The Importance of Stepping Back

Hey lovely people! My vlog post ended up coming a week late, because I caught the flu. Sigh. Really complicated everything. It’s finally done, though, so I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

Going off of the comments I got last time, I decided to keep posting my script below the video for those of you who prefer to read.

I want to talk about a really understated bit of advice that can be vital to your survival as a writer. Namely: That sometimes, you just need to step back, take your foot off the gas pedal.

As you might know from my more recent vlog updates, things haven’t been going well with me lately. Basically, nothing has been quite going my way since 2014, but that was okay, because I was taught that old truism that we all get fed with mother’s milk:

If you work hard, everything will work out. 

Eh…

Turns out not so much.

See, in the years since 2014, I’d worked 16 hour days, often more in order to do more, and I’d do that until I was on the edge of breaking emotionally. I never stopped writing. Never stopped building at businesses and marketing and literally anything that I *knew* would get me ahead.

And it just kept feeling like everything was turning to dust under my feet.

The worst part? None of the hours I’d spent, of the health I’d risked, of the life I’d postponed… none of it actually meant anything.

Because there are always assholes out to get you. And they will steal your life and your hours of work and your very soul if they can, just to benefit themselves.

So yeah. After relentlessly pushing myself for almost four years, there came a point where I just…couldn’t. Not going to go into detail, but I came to the point where I was so exhausted that I couldn’t fight anymore.

I couldn’t keep acting like everything was okay and that it was business as usual, because it wasn’t.

And so, I pulled back. From as much as I could. Obviously there are some commitments you can’t avoid without incurring long-term damage, but if there was something I could leave with a cost I could tolerate, I did it.

This sadly included my writing, because the stresses of my life had basically drained my creativity. So instead of forcing myself to write, I forced myself not to. Instead, I spent my writing hours doing needlepoint or crocheting. Anything with an almost mindless, repetitive motion.

What this did was it allowed me to grieve. It allowed me to feel. It let me process my pain and frustration instead of allowing me to suppress them like I’d been doing for years. It put me in a place where I could regain some perspective. Where I could look at the problems and at least get to the point where I could see the value in the things I was doing again.

And that’s probably the most important thing about stepping back. When we’re writers, we basically take on an extra job, and when we’re published, marketing that book becomes another job. Which means that it’s go go go go all the time with no stopping, and when things aren’t going as well as they should, it’s so easy to be overwhelmed. It’s too easy to lose the meaning of what we’re doing in the mad rush to get it all done.

So it becomes imperative that we step back and breathe at least for a few days, just to regain a sense of balance before taking everything on again.

What do you do to recharge when you’re pulling back? 

My Short Story is Now with CPs.

I’m happy to say I managed to finish writing my IWSG short story in time to send it to the awesome people who’d volunteered to give it a read-over.

Most of them already sent back feedback. (I mean seriously. How’s that for speed?)

So now, I’m planning to sit down and do the critiques I owe them.

I have to say, though, I love my story. The character has been sticking in my head ever since I edited The Heir’s Choice, so I was happy to get a chance to write something for her. Fingers crossed that the judges also enjoy the story.

How are you doing? Sending in a short story for the IWSG competition too? 

On Word Targets

It’s the strangest thing how psychological this writing game is.

People (and by this, I mean non-writers) always assume that writing is such an easy thing. After all, they write hundreds of words every day with e-mails and texts, right?

Sure. The thing is… It’s easy to just jot a few words with no particular word-count goal in mind. Ten words here. Twenty words there.

Easy.

But get told to write a 1500 word article. Or a 3000 word to 6000 word short story. Or just think and realize that the novel you’re working on needs 150,000 words to get finished.

Suddenly, a task that seems simple becomes much more complicated. Especially when you’re starting out and wondering if the thing you’re writing will actually hit the word-count target.

Last night, I wrote an article, and about 700 words in, I couldn’t imagine where I would find the remaining 800.

When I started drafting my story for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group competition, I liked the idea, but I just felt like the word-limit was this insurmountable mountain to climb.

Odd to think it, but I find the 150k goal less intimidating, because if I come in under that, it’s not like there will be repercussions. And that is actually the reason why I don’t like setting a target for the length of any story I write. It just adds extra pressure I don’t like feeling. I mean, I already give myself some steep deadlines to chase.

The challenge is good for me, though. It’s nice to know that, yes, I could actually write to demand and actually hit those targets.

And you know the funny thing about my short story? I’m at 3500 words now, and wondering if I’ll be able to wrap the story up in 1500 words or less.

So that just goes to show you the importance of just writing. Even if we feel like we’ll never make a word-count target, we can always surprise ourselves if we try.

Are you writing a story for IWSG competition? How’s it going?

Changing Things…

As you ladies and gents might or might not have picked up, I’ve been struggling to write. With my life as it is, I just found it difficult to almost impossible to sit down and focus on what should be going into my stories.

I have to say that I’m relieved to say that this is changing. Not my life. That’s pretty much stuck in hurry-up-and-wait mode until next month at least. However, changing my perspective into being more proactive about my writing career has made a huge difference to my ability to write.

More than that, it’s changing the way I look at a lot of things. Yes, my priorities still largely focus on getting the next book finished. But at the same time, I’m having to do things right now that will bring in enough money for me to publish in the future.

Which means I’m doing a lot of different things. Trying new things. This includes, you know, being more active on social networks. And setting up a WordPress version of this blog. Right now, I don’t think I’ll leave Blogger entirely to go over to WordPress, but a lot of my WordPress blogging friends kept saying that blogger swallows their comments and I just can’t have that.

It means changing the way I’ve been approaching my writing sessions. Usually, I basically sit down and write until a scene is finished. The problems to this method have been twofold.

First: I haven’t been in the right headspace to sit down for two to three hours on end. So I’ve been waiting for that to right itself because I wanted to sit for two or three hours to churn out a chapter.
Second: My scenes have become longer than anticipated. See, with The Vanished Knight and The Heir’s Choice I had a lot of 2k long scenes that I ended up combining in order to create longer chapters. I think my longest chapter is 7k long, but the average is about 4k. Book 3 is different. Maybe it’s because my point-of-view characters are simply closer together so I don’t have to jump between them as much, but at the moment, the average chapter is about 5k long. So now it’s not a matter of writing for two hours and having a finished scene. Actually having a finished planned section would probably take me an entire working day.

Which I don’t have available. Oh, you thought “being a full-time writer” meant having more time to write? Nope. Not yet, anyway.

So lately, I’ve decided to follow Cherie Reich‘s example and setting a time goal for my writing. Instead of setting a word count goal, she decides how much time she wants to devote to writing and then she sets a timer, which she races to write as much as she can.

I’ve adapted her method a little. She did away with her word-count goals. I can’t. I want to finish Book 3 this year. Which means I have to write between 1 and 2 thousand words every day. I have found, though, that timing myself means that I take about 90 minutes to write 1800 words. (So far, I break my writing into 5 and 10 minute sessions which I add up later.)

In other words, timing myself is speeding me up, which is good, because I don’t have enough hours in a day.

How are you doing? Have you tried timing your writing sessions?