Fears and Anxieties About a Writing Career

It may seem silly to have fears and anxieties over a dream that you have had your whole life, but it’s true… we all have them. We may not realize that we have them. But let me tell you, they are there and they are real. They lurk in the darkest recesses waiting for the most inopportune moments to pounce. The best weapon I’ve found to use against them, it simply to be aware of their existence. Acknowledge the fear, accept that it’s there and that’s usually half of the battle.

Have you ever really looked at the face of a spider? I mean REALLY looked? Chances are, you haven’t. Let’s just say when you start to magnify a spider’s face…it isn’t quite as scary as it once was. I use them as an example because I’m not the biggest fan of them myself but once you look at the creature for what it truly is- it isn’t so scary. Use the same tactic with your fears. Acknowledge them, look at them, examine their inner workings and you’ll find that most of them are irrational, highly improbable or not that extreme.

So this is me, taking a good hard look at my fears and anxieties of being a writer.

What if I’m not successful?

The first thought was, ‘what if I’m not successful?’ I’ve dreamed about being a writer my whole life. Well, I take that back. I did write as a kid but I didn’t realize I wanted to do it for a living until the later years of my high school career. That was a huge wake-up call for me. Before that, I had no clue what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a little bit of everything. So to say it’s been a dream my whole life is probably not true even though it was something I’ve done my whole life.

So what if I’m not successful? I’ve only spent over a decade chasing a dream. Okay…Yea, it’s a little scary but with enough hard work, commitment and dedication, anything can happen. Besides, people have varying definitions of success. Am I looking to be a millionaire? No. I’d love to replace my day job with income from my writing. Being a successful writer to me would mean earning enough to travel as I please and live comfortably. I’m not looking to build my own Trump Tower.

Specifying exactly what I want my “successful” writer’s life to look like, helps take that ‘improbability’ factor out of the run. And now, not being successful isn’t an option. Success is only a matter of time.

What if people hate my writing?

Well, you can’t make everyone happy. Too many of us try to spend our lives making other people happy.  It sounds like a great and noble thing but the point is- it’s your life and you need to make yourself happy first.

Don’t constantly worry about what other people do, think or say about you. There are over six billion people on the planet there’s bound to be at least one that doesn’t like you and there’s also bound to be at least one who does. There’s a healthy balance. Haters are going to hate. Don’t take everything they say to heart. Most times, they are just jealous of you anyway. Even JK Rowling had haters.

What if I really suck?

You’re never going to be a master of writing. It is a craft that we all work so hard at but no one perfects it. There’s always going to be mistakes. Don’t be afraid to make them. And when you do make them, learn from them. So what if my writing really does suck? I think we all have this thought in the back of our minds even if we really like writing and have faith in ourselves. Sometimes there are doubts. I think that’s natural… even if it does sound like an oxymoron.

I’ve had people read my work before and while they had constructive criticism most people really liked it. I’ve never had anyone tell me that my writing sucked except one guy who was really upset with me because he thought I was pretty and I thought he was annoying. So I think it’s safe to say that his opinion may have been a little biased against me.

Don’t be afraid to advertise some of your work. I started getting serious about my writing when I found fanfiction. That probably also sounds like an oxymoron. But when I discovered fanfiction that’s when I decided I wanted to write for life. There’s also something called fictionpress.org. You can put your own custom stories up there for free. You won’t get paid or anything but people can give you reviews and feedback chapter by chapter.

There’s also free sites like WordPress and Wattpad where you can either sell your work or post it for free. Also, Smashwords and Amazon have made it very easy to get your work out there to make money. Some people still choose to put their work out there for free. That’s a personal choice. It’s not something I agree with but I respect other authors’ decisions on how to sell their work. It’s not my business to tell them what to do, I can only make suggestions.

So now we have the other side of the spectrum. What about the fears and anxieties about being successful?

It sounds silly. Can we say oxymoron again? How can you be fearful and anxious about being successful? We all have this underlying fear and we probably don’t even realize it.

What if I’m successful?

