Cowboy up!

Writing is tough. It is. Authors put parts of their souls onto paper for people to critique or love or hate. The idiots that scoff and wave their hands and say writing is easy obviously have never tried. Not seriously anyway.

In a way, writing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. Even giving birth to my two children was easy compared to this. The pain was temporary and the joy is endless. Not so with a novel. You toil much and edit mercilessly for a manuscript that MIGHT get published or most likely, will get rejected.

I failed my challenge this month. I failed my 52k in May. I had a lot of life-changing shit going on so excuse me for not being able to concentrate on making my dreams come true. Even professional writers get reprieves for this kind of stuff.

I’m not as upset by this as I used to be. I used to beat myself up every NaNoWriMo I didn’t win. I realize now that there’s no rush to make this particular dream come true because I can get published at any age and there’s a whollleeeeee lot I need to learn before that can happen anyway.

The most important lesson I’ve learned over the last couple years is this:

Dust yourself off. Get on the bull again. Cowboy up!

Cowgirl…whatever.

I got knocked on my ass. I took a break despite many blogs advising against it. (Taking advice is another part of my journey I suppose.) Things are still shaky and weird and the writing momentum is completely lost. So now it’s time to build myself back up. I won’t be able to write 2K a day but I CAN write everyday. That’s more important anyway. Write until it becomes habit. It’s the foundation of every novelist.

This is one of the reasons I say writing is one of the hardest things to do, especially for nublets. Changing habits can be hard. Learning to set aside time to write and make it a priority when everything else is also pressing against you wanting to be number one priority as well is exhausting to sort out. It feels like when you bring one thing closer and focus on it, everything else goes to crap.

Exercise more and the house suffers.

Cook and eat healthier and the writing suffers.

Write more and the family suffers.

I bet you didn’t know you’d have to learn to juggle when you decided to become a writer huh? Yeah me either.

I know it’s all about balance and finding the routine that works for you. But even this can crumble under the overwhelming circumstances. So what do ya do?

COWBOY UP.

Get right back on it. Accept the fact you failed this time and you probably will many more times afterward. But never sink low enough to be a quitter. Remember this is the path you chose. You didn’t choose it because it was easy. You chose your dream and now you have to follow it.

“Does the walker choose the path or the path choose the walker?”~ Abhorsen, Garth Nix

Even if it’s by a thread, hang on. Face the fear of failure and conquer it by choosing everyday to write one word. Ten words. Five hundred words. Take a break if you need; reevaluate your priorities if you need. You can change the direction of your path. Just don’t quit on it completely.

My grip on this concept is tenuous at best right now. I remember when I started this I was going to have novels piled on more novels and I was going to make millions and put my girls through college. I was going to tour the US and Europe like J.K. Rowling and be famous and then take a sojourn to my little castle on a hill somewhere with my herd of Pit Bull doggies.

That’s still possible. It’s just a much farther off vision than I anticipated. I’m scared it won’t ever happen. But that’s why having a solid foundation of good writing practices is important. Start at the base and then build your pillars. If they fall down, build them again, stronger. And above all don’t EVER give up.

Just don’t.

COWBOY UP instead.

Work it, Craft it, Type it, Curse it, Fix it, Trash it, quick Upload it

(Credit for the picture goes to the amazing Chiara Bautista)

So… after two weeks of being bad and not updating my blog, this is what’s been happening.

I’m 35k behind in my NaNoWriMo endeavors this year as of today. Yep. Definitely not going to win. NO, it was NOT because of procrastination! I SWEAR!! I’ve been steadily typing and was even ahead of the game at one point! But this month, for some reason, FAMILY HAPPENED. They usually don’t. They usually leave me in peace and I’m free to be a hermit as long as I wish only fielding an occasional visit or phone call.

Well. Can’t help it.Can’t avoid it. Cupcakes needed to be baked for a nephew’s 5th birthday last-minute. Holiday cards needed to be crafted for commissions. Sister needed to come over and do laundry. Computer needed to be shared with the Husband. Chores needed to be done. Food needed to be cooked. Harry Potter needed to be read…

Now these SOUND like excuses. They’re really not (especially reading Harry Potter) because life happens and I can’t stop it, even for NaNo. It occurred to me that psychologically I should be feeling upset about this. I have an intense fear of failure and this is my 14 year WIP we’re talking about here. I should be quaking in my boots at deadlines and word counts and everything.

But I’m not.

In fact, I’m nearing acceptance that deadlines are rubbish as a beginning novelist, at least for me because all this is–this WHOLE BLOG and NaNo and all my half-written stories– are practice and they’re all going to suck. THEY ARE ALL GOING TO SUCK!!!

DID YOU HEAR ME???!! THEY SUCK!!

BUT! They will become better. WE will become better. Do you know how much stress you’ll save when you accept this? Let me tell you how much. It’s like passing Gall Stones or  having a baby. All you feel is relief and it makes the creative process go so much more smoothly.

When I become a famous published novelist I will worry about deadlines and procrastination. But I’m a nub. I don’t HAVE to worry about that! And all it took was one quote from Sir Terry Pratchett:

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story”~ Terry Pratchett

I birthed this blog from my fear of failure. I wanted a place where I could look back and see my journey, to learn from it, and maybe take some people along with me. I was/am afraid that nothing I write will ever be good enough, no matter how great the idea is. This set me free. (Thank you my dearly departed Terry! I love/hate you. You know why. But thank you).

Every time I get too much inside my own head I sit back and remember this quote. I give myself permission to suck first and write the story in my head. I received a comment along these lines from a reader on another blog post where he admitted he kept coming back to the unwritten story in his head, even after he’d given up on it and had written another trilogy instead. It was so perfect and the comment  made this process come full circle for me

I’ve decided I’m going to start here. RIGHT HERE. I’m going to write the story that comes to my fingers first because I know that if I don’t, it will always bother me.

Yes, it kind of contradicts what I’m trying to achieve by being a professional novelist and being all organized and impressive. But there’s no ONE WAY to do it. There are lots of ways to fail and succeed and I know enough about myself that I won’t conform to a rigid schedule. Gotta give the nub some slack 😉 That’s a lesson I was glad to learn, even if it took me 31 years. I’m glad I never listened to the “right advice” because it wouldn’t have meant as much as finding it on my own did.

Writers. We start out with a decision. That is we want to become published and share our stories with the world. After marveling at our temerity, we take the next step full of bravado while secretly cowering like a scared kitten among a pack of dogs. And we start on the journey trying to find the best way to do what we promised ourselves we’d do. So we try imitation. We try post-its, index cards, poster boards and time lines. We try the three act method, the four act method, the Excel chapter method, and many different versions of plot structure. We read the books and the blogs. We freak out about the actual process of publishing, table flip a couple of times and then take a brain-cation where we do nothing at all but watch old 90’s movies and eat bowls of chips.

Oh, you didn’t? It’s just me then? Well wherever your journey is taking you, I hope that you come to accept that you’re not perfect right out of the gate. Write your stories for yourself first. Write the wish-fulfillment, kill your ex-boyfriend, say all those witty one-liners you can never remember when you need them most. Write it all down for yourself and accept that it’ll suck, but you’ll make it better. Satisfy yourself as a writer and a reader first. There will me time for you, your editor and agent to pick apart your work later.

Let’s suck as writers together!!!!! Good luck all. Write on 🙂