Happy Anniversary

In a recent blog, I wrote that it was Time For A Little Celebration, following the completion of a new book, and by some miracle, meeting a publication deadline. Thus week, my hubby and I celebrate 37 years of marriage. So I thought I’d combine those two ideas and talk about the importance of celebrating achievements in our writing, both small and large.

It’s really easy to get despondent about our writing, especially if sales are not great, or reviews are negative or completely lacking, or if you cherish a dream of being published by a traditional publisher ad have just had another rejection letter fall on your door mat.

There are a lot of books ‘out there’ to inspire creativity, and a few of them even help you to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and move on.

But here are a few ideas that have helped me to overcome depression, discouragement, and the temptation to give up.

  1. You’re not alone. Surround yourself with loving people. You may feel like the loneliest person in the world, but with the ever-expanding array of coffee shops you can get out of the house and meet up with a friend, it will do you good. And with the wonders of social media, in fact you can quickly build real relationships with people you’ve never even met. If things are going badly, you can be tempted to retreat from others, as I often do, but it’s not a good idea. For a number of years, I’ve been friends with some people I’ve never met, in many countries around the world. They listen to my woes, give me encouragement and feedback, and I try to do the same for them. We tell each other tall tales, laugh and rejoice together in good times, and commiserate and encourage in the tough times. Writers need people, we need human contact, and we need someone to talk to. Do it. Lots of authors advocate steering clear of social media but I say it’s not a good idea to cut yourself off. When pouring yourself out onto the page, you need to replenish your energy, and spending time with other people can help with this.
  2. Don’t be tempted to compare yourself with others. No two people’s experiences are the same, and don’t add to your discouragement by looking at those writers you envy, whose work sells better than yours, who win accolades and awards or have millions of followers. They are a kind of writing royalty, and yes, one day you may be up there with them, but in the meantime, don’t grudge them their success: it’s not at the expense of yours. See yourself as an employee in a large organisation: you need to spend some time working your way up the ranks; learn your craft, improve your skills, and don’t put yourself down.
  3. Celebrate the small victories. If you have written a book, be proud of that. Everywhere we go, people tell us, ‘Oh I thought of writing a book once.’ The difference is, you’ve actually done it. If you’ve written 2,000 words or 100 words today, be proud. Try to do the same tomorrow. If you published a short story, won a prize, got a new follower, made a sale, be proud, be grateful, and celebrate.
  4. Remember how quickly things can turn around so don’t ever give up hoping or trying. Don’t give in to the temptation to feel you’ve arrived, we are all moving forward at different speeds. There’s not an actual arrival point with writing, just the journey. So whether you are a new writer, an old writer, a young writer, a middling writer, or an aspiring writer, keep learning, trying new things, supporting others, and be proud of your every achievement.

Meanwhile, thank you to my hubby for being laid back, (most of the time), occasionally encouraging, and even better, for being out of the house most weekdays so I can sit at a computer or with a notebook, instead of fussing over him! Thirty-seven years! Wow!

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Embracing the mess

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about routine and how I think it’s essential to productive creativity. But what do you do if your routine goes to pot and everything is unsettled and out of sync? Just go with it. I’m thinking of that song by Scott Walker about a million years ago, ‘Make It Easy On Yourself.’ That’s just what you should do.

If you allow the stress of being disorganised to get to you, you will become depressed, anxious, feel guilty, and become increasingly non-productive, then get even more deeply depressed, so allow yourself the room to just do what you can manage, and don’t sweat it. Do what you can and don’t beat yourself up if you feel you’re not achieving as much as you should, or planned to achieve.

Do what you can, and gradually normality will reassert itself. Even if you only write a small amount, remind yourself it’s a step forward from yesterday, and any progress, no matter how small, is good. You may even find, as I am beginning to realise, that it’s a normal part of your creative process.

I usually start strong, like most writers. I have a good idea of where the story is going, I know what it’s about. But for me, again like many writers, the problems arise about halfway or so into the story when suddenly I realise a) I’m useless at writing, b) my story sucks, and c) it’s never going to be ready in time.

The first couple of times this happened, I gave up on the story. That was a long time ago when I was a young writer. Then I realised I could work through the doubt and fear and finish a book. And for a long time, that’s what I did. But the last couple of years have been exceptionally stressful in my life, and pressures have taken their toll. And now, my old anxieties have resurfaced and this time it’s so much harder to push them away and carry on. But that’s what I’m going to do. Because what choice do I have? Do I want to give up writing? NO!

So now, I’m embracing the mess, and working with it, secure in the knowledge that, regardless of my feelings and the muddle that is my so-called WIP, I can do this. It might take a while, and it might be baby steps, but I will get there, and finish this book.

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