What if I get a ton of money and I am unable to manage it? They say that lottery winners go downhill fast. They fall into bankruptcy because they don’t know how to manage their money and they spend, spend, spend. What if I can’t manage my money? What if I lose it all? Or better yet what if someone tries to take it from me?

There will be unwanted attention. I don’t think writers have it nearly as bad as movie stars and musical artists. Obviously. But you’re still going to be in the limelight a little more and a lot of writers are introverts. They don’t like a lot of attention. What if they want to stick me in front of a camera all the time?

Also, there will always be creeps. Whether you’re a writer or not, there’s going to be creepy people, stalkers, and harassers. We’ve all experienced these people at some point in our lives. Don’t let them bring you down…

Which brings us to…

There’s going to be those that try and seek to bring you down. The DaVinci Code wasn’t my most favorite novel but it was a page-turner. Did you see all the crap Dan Brown went through? How he was going against the church and all that shit? Kind of makes you wonder if they were hiding something… Even though he had a best-seller, there were those who sought to bring him down.

To mention JK Rowling again, there’s a lot of people out there who refuse to watch Harry Potter because “it’s about witchcraft and the devil” and their religion just doesn’t condone it…(even though it’s actually not about those things). It’s actually about racism. It’s WWII, set in modern times, with magic. There are two examples of people trying to tear down popular works. Not every story will please every person. I’m a fan of The Hunger Games but a lot of people don’t like the series because it’s dark, barbaric and there are children killing each other. To each his own.

On another note, we live in a very PC world and I am not the best at being a PC person. What if something I say is taken out of context and misconstrued by the media and I sound like a horrible person? Again, I think this is more prone to happen to actors and musicians but writers too if they become successful. Bottom line is anyone who believes everything the media tells them is an idiot and those people aren’t worth your time or energy anyway. Someone who is worth your time, won’t just believe things because someone else told them about it. They will want to experience it for themselves. And always remember, if you get bombarded by internet trolls over something stupid…internet trolls have nothing better to do.

Lastly, what if I quit my day job and then I never leave the house? What if the money stops? My day job provides a source of ideas for characters and story lines. What if I become a cat lady even though I prefer dogs does that mean I’ll be a dog lady just sitting at home with the dogs? What if I can’t keep it up? What if I have 5 good years and then all the sudden I can’t do it anymore? These are all legit fears. Perhaps some of you can identify with them. Perhaps you can’t. Regardless, I think it’s imperative that we get them out in the open. Suddenly, they seem so minuscule.

I hope this helps at least one person and lets some writers know that you’re not alone. Even though writing is a solitary path… it’s hard work, there’s a lot of sacrifices to be made, but you’re not alone.

Happy writing.

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Let Your Genre Pick You

So you’ve got an idea for a story but you’re fretting over what genre or category you’re going to put it in when it’s ready for sale. Or maybe you’re just starting out as a writer and you want to build your platform and marketing base before you write anything…STOP. Don’t worry yourself over literary labels. First, focus on writing your story, THEN worry about marketing and building a platform.

People say that you need to know your genre before you start because you need to know your target audience. (By the way, I totally don’t get the target audience thing…as a writer, my target audience is anyone who can read.) Write the damn story. Don’t worry about if that grumpy guy you work with will finally be impressed or if that chick on the fourth floor of your apartment building will disapprove. Yes, your audience is important but I think it’s total bullshit to try and target some sort of generalized stereotype…especially when you’re just starting out and you want anyone to read your book.

So, I wanted to write a novel in the fantasy genre…but Horror came out?

Story of my life. When I first started writing, I wanted to be a fantasy author- strictly fantasy. I wanted to write about magic, sorcerers, and evil queens. However, all of the ideas I got were dark. Some of them may have seemed like love stories at first, but then they always turned dark. I had no interest in the horror genre and tried to fight it. Don’t do that.

Embrace what comes to you naturally. If you start writing what you intend to be sci-fi but it turns western, go with it. See where it takes you. Cowboys and Aliens, anyone?

