Posts Tagged ‘writing life’

5 Ways to Not Be A Lonely Writer

Writing is known for being a solitary pursuit. While there are writer’s groups and ways to create a network around writing, the work itself has to be done alone. Chatting with friends cuts into writing time. It’s easy for a write to tumble into THE ANTI-SOCIAL BUBBLE aka the thunder dome where no one makes eye-contact or speaks. It’s even easier when the creative life takes a nosedive and depression crawls in.

You get wrapped into the world of writing and see relationships drift away until you look up to see you’re a thousand miles from where you started with no one there to help and little energy to even call for help.  There’s a reason that the classic image of a writer is someone alone with nothing but a bottle keeping them company.  Writers tend to be introverted but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need people, social contact and to remember how to say hello and have a conversation. Having a rich fantasy life won’t save you from having to still call the phone company, interact with readers/reviewers/editors/people or any number of other things.

Not to mention that writing can be an emotionally draining and challenging roller coaster. I always fall into a heavy crash after I finish a project and even though I don’t want to be around people, it’s what I need to help get me out of my funk and into the next project. A support system can be a lifesaver.

Here are five ways that I try to get myself out of the bubble and back into being a somewhat functioning part of life.

1.     Make plans in advance

Know that you’re finishing a draft at the end of September and going to crash emotionally? Make plans with a friend to do something you’re excited about. It could be a big trip, or it could just be watching a TV show you’ve been meaning to catch up on.  Have those plans in place in advance.

2.     Reach out online/text/phone/video

Sometimes the people you most want to see aren’t able to physically be there. That’s okay. We live in the future and you have a device around where you can send someone a message. Email a friend and talk about what’s going on. Text a friend that you’re having a hard time. Skype with your sister. Send a silly cat video to your friend who lives in Korea.

3.     Celebrate.

I like throwing parties so planning a gathering almost always helps throw me out of a funk. There’s so much to do to get ready that I keep myself busy and excited about my friends coming over. Plan parties around times you think you’ll be feeling rough.

4.     Go to a class

Interested in Sky Yoga? What about marketing? Find a class, online or in person, and go check it out. You’ll learn a lot and meet interesting new people. Who knows, maybe you’re next story will spring from what you’re learning?

5.     Find help.

Sometimes you need more than just a friend to talk and you need to look to talk to a therapist or other type of professional. There are options online, there are help lines and ways to reach someone at little to no cost. Don’t be afraid to reach out for that lifeline.

The roller coaster of the creative life can be a challenge to manage, especially when you’re a new writer and still learning what patterns your work might trigger, or when you’re querying, going on submission, or through a rough edit for the first time.  There’s no shame in reaching out to the people around you for support.

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“Books are written with time stolen from other people”

Selfish.

It’s a word that plays on repeat in my brain. On a good day I’ll only hear it once or twice. On a bad day it plays a song that lasts from the moment my eyes open to the second I finally drift to sleep.

One of the things that I struggle the most with writing is the selfishness that it requires. I don’t mean the Golum hoarding type of selfishness, I mean the ‘I have to go lock myself in my bedroom for the entire evening rather than hang out with my friends/family’ sort of selfishness.

I’ve always been very bad at saying no or not doing something for someone else. I am a people pleaser at my very core, and I struggle with any time I have to say no to doing something for someone. I have a terrible case of balloon hand where I volunteer for tasks that pop up and cut away from my time.

I want to help everyone and do everything for all of the people I care about. I will drop everything and drive eight hours through the night if someone really needs me to. But the problem with that is that I constantly give away time that I need to spend on my writing.

What I probably struggle the most with is writing in the evenings when my roommates are home. I adore my roommates and it’s rare that we’re all home at the same time so I want to savor that, but I struggle to get much work done when camped out in the living room half listening to a conversation, and half plotting on how to kill the troublesome centaur in chapter 3.

I’m half way everywhere and getting nothing done.

I recently read the quote that became the title of this post, “Books are written with time stolen from other people” and as much as I’ve searched the Internet I can’t figure out who said it (if you know please tell me!). But this quote is probably one of the truest things I’ve ever read. The time spent on writing is time not spent doing something else, and a lot of  that means cutting time with people you love.

How do you get around it?

For me, I’m starting to adjust myself to getting up earlier in the morning and trying to write then. I’m looking at a few other options to see if I can make the time I need without feeling like I’m cutting contact with the people I love, because while writing can be a lonely job, you need contact with people and a support network for the inevitable swings that writing brings.

