Stressed out about overworrying about being anxious

Stress

I’m an incredibly anxious person. I over worry about everything. For example, I once panicked about what I was going to wear on a flight to interview for a job in Oregon… BEFORE I had even submitted my job application for the position. I’m always thinking 15 steps ahead, and at least 13 of those steps are worst case scenarios and what could go wrong.

I live with the constant thought that people always hate it when I text or email them because I’m bothering them. I worry that I responded too quickly to a message; I worry that I responded too slowly to a message and that either option means I’m a lost cause and this person will no longer respect or like me. I wake up some mornings with a sense of doom that wraps around my neck like a wool scarf suffocating me in the middle of July.

I stress out about what’s going to happen today, tomorrow, in a month, a year, ten years, twenty years. I panic about the imaginary things I haven’t done yet, and I worry that the things I have done, I’ve done all wrong somehow. I worry that every time I mess up even in the slightest, that I’ve doomed myself forever and should just go shove my head in the ground and hide.

It’s an exhausting way to live, and sometimes it flares up in wickeder than usual ways that leave me ill, depressed, and a general mess who just wants to lock myself in my room so I don’t have to interact with anyone.

Sometimes I can write my way through it, and other times I’m so worried that what I’m writing is awful, and therefore I’m awful that I can barely write a sentence. One of the things I struggle with as a writer is building high enough conflicts because tension worries me (yes even fictional tension) and I just want things to go smoothly which doesn’t make for compelling stories exactly.

I write this not because I want coddling or anything like that (and I worry immensely that’s what this post will be taken as), but because I know it’s a problem, and I’m not going to continue to hide from it, instead I’m working on ways to manage it.

  • I run, walk, or just jump in circles in my room.
  • I send a message to someone I admire and tell them why they’re amazing.
  • I look through a folder of all of the things I have accomplished.
  • I keep track of what I do every day, and praise myself for finishing things.
  • I do yoga or just lay on the floor and listen to the sounds of a thunderstorm.

Sometimes these work, some days it’s like trying to run from a swarm of killer bees that I can already feel digging into my skin. No day is perfect, and I’ve come to accept that and to try to not (hahahaha) worry about it.

I know I spend most of my time on this blog talking about writing, but this is a part of my writing (and every day life) that I don’t mention much, and I feel like it’s time to own it. Writing on some days is like trying to wade through a locust swarm in my gut that’s constantly trying to devour me from the inside out. But the things I want to write help me make it through the storm and to the other side where I can see the non-bug-infested light again.

I wish there were some piece of advice, some great tip from a self-help book that I could pass along, but the truth is, I just sort of throw a dart towards where I want to go and blindly push forward through locust swarms and all. Some days I lay down and let the bugs crawl all over me, and some days I walk through beautiful sunlight. But at the end of the day I try to do the best I can with what I’ve got going on, and to just keep pushing forward. You’re not alone.

Cut the crap

The process of editing.

The process of editing and rewriting.

Cutting words from your work can suck. It can, without a doubt, be one of the toughest parts of the writing process, especially when you either a) have to cut a lot of words/pages  b) have to add a lot of words/pages or c) to cut huge sections and redo them.

Figuring out what can stay and what can go is one of the challenges of making your story the strongest it can be. Here are a  few things that can help (and by the way, making gifs on Photoshop is a great way to waste time but an awful way to get editing done.) These are basically things that I do once I have a first draft of a story.

  1. See what words you frequently use.

You can use wordle to create word clouds of your text and examine what words show up the most by how large they appear (and what words in general appear). For an example here’s a wordle cloud of text from a short story I am currently editing.

Wordle

With words: like, back, go and think appearing I know there’s still work to do.

Another great way to check this is to use wordcounter which will create a list that shows you exactly how many times a certain word has been used.  Here’s the same story’s results with wordcounter.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 1.22.55 PMI think wordcounter is more practical but I just love how pretty wordle is.

2. Cut any scene that isn’t moving the story forward.

Even if you have written the best description of a thunderstorm ever to have been written, if it isn’t advancing your story then it needs to go. This can be one of the hardest parts and I usually try to save these little gems in a graveyard word document.