Even now, for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I sat down to write what I thought would be a fantasy novel about self-discovery and a rite of passage with a love story intertwined but do you know what happened? It turned completely dark. The fantastical elements are more pronounced and I don’t even think a love story still exists! And I’m fine with that. I’m not going to force the ebb and flow of creativity a certain way (another writer in a Facebook group suggested that we should…because we are writers and therefore gods or something… I don’t know. They spoke about how we’re supposed to control everything. I think they had issues).

Ok. I went with the flow, finished and edited my piece. Now what?

With your short story or novel being completed, it should be much easier to decipher which genre your writing leans towards. Yet, have you seen your Netflix genres lately? There’s action, there’s drama, there’s supernatural horror thriller with science fiction elements and a strong female lead. Wait. What? Yeah. And music has become the same way. No, that’s not rock music, that’s indie adult alternative. When did everything get so complicated?

You’re not going to be subjected to a firing squad if you mark your book as “action” when it’s “suspense.” I can’t say the same for you if you label it as “romance” and it’s really a sport’s almanac. Those romantics can be feisty. But I think I’ve made my point here. What’s most important is to A) not pigeon hole yourself into a specific genre and B) don’t get tied up and concerned with all of the details right away. There is a time and a place for picking a genre and before you write the story, isn’t it. The most important things you can do as a writer are to focus on your story and continuously seek to better your writing. If you produce quality work on a consistent basis, the rest will fall into place.

I hope this helps. Happy writing!

Photo Art © Alexander Ishchenko | Dreamstime.com

NaNo Series Vol. 3: Eating Right During NaNo

What’s the right way to fuel your muse?

As November continues, it’s important that those of us participating in NaNoWriMo set ourselves up for success. Part of that involves eating right.

I’ve seen a lot of NaNo Prep videos on YouTube that suggest having snacks near your workstation so that you’re not constantly running to the kitchen when you get the munchies. What do these snacks consist of? Bucket loads of leftover Hallowe’en candy, copious amounts of caffeine (sugar-laden coffee, energy drinks…I used to be that person!) and other snacks such as greasy chips, fattening sweets and anything else that will end up rotting your teeth out, giving you a sugar crash, causing you to gain weight and your immune system to shut down right in the middle of holiday season.

I’m asking you not to do those things to yourself and your body will thank you. I used to be the person who ate the junk described above. I was always thin but felt oily, sluggish and fatigued. Sitting immobile in front of a computer didn’t help either but nowadays I tackle NaNoWriMo from a whole different perspective with an arsenal of healthy snacks and habits at my fingertips.

So what are some alternatives? Below is a list of things I use to keep me up and running during the month.

Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Water

I suggest watering it down and drinking it through a straw so that less acid hits your teeth. However, some people prefer drinking it like a shot. What I don’t suggest is mixing it into your protein shakes…ugh! Trust me, I tried it. The benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar range from improving your nutrient absorption to lowering cholesterol, boosting energy and even aiding in weight loss! It’s also important to note that herbs and spices like cinnamon and cayenne pepper have numerous benefits instead of our commonly used salt and black pepper… Why not try a new seasoning on an old dish?

Lemon water is often used for detox. If you’re really unhealthy, a detox may make you sick. However, water infused with lemon (you only need one!) can help stave off the urge to snack and help you stay boosted and energized. Plus it tastes yummy!

Meal Replacement Shakes

Ah, the glory of liquefied meal replacement. For someone who use to always skip breakfast because their stomach wasn’t awake that early in the morning, these things helped turn me into a healthier person. Whether it’s SlimFast, Muscle Milk, Olly’s or Shakeology (my own personal fav) find a shake that tastes great to you and has all the best vitamins and nutrients. Sometimes instead of having a shake for breakfast, it’ll be my dinner when I’m in a rush. Bottom line is, it’s healthy and keeps me trucking during those long writing sessions.