I think this problem is particularly an issue when you work full time, because after that 8-10 hours a day are gone, there’s not many hours left to fit in everything else. To everyone with children, and spouses, I admire your dedication even more. I’m single, childless and still stress about time on a daily basis.

The truth of the matter is that there is no way to just magically ‘find’ time in your day like a discarded nickel found in the washing machine. You make time, you carve it out from the flesh of the day and you have to leave pieces behind because there just isn’t enough to go around. The important thing is to be aware of what you’re cutting out, and to take control of the hours you can free.

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Ego of the Writer

Writers are interesting characters. The ego of a writer is something that has always been particularly interesting to me. I’ve never been someone who was ever really boastful, or confident. I’ve always struggled with confidence in particular. It’s hard for me to sell myself or my work because I still doubt it, and doubt myself.

It’s something I’m working on, and have come a long ways. I can now actually say, ‘I am published.’ without immediately adding, ‘But only in a few small things. It’s nothing really.’ Baby steps, right?

For me, that line between confident and cocky is very difficult to find. Any time I find myself wanting to boast or brag, I instantly feel like a jerk. Like the kid in school who went on and on about how wonderful s/he was and would brag to the entire class about every 100 they made on every assignment. I never want to be like that, a cocky jerk, but I would like to be more confident in my writing and in my every day life. Especially now that I’m job hunting, I need all the confidence I can get! So, I thought I’d spend a little time explaining how I’m doing this.

1. Keep a list of your accomplishments.

Write down what you’ve done. You don’t have to share it with anyone if you don’t want to, but just the act of writing down what you’ve accomplished can really help put things in perspective! Also, have you noticed I like lists, yet?

2. Practice saying what you’ve done.

Stare in a mirror and introduce yourself. For me this has consisted of saying, ‘Hi. I’m Andi and I’m a writer.’ and then if I’m really feeling bold, I mention some of the things I’ve had published. Don’t giggle. Don’t lessen yourself. Practice until you can say it with a straight face.

3. Stop apologizing.

I have a bad habit of apologizing for things I have no reason to apologize for. I’ve sent the message, ‘Here’s my short story. Sorry if it’s too short!’ to an editor when I knew fully well that my story was exactly in the word length that had been requested. The apology was unneeded in any way, shape or form, but I still felt obligated to include it. Don’t lessen your work. Stop with the ‘Well, it’s a super rough draft…’ or ‘I wrote it in college so it’s probably not very good…’ Stand up for your work, be proud of what you’ve done and let it stand on its own. No apologies.

4. Focus on the good.

Instead of thinking about the things you don’t have, you haven’t done, etc. Think about all the things you do have, all the things you have done. Think about where you were 5 or 10 years ago and how much you’ve accomplished since then. Be proud of that.

5. Accept compliments.

If someone says, ‘Oh man, her work is great.’ Don’t laugh it off with a ‘Oh, really it’s not…’ as you shrink from the conversation. Smile, say ‘Thank you!’, be gracious and believe what you are being told.

 

And that’s how I’m trying to build my own little ego up. What ways have you found help you feel more confident as a writer or just in general? How do you manage the cocky/confident line?

Writing Schedule

I’ve been reading Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande (really great book about the writing life, not just how to write. I recommend) and she is very adamant about the importance of a writing schedule and sticking to that schedule no matter what. She suggests picking a time and sitting down to write, even if it means hiding in a bathroom or closet to write in a notebook.

She also suggests that you write first thing in the morning before any other words can get into your brain. She advises getting up an hour earlier so that you can write without worry. Now, I think this is one of the most challenging things to do. I know I love sleep. I also love staying up late and wasting time on the internet.

My brain is a jerk like that.

But I do agree that every time I have gotten up early to write I have always been more productive. I’ve gotten better at getting up early…but I’ve also gotten better at procrastinating, not to mention classes and work seem to be taking over my writing time.

According to Brande if you try and repeatedly fail to follow a set writing time, and get up early to write then you should quit now and give up. Youch, that’s a bit harsh.

I think that’s a bit of a narrow-minded thought on writing. Not everyone has a schedule that is steady enough to write at exactly the same time every day. My life, for instance, means that every few months my schedule totally shifts and all of my free time topples around as my classes and/or work schedule changes. Other people work retail or other businesses that have constantly shifting hours.

This also makes it hard to get up early and always write, sometimes life has other plans.

Now, I agree with her that you have to make time to write if you’re going to plan on writing, but whether or not that has to be at the same time every day is arguable. I more try to keep a certain amount of time that I write every day. It doesn’t happen at the same time every day but I write every day.

So where do you stand on the schedule platform? Same time every day or just write?