One way to find these scenes is to re-read your story and mark the sections you start to skim over. A better way to do this is to ask a friend to mark the sections they skimmed through. If people aren’t reading those sections then something’s wrong and it needs to hit the floor or be reworked.

3. Read your work out loud.

If you stumble, then highlight that section and go back to look at it later, but read your work out loud. You can even ‘cheat’ and have your computer read it to you; this can really highlight areas that are awkward or that drag forever.

4. Check your beginning.

A lot of times the beginning of your story will need to be cut because you started too soon and have too much just meandering until the story actually begins. You can also have the opposite problem where you start the story too late and need to go back and add information. Look at your beginning very carefully when editing.

5. Check your timeline.

Most of the time when I edit, I realize that I have three sun rises in one day, or four Sundays in a week. I’ve started writing out what happens day by day in an old planner to keep myself in line, but checking your timeline is crucial to a good edit.

 

Those are just a very, very few things that I do when I’m going through my first draft. What kind of techniques do you use?

 

HeroesCon 2014

So I am safely back from HeroesCon in Charlotte, NC and let me start off by saying that I had an incredible time. I was fortunate enough to get to go with a friend who has family nearby and we stayed at their place and could take the Charlotte train to the convention every day.

Arriving and finding the place was easy-peasy. We picked up our badges and were on our way. It was a lot bigger than I thought, and the main hall was a little overwhelming with all of the things there.

Day one arrival!

Day one arrival!

Overhead view of the main hall.

Overhead view of the main hall.

Some of the most amazing artists were there, just incredible artwork everywhere. There were also tons of comics, and just pure excitement everywhere you looked.

I also got to meet up with friends John Hartness and Shane Berryhill (and you should totally go check them out because they rock). There were some incredible panels by the writers of Marvel and of Image.

However, the highlight for me had to be meeting Kelly Sue Deconnick. I’ve admired her comics for a while, and she’s constantly inspiring me to do more and work harder. She’s got a great text system set up (check out #bgsd to learn more) and it really gives me a huge boost every time a message pops up from it.

I told her that she is one of the people who keeps me motivated to write. I gave her a copy of The Bone Queen and in exchange she gave me a wonderful hug.

Me and Kelly Sue Deconnick

Me and Kelly Sue Deconnick

After meeting Kelly Sue I headed into the line to get her husband, Matt Fraction, to sign my copy of Sex Criminals. He was way nicer and more awesome than I expected, asking me about what my degree was in and loving the fact that I told him I realized I didn’t need any kind of MFA to actually write anything.

I then got to go to my first Carol Corps panel which was awesome. The Carol Corps are a group inspired by Captain Marvel and they are by far one of the kindest, most open and welcoming groups I’ve ever met.

When the day was all over, my friend and I hoped onto the train and headed home. On the ride back, we ran into a family. The young mother was thrilled by my Marvel themed skirt and bag and gushed about superheroes. We told her all about the convention and she started asking her husband about going. He asked us how much it cost, and that’s when I made a pretty easy decision. I passed my pass over to her and told her to go enjoy it tomorrow for free, and my friend gave her pass to her husband so they could both go enjoy it without worrying about the cost.

I sincerely hope they made it over on Sunday and had an awesome time with their kids.

All and all Heroescon has become one of my favorite conventions. It’s big without being overwhelming, and incredibly well organized.

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I’ve been tagged by the awesome Meghan for the My Writing Process Blog Tour. I’m really excited (and slightly scared) to answer these questions and play along! So, let’s go!

 

1. What Am I Working On?

Currently I am editing a Lewis Carroll inspired short story called “Rain, Rain” and writing a short haunted house story. I’m having a lot of fun with both of them and am just very pleased with myself because both of these stories I was very concerned would turn out awful, and neither one has! Whoo!

I just finished the really ugly zero draft of my project “Blessed” which is a YA novel about a hot-headed superhero in training who learns there is nothing she won’t do to save her mother, even if it means teaming up with a supervillain. It’s a hot mess of a draft but I’m really proud of myself for sticking with it and finishing.