30 Day Meal Preps

By simply typing in “healthy meal prep” or “30-day meal prep” into your internet browser or a Pinterest search bar, you will find hundreds of healthy ideas for all meals of the day. The best part is that it only involves cooking once a week or once a month! Now, I know what your thinking. “I have a family of six! How can that be possible!?” It is! In fact, a lot of these meal preps are made for people with hectic schedules and larger families. Just think, one Sunday of cooking can set you up for a month of success and good eats.

Yogurt, Nuts, Fruits and Raw Vegetables

I hate to do this to you but when I say yogurt, I don’t mean the kind that has a bunch of added sugars. I’m talking about plain yogurt if you can stomach it. Yogurt is not only good for your digestive system but, like nuts and seeds, it can make you feel more full, faster.  All three are good sources of protein.

Speaking of protein (and can I mention vitamins?) fruit and fresh vegetables are excellent sources of nutrients and energy. If you’ve been living off of fast and processed food it may take some time to adjust but I promise that the results are phenomenal. Ever since I took the time to look into my diet and make adjustments, I’ve had more energy, my migraines have gone away (I really attribute this to the exercise) and my skin is much clearer.

And my last suggestion for you…

Stretch, Exercise and Get Fresh Air

Staying put in an office all day can be depressing, not to mention bad for your circulation. Get up once every hour and stretch your legs, your fingers, your back, and neck. If any part of your body ever feels strained during a writing session, that’s your bodies way of telling you to stop what you’re doing. So if you get a cramp or your legs are restless, stand up and stretch or go for a walk.

It’s no secret that sitting in front of the computer can be bad for our posture or even hard on our eyes! So take an hour and turn away from all screens- no tv, no cell phone, no tablet, etc. Let your eyes rest. Go for a walk in nature. I know, for some of us it’s already snowing outside. You’re writing won’t die if you walk away for an hour. In fact, it’ll thank you.

Exercise (yes, even walking) is a form of meditation. So I encourage you to go get lost in your thoughts. New ideas will come to you. Scenes that you were stuck on will magically provide a way out…a way to move forward.

If anything, I hope I’ve convinced one person to lead a healthier writing lifestyle.  I’ll leave you with this- someone once told me that if you eat “dead,” you are dead and if you eat “live,” you are alive. Now I’m not a vegetarian, and neither was this individual but give healthy stuff a chance. You may just be surprised at how much you prefer it to the chemically processed foods once your taste buds adjust. And a good rule of thumb I always follow when grocery shopping- if I look at the ingredient list and I can’t pronounce something, I don’t put it in my body!

Thank you and happy writing!

Photo Art © Ksenija Tojeckina Zavalnaja | Dreamstime.com

NaNo Series Vol. 2: Planning A Writing Project

Most writers fall into one to three categories when it comes to their method of writing and novel planning. There are pantsers, plotters, and those who are a mixture of both (like me). When starting a writing project, it’s important to look ahead so you don’t wind up writing yourself off of a cliff or into a dead end. So what’s the difference?

Not Much (If Any) Planning: Pantsers

A pantser is someone who sits down with little to absolutely no idea what their story is about. They are not sure who a majority of their characters are, if they know any at all. Some say that this is the essence of creativity. Pantsers make everything up as they go and usually abhor the idea of an outline. I find that this is usually because they hear or see the word ‘outline’ and think of those horrid things we had to write in grade school. In fact, outlining a novel is a much different process.

Planning: Plotters

Plotters are your outliners. They decide ahead of time where their story takes place, who the main players are and ultimately what their story is about. I used to consider myself a plotter and if you get really technical about it, I am but being a plotter doesn’t mean that you know every single detail in advance. This is usually where people get confused or overwhelmed when they hear the word ‘plotter’ or ‘outline.’

I once had a classmate tell me, “Oh no! You should NEVER outline. It ruins the creative process.” This particular classmate was often rather bossy and enjoyed telling others what they should do and how they should do it. In my opinion, whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, it doesn’t matter. You do what works best for you! Everyone is different.

A Mixture of Both?

