From the Writing Life is a series about my journey as a writer.
There’s a saying. Some people are diamonds. They form under pressure. Some people are bread, they need to be left alone to rise.
I’ve learned, relearned and slowly accepted that I’m bread.
This will be one part About Me with a freckling of Experience Storytelling. I have a personal policy against writing advice. But I think it’s important to share our experiences with each other.
Anyway, I’m writing a novel. Here’s how I got here.
I’m an on and off again writer. I wrote a ton in college as a creative outlet but I drifted away from it for awhile as I navigated new adulthood. In the year leading up to my marriage, I was working a dead end admin job. The happiness of my personal life highlighted the apathy I felt about my current career trajectory. I knew I needed a change, and I wanted to incorporate a creative outlet back into my life.
Six months before we got married, my husband’s father passed away unexpectedly. Our lives, and the lives of the people we love, were in major upheaval. As we navigated our way though the grief, something snapped in my mind and in a moment of clarity I knew it was time to “get serious” about writing my book. Immediately.
I think that was my big mistake. I got way too serious. The stakes and pressure was enormous and it was unfair.
I married the Fella in October of 2016 and that November I threw myself and a group of friends into NaNoWriMo (and epically failed, but that’s a story for another day).
In April 2017 joined a writer’s association and that summer I adventured off to Orlando for a conference. I was a sweet summer child thrown into the deep, cold winter of the publishing business. I was inundated with unwanted, unnecessary, and sometimes cruel advice and conflicting information.
Ya know, a conference.
I was told my genre of choice didn’t sell. I was told I needed to write fast or I’d never make it. I was asked to give quick pitches of my book when I wasn’t really ready to do so, which lead to some social embarrassment. I was asked what my publishing plan was and when I admitted I was still writing my book I was no longer worth the networking energy.
I was told this was a “loving community where I would find my tribe”.
I did not find my tribe.
I was so overwhelmed.
And through it all, I wasn’t writing.
I outlined. I plotted. I poked. But I wasn’t really writing.
The Imposter Syndrome was in full force.
It Wasn’t All Bad, Though
I found Shameless in St. Louie, the book club of my heart. I increased my reading and broadened my horizons. I discovered new to me authors and forever love reads.
I learned so much and met such awesome people. I got to meet Sarah Wendel from Smart B*tches, Trashy Books. I took a Romance 101 course with fantasy romance writer, Jeffe Kennedy. I took Angela James’s awesome editing course Before You Hit Send.
A little networking and luck allowed me to transition from my admin job into an at-home freelance gig. Slowly the words started to come back to me again. Not as fast, and definitely not as good as I’d like. But there were words. I had some outlines, scenes, a short story. Nothing great, but it was a start.
I found The Artist Way by Julia Cameron and did some creative healing.
I left the writer’s association. It wasn’t a good fit. That was a hard choice because it felt like the end of “taking writing seriously”. But I wasn’t writing. So, I wasn’t where I needed to be.
Let the record show, I don’t believe in “writer’s block”. But I know that fear, anxiety, depression, are real and there are people who can help.
Mary Robinette Kowal, the current president of SWFA, has an amazing article about writers and depression. She’s an inspiration.
In Fall of 2019 I lost my freelance client and freshly in therapy to figure out some ongoing issues. My husband suggested I take some time off work, and we were lucky to be in a position where that was a possibility for us.
I picked up new hobbies.
I took some space.
I wasn’t writing and for the first time in three years I wasn’t mentally pressuring myself to write. I stopped trying to make diamonds.
It felt amazing.
That Leads Us To 2020
Earlier this year, before The Unpleasantness, there was a moment when that bright clarity hit me again and I realized I really could stop. I never needed to attempted to write a book again.
And I’d be fine.
Sometimes you don’t reach your goals. Sometimes dreams manifest into life lessons. Sometimes the smartest and healthiest thing you can do is move on with your life.
So, I was researching new job options. I was looking at new life paths.
I was excited and hopeful. Weren’t we all excited and hopeful in January of 2020?
Then we landed in the dark timeline. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Paving a path becomes tricky in the middle of a pandemic, as we all know.