I’m also working on a few other short stories, but those are still in the ‘thinking about it’ phase.

2. How Does My Work Differ From Others of Its Genre?

With a lot of the pulp stories I write, I think that I add in a female voice that has been lacking, and tell stories that look at things in a little bit different of a way. I think everyone has an interesting way of looking at the world and I’m happy to share mine around me. I’m not afraid to blur the lines, and to dance around with various genres from horror to romance.

I don’t like excessive amounts of gore and I have a fondness for bones and bright colors. Colorfully morbid is the best way I’ve been described and I think that translate beautifully into my writing.

 

3. Why Do I Write What I Do?

Because I don’t know what else to do? I never know how to answer questions like these because the only reason is that I write what I write because those are the stories I’m excited about, and that I want to see. I try to write things I would like to read and that excite me, sometimes I miss the mark and sometimes I nail it, but I always try to get the words on the page to share what I see.

 

4. How Does My Writing Process Work?

I use to try to set up a specific writing process. I’d light a candle, make a cup of tea, and sit at my desk, but what I started to realize was that all I was doing was complicating everything. Now I have a simple trick: when I have time I sit down and write. I write until I reach at least 1000 words then I take a break and reward myself. Sometimes, I’ll make a deal that I can’t eat dinner until I’ve written 1000 words, and I can’t shower until 2000 words.

I try to reward myself for working and staying on task. I use timers and race to see how many words I can get in during a period of time. The main thing that I do is write every day, even though some days I just write out a plan of what I want to write over the next few weeks.

Generally speaking I write with a soundtrack for whatever I’m working on, and I work from beginning to end making changes as I go in the first draft. I’m very much a ‘get it all on the page right this second’ person and then I’ll go back to edit. I’ve tried doing things out of order by writing the end first but it just doesn’t work for me and I end up confusing myself about what’s going on.

Lately I’ve been more organized about what I write. I track the number of words I write every day and log my total word count for the week, this has really helped me see how much I can do and to schedule accordingly. I even have a little system where I give myself a gold star sticker on the calendar for every day I write more than 1000 words. It’s kind of lame, but it works for me.

HOWEVER, writing processes can change all the time and what works for one story, might not work for the next. People change all the time so never be afraid to shake up your routine and try a new way of doing things. You might learn something else works way better than your usual method.

 

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Now here’s where I’m suppose to tag someone to do this but almost every single one of my friends has already done this, so… if you’re reading this and have a blog consider yourself TAGGED!

 

To participate, write a blog post next week and…

  • Acknowledge the person and the site who invited you into the tour (that’d be me and you’d link back to this post.)
  • Label your post as part of the My Writing Process Blog Tour.
  • Answer these same four questions about your writing process in the post.
  • Nominate and link to up to three people to participate who would then post their answers the week after yours.
  • Let me know in the comments if you’re going to participate, so I can add your link to this post.

Another Year Older and Half-A-Day Wiser

Today’s my birthday… and this year it’s on a Friday the 13th AND a full moon which means all my creepy kid tendencies are super stoked!

Every year on my birthday I try to think about what I’ve learned over the year, what’s changed, and what in the world did I even do? Time feels like it’s flying by faster and faster (seriously, wasn’t it 2013 just a few days ago?) and it’s hard to even think about a year ago some days. In fact most days I still view myself as a 16 year old floundering through high school and wonder who in the world gave me permission to be an adult.

So, a quick year in review!

I’ve been at my day job for just over a year and it’s going awesomely. I work with some amazingly fun people and rather enjoy my job. There’s definitely a lot of changes happening so it’ll be interesting to see what the next year brings!

 

Bone Queen Cover

The Bone Queen!

I had my first stand alone work published in October. Yay The Bone Queen! And honestly I think I totally flopped on a lot of the marketing aspects for it. This year has definitely taught me that I need to work on that whole self-promotion thing in the future. But overall, the process of writing a book and going through the process of first draft to published was a really helpful and eye-opening experience.