I consider myself a mixture of both a pantser and a plotter because while I do have a plan when I sit down to write, not everything is planned or set in stone. I’m flexible. I allow my stories and characters to change and evolve. After all, some of my best ideas come while in the moment of writing but pantsing leaves me with no goal or sense of direction. I also find that I’m far more productive when I have a plan. When I know what is supposed to happen in a scene, it’s easier to get the words on paper.

My main problem- I didn’t like the format of my outlines. While I kept the door open for other things to happen, I wasn’t happy with this format. I researched ‘planning a novel‘ and stumbled upon what is known as ‘The Snowflake Method.’

What is the Snowflake Method?

A software architect named Randy Ingermanson designed The Snowflake Method. Stressing the importance of design, he combines physics and fractals with creative thinking. I made that sound more complicated than it is, but he does a better job of explaining it at his website, found here.

This method is fantastic for me. You take a simple idea and expand upon it in steps until you have a full story and a hefty outline. This is the point where you start to realize that pantsing and plotting go hand in hand. After all, there isn’t an outline for the outline. Meaning, plotters don’t plot before they plot, they have to dream up the outline too. So there is still a creative process happening. Overall, I find that this structure makes the writing process more pleasurable and the editing process less painstaking.

In the end, it’s your writing and your decision on how you want to go about it. There is nothing wrong with listening to someone else’s suggestions but you don’t have to take their advice (especially when you didn’t ask for it in the first place). What works for them may not work for you. The last person I suggested The Snowflake Method to freaked out and was convinced that I was asking them to draw a snowflake…no comment.

Photo Art © Vetkit | Dreamstime.com

Laszlo: The Seven Year Novella

When I first sat down to write Laszlo’s story, I had no idea it would take me seven years to complete and publish it. However, during the long process, I learned a lot about myself and my writing. Here are some of the most common questions that friends and fans have asked me about the process.

Where did the original idea come from?

The original idea for Laszlo came from a show I was watching on the Sci-Fi (Syfy) channel back in 2008 called “The Estate of Panic.” I was a fan of the host, Steve Valentine, and somehow intrigued by this idea of coming to a large estate with a tall, dark and handsome host- A host that you weren’t sure whether you could trust or not. That’s where the story started.

Originally, there were only two characters- Laszlo and Noelle. I’m not sure if that is normal or not for writers. (As if ‘writer’ and ‘normal’ are often used in the same sentence together.) Often, my ideas start out with one to two characters. The rest step in later. As the story evolved and fleshed out, characters like Ben, Dalca, and Kim emerged. I’m so glad they did…otherwise, it would have been a really boring tale.

Why did it take seven years to finish?

I was under the impression that while I should be writing every day if I didn’t feel the muse, I shouldn’t. I later realized my mistake. A writer writes every day no matter how they feel. The muse won’t always be there.

I’m also a perfectionist and that goes against writing in a very big way, especially when it comes to fiction. I spent a lot of time editing as I went and constantly tweaking and changing things before the story was completely written. That can slow someone down big time.

What did you struggle with the most during this project?

Pinning down the plot was a struggle. I had a clear beginning and a clear ending in mind when I first sat down to write. The middle was a mess- the dreaded drag of the middle- but it ended up working. The ending evolved and ultimately, I like that I opened it up to continue Noelle’s journey because, for a time, it was going to end in that chapel. Dalca’s character changed too and he ended up becoming much more than I had anticipated. I grew to like the guy more than Laszlo. That’s why their roles tango the way they do.

What did you learn after publishing for the first time?

I learned two of the most important lessons when it comes to writing. 1) Don’t wait for a muse and 2) Have a plan for the sagging middle.

I’m halfway between a ‘pantser’ and a ‘plotter.’ I believe in the building of a skeleton and my skeleton wasn’t complete when I started Laszlo. Now, my skeletons are complete when I start the first draft of a project. It makes writing so much easier. I still edit a little as I go. That’s not a rule that I’m against, though a lot of writers are. It makes the editing process at the end a lot shorter if I’m constantly going back and fixing grammar and spelling mistakes off the bat.

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Laszlo is currently available here.