This spring, I reconnected with a friend from college and we decided to join Masterclass together. An online learning, creative, social outlet? Perfect!
Suddenly, I had two short stories and a chapter of fan fiction. Suddenly, I redrafted outline of an old book idea. It was exciting and a little confusing. Hadn’t I given myself permission to stop?
The world was falling apart. I was happy to be writing again, but I didn’t feel the need to land myself back into book writing mode. It was exhausting. I didn’t need that pressure again. Not on top of everything else going on in the world.
But come July I was eager to do *something*.
I used the research I did on job options and the experience I had at my freelance gig and decided to start this blog. Just as a trial. Learn on the job.
I was reading fiction at a rapid rate, so I thought I’d give myself a space to explore and celebrate books. Just by chance, I stumbled into Bookstagram and found that absolutely amazing community.
Suddenly, I found myself working again. I was working on things I loved. I was trying new things, and I was writing regularly. It was nonfiction, but I was writing regularly.
As I’m launching my blog and scrambling to figure out what I’m doing, setting schedules, adjusting, learning how to use Canva, figuring out social media strategies, I get a mental tap on the shoulder.
It’s a story.
It’s a series.
It was an idea I had a couple of years ago on a lark. At the time it was flippant smut, maybe even a bit of a joke. But there was an undercurrent of substance to the idea as well. It was left bubbling in a cauldron in the back of my mind and now – in the middle of everything – it demands my attention.
So I’m Writing a Book I Guess
I’m back, back in the writing groove. Yeah!
For the record, we’re all living through an unprecedented event. At the time of this writing, I’m seeing a slue of of my friend’s children return back to the classroom and I pray hard for them. The pictures of the in front of the door with their little masks just guts me.
This is not normal.
As I’m living through this, I don’t see my writing resurgence related to the narrative of “making the most of your quarantine time and create something”. That’s not the takeaway here. Please, please don’t let that be the takeaway here.
That kind of pressure is crippling and unhealthy.
My dominoes were set up over the years and the pattern it created twisted and turned in unexpected ways. Now I’m here. But there’s still a long way to go.
Maybe in hindsight I’ll better understand how the pandemic cultivated the narrative of this journey. But this project is not a product of pandemic pressure.
About the Book
I’m still not great at quick pitches, especially this early in the process. But as a gesture to give you an idea of where I’m heading I’ll try my best.
I’m writing a Beauty and the Beast inspired portal fantasy romance.
I’ll divulge more in time. Let me get drafting and comfortable and I’ll share more.
Follow me on Pinterest if you’d like to see the working title and follow my inspiration boards.
Where Are You in the Process?
I’m in the middle of prewriting at the moment and I’m already itching to get to scene work, which is a good sign. Since prewriting is going well, and quicker than expected I started to set some benchmark goals for myself.
My goal is very simple this time:
Finish the first draft.
That’s it. Just finish the first draft.
Write “The End”.
There are notions and lose plans in place for when I get there, but I won’t get too far ahead of myself.
My push goal is to have the draft done by the end of the year.
I’ve just joined Angela James’s September 2020 accountability group to get me through the first 30,000 words.
I’m in this now.
What Makes This Time Different?
- I have reasonable expectations for myself.
- I have established benchmarks and goals.
- I have a support network in place.
- I have accountability systems in place.
- I trust myself.
- I’ve been reading widely.
- I embrace my preferences and a reader and writer.
- I’m opting into transparency rather than going it alone, quietly.
It’s a busy and exciting time. I’m feeling hopeful and protective of my little idea loaf.
If you’re a fellow writer, where are you in your process? How are you feeling? Let me know in the comments.
Bonus Content: The Writing Nook
Since Fella works from home and has taken over the office, I’ve set up a nice little work station in my kitchen nook.
In the mornings I open the windows and enjoy the breeze. Looking forward to watching the seasons change from my favorite little corner of the house.
Hello New Friends!
Finally, thank you to all the new followers of the blog. Hello! Welcome. I like seeing this little space grow and develop. Looking forward to getting to know you all a bit better.