Capes & Clockwork Cover

Capes & Clockwork

A short story came out in the really fun collection Capes and Clockwork and I had a blast writing a superhero steampunk story. This is one of the stories I’ve had the most fun writing and I’m really excited to be able to create a second story with Rowan and Bee in the future. It was a great experience all around and everyone who worked on it has been incredibly helpful and supportive.

Over the past few months I’ve started submitting stories out to open calls again which has been both a really nerve racking and a really fun prospect. So far nothing but rejections, but they’ve all been personalized rejections so that gives me hope that an acceptance is around the corner!

I wrote my longest work to date at 65,000 words, and I’m incredibly proud of myself for finishing. It has a beginning, a middle and an end, and is the whole story. It’s an ugly mess, but I finished it. I’ve written more words on other projects, but they were never finished, they just went on forever, so for me finishing this project means a lot. Whether it goes anywhere in the future is yet to be seen, but even if it just sits on the shelf forever: I FINISHED IT!

I’ve also started working out again and doing yoga and that has been amazing. I feel stronger and better and am remembering just how important the body is.

So all and all, it’s been an awesome year so far. I’ve got some amazing friends all around me, and the potential to just keep moving on up.

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ME!

 

Patient Zero- The first draft

I’ve been working away on my latest work in progress, and just crossed the 60,000 word mark last night. I’m hoping to finish it up before the end of this week.

At first I thought I was writing my first draft. And I suppose in a way I am, aside from my outline, this is the first time these characters have seen the light of the page and the first time I’ve told this story to anyone. But, about halfway through, the story veered in a direction I hadn’t seen. I realized I needed to change a major character and rework my main character and the plot in a big way.

For about a day I just stared at this mess of a draft and considered just starting it over again and making all the changes.

I’ve been down that road plenty of times before where I write the first 20,000 words over and over and over in a perpetual groundhog’s day loop of writing.

Instead of sending myself into that kind of hell, I decided to just make a note to myself (set aside with XXX) and keep going as if those changes had already been made.

What this means is that a minor character named Virgil became a main character at word 31,008, and that a main character named Darcy completely disappeared at 40,000 and I never backtracked to fix the words behind them. I’ve even gone back and rechanged the changes I made. So maybe for about 3000 words, Darcy existed again and then was erased for good.

This draft is going to be a mess when I finish, like a Frankenstein monster sewn together with hands on his head instead of ears, and eyes for a belly button. It’s ugly, and gross and going to have to be ripped to pieces to be put back together again. That’s why I’ve decided to call it a zero draft, and not a first draft.

But now that I’m nearing the end of this story, I feel more confident in the characters, in the voice and the story I’m telling. It’s changed drastically, and that’s okay. I’m sure it will change a dozen more times before it’s ready to be unleashed onto the world as a (mostly) right-side together Frankenstein.

The advice I most frequently people at any of the writing panels I’ve been on is to finish what you start, but I’m terrible at following my own advice. I want my first draft to be a perfect story and that just can’t happen (at least not with the way I write) so I make do with what I can make. I paint in the lines as best as I can, and then I go back and clean up.

This now hangs above my desk as a gentle NUDGENUDGE in bright blue.

This now hangs above my desk as a gentle NUDGENUDGE in bright blue.

So, draft zero I hope you’re ready to be finished off…and don’t worry, I’ll get your foot out of your eye socket soon.

Promise.

But is it organic?

Every time I try to start eating healtheir, more fruits, and veggies, walking and running and yadda yadda it always turns out that I then feel guilty because I’m not doing enough. Maybe I’m eating veggies but are they from my local farmer AND organic? Am I juicing and meditating? Well then I’m not doing it right because I should be doing it better.

 

I get disappointed, and slide off back into the land of mac and cheese and french fries for every meal.

This always makes me think about writing, I get on a streak, writing every day and I’m proud of myself but then invariably I see someone writing more, doing more and I start to slide, thinking why am I not doing more? I start to feel lazy, and unproductive, and from there it’s easy to start slacking on my words, and projects.

