Progress and Setbacks

I’ve made a huge leap forward. I am in the habit of writing again, and I honestly feel uncomfortable, and distracted if I haven’t written for a day. I skipped two days of writing last week because family life got in the way and I went to bed kind of upset with myself. Ended up writing even more the next project day and still felt like it wasn’t enough. I still wanted to write, and wanted my body and my schedule let me.

So, on the plus side, I have my neurosis back… the inability to put down a pen, and an insatiable desire to tell a story. In my case a computer and phone. I am now almost always thinking of things I can write. “Osiren’s Tears” is coming along nicely, and the next project, “Star Crossed” is a really interesting SF/romance that I am actually looking forward to writing (and refusing to let myself till ‘Osiren’ is done.)

So what’s the set back?

Since I have decided to make a concerted effort to publish, and be an author, not just a writer, I am having to deal with some other issues of my insecurities.

Writing itself, putting words on the page, was always easy for me. Words came, stories flowed, and I loved it. The reason I stopped writing all those years ago had absolutely nothing to do with the words. The words, and the stories, were still there. It had far more to do with acceptance.

I had several articles, short stories, and poems published in some magazines and e-zines a few years ago, but I never got paid for any of them even though the contract said I would. It was incredibly frustrating, and all the nice words from their fans, and even an award, wasn’t enough to make up for the fact that they never bothered to pay me. Wasn’t I worth the few dollars they promised me for all my hard work?

Couple this with my personal life…

I have found talking about some of the things from my past to be cathartic. Sometimes I’ll hear from others who lived through similar things. Sometimes I’ll just get some kind words. Other times it just feels good to get it off my chest.

So… I was told often, and repeatedly, for years, that I would never amount to anything. That no one would ever love me. That everyone who even talked to me just wanted to use me. They didn’t care about me, didn’t care what I did, what I said, or what I thought. And I was often put in situations that reinforced those ideas.

So now when I look at that brand new shiny microphone I just bought and say to myself “I could just say hello to people”… Some quiet part of my soul screams from the shadows “No! Don’t humiliate yourself like that!”

That voice wins far too often for my comfort.

Here is the gist…
I’m scared.
I’m terrified!

Every time I finish a book I look for reasons not to publish it because then I don’t have to get bad reviews. I don’t have to feel rejected. Or hurt. Or afraid. Worrying that no one will ever buy it, ever read it, or ever care what I have to say.

It is hard to divorce yourself from the work, let it go, and say… do your worst!

The Past Hurts Sometimes

I spent much of my childhood trying to do “the right thing”. How does a child even know what the right thing is?

I knew that if I did certain things at certain times I’d get a little more attention from my parents. But they were so busy with everything in their lives that they really didn’t have all that much time for me.

It seems a silly thing to complain about sometimes. You see children who have no food, or suffer incredible abuse. My parents just didn’t have any time for me.

I spent a great deal of time alone. To clarify, I have two sisters. We didn’t get along very well. I found it easier to just spend my time outside, away from them, and avoid arguments.

I spent so much time trying to make my parents happy, and proud of me that even the small things hurt. Once I made dinner for my family. I usually did because both of my parents worked. I think I was 14 at the time. Steak, mashed potatoes, and some sort of vegetable.

My dad took one bight of it and got very unhappy. You could see the disapproval oozing off him. He was mad at me because I didn’t put any spices on the food. I forgot. I never ate spices on food, and I forgot. And he told me how bad dinner was, how horrible it was.

I learned a long time ago that I was never going to be able to please the people around me. And then I got married.

New mother, new baby, new home, and I cleaned the entire house. Even got on my knees and hands to scrub the kitchen floor because we didn’t have a mop. My husband came home. I thought he’d be so happy with me… No, there were things up on top of the computer case stashed out of the way that I hadn’t gotten too. The rest of the two bedroom apartment was clean, but there was paper up on top of that case. He was so disappointed in me, and I was that little girl trying to get approval. Trying so hard to earn someone’s love.

It took me a long time to learn that you can’t, and shouldn’t EARN someone’s love. Love is a gift you give. Love is free. Love is beautiful. It is full of hope and joy, and all those wonderful things of acceptance.

And even now, at 35 and trying to start something brand new I feel myself shutting down. Hurting. Afraid to try and earn someone’s love and attention. Will they like my books? Will they care? Will it affect anyone?

Who knows. And I shouldn’t care. I should be doing this because I love the writing, not because I’m trying to find that illusive acceptance somewhere.

My parents will never be proud of me. I accepted that years ago. And my life is saner now without them in it.

My husband would never be satisfied with anything I did. So I divorced him. And I have been happier without him.

But you can’t close yourself off from the world. You can’t satisfy the world. You have to satisfy yourself before you can do anything else.

That’s my struggle every day. Somewhere inside I am just that little girl still trying to find approval. And I suppose I always will be.

Creating in a Vacuum

I was listening to the last Self Publishing Podcast again and something Sean said at the begining stuck out.

While talking about giving a speaking presentation in front of 500 people he said it had been difficult for the first couple of minutes, but when you have that many people laughing at your jokes together its hard to be nervous.

Most creative people, be they writers, artists, or even some game designers, tend to work in a vacuum. We don’t have someone reading our copy as it comes off the press. We don’t have someone pointing out that the color is off, or the grammar is bad, or the game is amazing and “Can I play it please?”

The same thing that makes it appealing (no boss, no scheduled  no deadlines) also makes it sometimes frustrating, and can even help that age old “writers block” come on us. Don’t let it.

As NaNoWriMo approaches I find myself gravitating to some of the forums in order to make that vacuum of space around my writing just that little bit fuller. There I can talk to other writers, tell them my struggles, and get inspiration, or tell them my successes and inspire someone else.

There are other ways to fill the vacuum. Joining writers groups, or discussion boards. Going to writer Meetups. Just making friends who are in the same situation helps a lot.

Enjoy NaNo. Keep sane. And WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!

“Has anyone been afraid to write their own novel?”

This was a question on Reddit not long ago. There was a lot of discussion, and some good personal stories. I thought I’d share my answer. I added some extra notes that I didn’t put on the original post.

*** *** ***

Yes.

About 10 years ago I got traditionally published (a few articles, some poetry, even a short story) in magazines and zines. I was suppose to get paid, but never actually did. (This was due to some confusion about foreign checks, and my bank which hadn’t ever seen one before.)

Then there was my marriage. It was falling apart around me and I wasn’t feeling confident about anything anymore.

So one part said my writing wasn’t good enough to actually get paid, and there was my marriage that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough for anything.. I ended up quitting writing for 8 years.

Every time I looked at my manuscripts during that time I would freeze up. The ideas were their, the stories were fully formed in my head, but I had been convinced that I could never possibly do it myself. I even went so far as to look into ghost writers or collaborations a few times to no avail.

In the end I had to learn to trust myself again, and my writing. After the divorce I started working on little bits here and there, trying to get myself to work more each day. It wasn’t easy.

I started showing small bits to people, and they encouraged me often. Told me how great it was. Showed me where I could improve. Gave me honest feedback and criticism.

Lets be honest. Your first draft is going to be terrible. It always is. Even Stephen King has to completely rewrite stuff now and then. But that’s what edits are for. (Note I said “edits”, not “editors”. There is a HUGE difference.)

Don’t let your subconscious take away from what you truly love. And don’t let anyone else tell you differently. The mechanics of writing can be learned. It’s the passion, and the gift of a good story, that make a true writer.