jump off.

So, what’s a writer to do?

Having faced my share of cliffs in my career, here are some of my tips for backing away from the edge:

•    Answer this question - Are You a Writer?
This is a critical first step. I not asking “Are you published?” or “Are you good enough?” I’m asking whether or not you’re a writer at all. Do you see the world as a series of scenes? Do you look at people in terms of their character traits? Do you remember good lines and think “I really need to use this in a story”? Is writing one of the top things on your  mind? And finally, do you still have something to say to the world?

If the answer is YES, than you are a writer!

•    Write.
If you answered yes to the first question, than what you really need to do now is write. Start small. Set little goals and focus purely on the act of writing – not whether or not you are writing the next BIG thing.

•    Set small, attainable goals.
Most writers I know set very lofty goals that are hard to achieve (I will finish this novel in 30 days). Or they set goals that take a very long time and involve things not in our control (I will find and agent and sell a book within xx years). These types of goals can backfire unless you also set small goals that you can achieve pretty quickly. It’s all about building momentum when you are carefully backing away from the cliff. Set goals that enable you to feel success quickly.

•    Redefine success.
This was another big one for me. If your definition of success only involves finding an agent and selling some books, you may find yourself frustrated often.  At least, this is true for me. Take the time to find other things by which you can gage your success. If you are querying, did your letter result in some requests? If you sent out partials, did any of them turn into fulls? Each step towards your dream is a HUGE accomplishment, so don’t downplay the journey.

•    Focus on the positives
There are plenty of things to get frustrated with in this business. The key, I think, is to find the POSITIVE things. Like the growth you’ve made as a writer. Or the connections you’ve made with other writers facing the same struggles.

•    Face your fears.
Writing is an interesting thing. It has the power to unlock some of your deepest darkest yuck that lurks inside - or maybe that’s just me. Regardless, pursuing your dreams in this business will require you to face some of your doubts and fears sooner or later. So, you need to be prepared. Personally, I think the only way to deal with the scary stuff is to walk straight through it. You have lots of supporters to help you on this path. Grab their hands, close your eyes, and move forward – no matter how hard it feels at times.

•    Take a break.
Yes, you want to cultivate the habit of writing. But, you need to temper that habit with living. If you are like me – an obsessive personality – this can be a daunting task. But, it is so very important to master! After all, if all you do is write, when will you live and find the ideas for your stories?

There you go, a few of the lessons I’ve learned facing the edge of some very high cliffs. What gets you through the hard parts of this business?

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School psychologist by day, YA and nonfiction author by night, Christine Fonseca believes that writing is a great way to explore humanity. Her books include Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students  (2010) and 101 Success Secrets For Gifted Kids  (2011). In addition to books about giftedness, Christine writes contemporary and fantasy fiction for teens. When she’s not writing, she can be found playing around on Facebook and Twitter. Catch her daily thoughts about writing and life on her blog.

Posted by Maryann Miller who loves to find great articles to share with the readers of The Blood Red Pencil. Maybe I won't ever have to write my own post here again. :) That will give me more time to finish the second book in the Seasons Mystery series. Open Season is the first book. It just came out in December and is already on it's third printing.

10 comments :

  1. It's incredible how applicable this is, not only to writing, but to athletics and multiple other endeavors. Thanks for sharing! :)

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  2. Great tips...I find the friendship of other writers will often save the day.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

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  3. Christine:
    This is really valuable advice. I hope a lot of writers see this. I'd like to add one more related tip, from my experience across arts genres:

    Realize that all bad feelings come and go. This is an important part of the artistic process. Without our yearning for something more than what we have, we would never put in the effort to write long-form work. Without our dissatisfaction with our efforts, we would never get any better.

    We need not give these negative feelings dominion over us, however. When they visit, as they will again and again, we must say, "Hello, old friend. What do you have to tell me this time?" The message now delivered, dismiss the feeling. There's no time to wallow about with your negative feelings-- you've got work to do!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your tips with us today, Christine. I'm glad folks are finding them helpful. And Kathryn, I really like yours, too. So often we don't know how to deal with those negative thoughts that come our way. I think creative people tend to have more of those than others. I often say my basic insecurity is my strongest credential for being a writer. LOL

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  5. Thanks you guys! I Love your addtion Kathryn. I do think that creative types are pretty intense emotionally as well.

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  6. I agree. Writers write. And stick to it, no matter what. Your personal view of success as a writer will be achieved if you write and persevere. It may take some time, but it will happen.

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  7. Ah, those writing cliffs! Great advice.

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  8. Hi, there! I just became a follower of this fabulous blog, and will be linking back to this article, in my own blog. I am an aspiring writer myself, and keep coming up against that cliff... I get discouraged very easily, start thinking negative thoughts, you name it! So thank you for sharing this!!

    Maria @ http://twilightandotherdreams.blogspot.com/

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  9. Here's the link to my post about this article:

    http://twilightandotherdreams.blogspot.com/2011/02/great-writing-advice.html

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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