Depression creeps in, and I start writing less and less because I feel like a failure because I’m not doing it ‘right’ whatever the hell that is. I worry about the ways I could be doing better and end up doing nothing for fear of not getting it right.

I still fight with this feeling, with eating healthy, and with writing. When I do something, I like to do right, and perfectly. But slowly, I’m starting to realize that I can’t be perfect and great at everything. I can find what works for me, and stick with that. Reading advice and tips that have worked for other people might help, but at the end of the day, I have to live with me and what I’m doing whether it works for someone else or not.

Some things that have worked for me:

Calendar with stars

Shiny stars!!

Keeping track of my daily word count. Every litle shiny star represents 1000 words written that day. It’s a little grad school, but it’s great looking at the calendar and seeing all those stars and knowing they represent words written!

 

CHECK BOXES!

CHECK BOXES!

I love to-do lists so putting my writing goals in a to-do list format is awesome! I really love this app Wunderlist because it syncs across all my devices, and you can seperate everything into seperate lists and add sub-tasks. (PS now you can see what I’m working on, exciting!)

 

So those are just a few things that work for me and make me feel like I’m getting stuff done. What are some things that work for you whether they’re ‘organic’ or not?

REJECTION!!

One of the things almost every writer will run into is rejection. The dreaded ‘thanks but no thanks’ form letter that crushes souls and dreams of writers everywhere. I’ve written before about why I actually don’t mind rejection letters, but that doesn’t mean they don’t also suck.

You send your little word baby out into the world and someone kicks it back home. Now, sometimes the word baby comes back with a note attached, “pretty eyes, but too long” “great personality, but not for us” and so on. These notes are awesome. Personalized rejections are a great thing to get.

Most of the time your word baby will have a simple form letter stapled to its face. “Thank you for submitting to xyz. Our editors read your story and decided it was not appropriate for xyz. Thank you” or something of that sort.

Now, here’s what should do after you get any kind of rejection:

1. Read it, record it, and move on

Read it once. Twice at most, and then either delete it or put it in a file where you can’t easily see it. You don’t need to read it over and over again stressing about every word in that email and trying to find some hidden meaning in it. Read it, record it, and move on. (You should be keeping track of everywhere you’re sending your stories so make note of when you received the rejection and what it said.)

2. If you got feedback, add it to the story

Now right after a rejection, you might be a little too unhappy to dive immediately into the story, and that’s cool. But if you get a particular suggestion from an editor then copy and paste it into your file so you can look at it later. A lot of these suggestions will be very helpful, especially once you’re not stinging from the BURN OF REJECTION.

3. Do something

If a rejection notice really gets under your skin, go do something physical. Run, box, dance naked around your house, take a bubble bath and play battle ship with the shampoo bottle. Just go do something and get that energy out. It will help calm you down.

4. Look for other places to submit

There are tons of calls out there and you can almost always find another home for your little word baby. If you think your story is solid, then go ahead and resubmit it out to a new market. Just make sure you record it.

5. WRITE MORE

This is kind of an always sort of thing, but don’t let a rejection keep you from getting writing done. Get back to writing and putting words on paper.

 

Things you should NOT do.

1. Write an email back

DO NOT RESPOND TO THE REJECTION. Especially if your instinct is to respond by spitting acid across the internet in an attempt to dissolve said editor person. BAD WRITER. NO. Do not send an angry email or demand to know how they could possibly deny you. Unless the rejection email specifically asks for something, for instance, “This wasn’t quite right for us but we like your voice. Do you have anything else?” or if you are asked to make revisions and resubmit. Then by all means respond, but otherwise, let it go and do not scream into the void.

2. DO NOT BLAST THE COMPANY

Professionalism is the name of the game and professionalism doesn’t go on screaming rants about that terrible dumb company that dared to reject MOI! This also applies to bad reviews. Just do not engage. Rant to friends, family, dogs, cats, lost circus bears, etc. but do not put that in writing and send it out into the universe. It’s been said a million times, but publishing is smaller than you think and a lot of people will see your meltdown.

3. DO NOT GIVE UP FIVEEVER

I know that being told no, especially being told no over and over can be disheartening. It can be enough to make you want to hang up your writing shoes (writing mittens? Writing hands? What the hell do writers wear?) and give up. DON’T. If you need to take a day or two to  be devastated, that’s fine, but don’t stop. DON’T EVER STOP. (*que Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing montage here*)

 

Now from here you can send that little word baby out to a new potential home; scrap that story and shelf it for a while; or you can pull out your seam rippers and cut ‘er open and see what’s wrong. If a story has been rejected multiple times, it’s probably time for a little bit of surgery to see what’s not ticking quite right. Take any feedback you’ve gotten and see if it fits, let a new person read it and see what they think. Play, tinker and create. THAT’S YOUR JOB.

Rejection is a part of the game. It’s a crappy part, but rejection means you’re out there doing your damnedest and that deserves some celebration. Getting a rejection means you’re out there trying, and working at it. People who never finish anything never get rejections so you’re that much further ahead. GO YOU!

So here’s to you and to all your past, present and future rejection letters!

Dear new graduate…

I know a ton of people who graduated from various levels of schooling this weekend (congrats all you awesome people!) and I wanted to take the chance to post a letter that I wish someone had given me when I graduated from college with my bachelors.

… continue reading this entry.

Patience aka WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY BOOK NOW?

Patience is probably one the virtues I wish I was better at. Writing is a slow process THAT TAKES FOREVER AND WHY CAN’T I HAVE MY BOOK NOW?

Depending on how fast you write, finishing the first draft of a single short story can take a month or more, and if you start working on a longer piece… that can drag on for years (just don’t be one of those people who is ‘working on a novel’ without ever writing a word, okay? Get it on paper.). You finally get the story done and stare at your lovely, little word blob and then it just magically becomes a book instantly. That’s a new mac attachment clearly, the iPublishnow.

Truth: ALL OF THAT WRITING ISN’T EVEN THE HALF OF IT.

After you finish that first steaming draft full of problems and trouble THEN you have to go back and edit, and sometimes rewrite it. And you do this step over and over and over. Until your eyes sizzle and coffee drizzles from your nose.

After that, you submit it off into the wild blue-green yonder where it either a) goes off to an agent to look for representation b) goes to a publisher (and probably the BUMBUMBUM slush pile) or c) self-pub baby!

(okay, those are not every option ever available for a writer, but let’s just stick with those three for simplicity’s sake, kay?)

From here, everything requires more steps.

AKA No don’t just type THE END and throw it up on Amazon and wait for the money to rain down from the muses that live above your bed.

From here it will try to find a home, contracts will be negotiated, drawn up, yadda yadda, THEN it will go through a series of edits, a title will be decided, descriptions created, covers  made, and formatting fought with. Annnnd probably more that I’m forgetting or just plain don’t know about because they haven’t happened to me yet.

End of story: There’s still a TON of steps from after you type the end to when you hold your precious word vomit baby in your arms and coo over it.

The fastest one has gone for me is a short story that took roughly 6 months from THE END to print version, and that was damn fast because it only had four people in the anthology.

The longest?

Well, let’s just say there are some 3+ year projects that haven’t moved forward past typing THE END yet.

That’s another part of writing you don’t learn about until you’re there. Projects can and will just freeze for unknown reasons. Sometimes a project falls through the little literary cracks and plops into a whole lot of nope. When that happens you’ve got to pull your story out of that muck and try to find your baby a new home. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and that little sucker lives in a drawer in your desk for forever.

The point is, if you’re going to play the game and get your thing out into the world then you’ve got to have a certain level of patience and know that things move SLLLOOOOWWWW when it comes to publishing.

Finish your projects, send them off, meet your deadlines (please don’t be the jerk to hold up everyone else), and then START ON A NEW PROJECT. Don’t sit and stare at the screen, waiting for an email of every step of the process, let go of that sent-off darling and start vomiting out a new lovely, word baby. Try to have projects out and about all the time, and remember to just breathe and keep writing: that’s your job.

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