Before we dive into this month’s “journey” feature, I just wanted to thank everyone who has contributed, read and helped support We Write Fantasy. A group of my fellow fantasy authors came together over our love of the genre. We also wanted a place where we could help inspire our fellow writers, whether you’re published or not. We hope you’ve found encouragement and inspiration through our love for the craft and genre. And we hope you continue to follow us as we continue to grow.
Some of you who follow me elsewhere already know I took the first part of 2019 off of writing. While I still worked on smaller pieces here and there, I also took a big step back from blogging and contributing here. Today I wanted to share a bit about what I’ve learned since then.
I will be the first person to tell you that writing is hard. Sure, there are times when it is easy and the words flow like a song. There are glorious days when you can’t seem to get the words out fast enough. Then there are the days when you barely eke out a dozen words.
Some folks blame writer’s block when this happens. I just need to find a way to break through, they may tell themselves. (I certainly have.) Others switch tactics or juggle around schedules and habits to get back to the level of productivity needed for serious writing. Because, let me tell you, novel writing is serious. It is countless hours of every day dedicated to plotting, outlining, and actual writing. There are days when it’s so easy to look at the sheer volume of work at your feet and consider switching to short-stories only.
How do you tackle the motherload of writing projects? (Let’s not even touch educational or technical writing—novels are massive enough.) If you’re serious about publishing, be it independently, or through hybrid and traditional presses, you have to think about more than just writing a great book. You must become more. Are you overwhelmed, just thinking about it?
Welcome to the truth behind “writer’s anxiety.”
Writing is a mental game. Blame your struggles on writer’s block or your search to reclaim an invisible muse. At the end of the day, no matter what you do to overcome it, you’re still facing your own worst enemy: you. This is a mental battle no one can win but yourself, and while it does you no good to wallow in self-misery, on the flip side, I wouldn’t recommend claiming too much confidence in your writing skills. No matter how good you perceive yourself, there will always be someone better, faster, seemingly more put together. And while you should constantly seek improvement, critiques, broadening your knowledge of the craft, in the end, none of the above matters. So what if “they” are doing well. Do you think other authors don’t struggle with similar if not the same issues? I promise you they do.
Writing is a mental game, but the battle is in your mind. If you choose, you can win every time. You can win by knowing yourself. Keeping a writer’s journal can be a big help to warn you of the signs. Think about and look back on your mental tells. What discourages you? Bad reviews? Watching others flourish in their careers? A simple solution would be to stop reading reviews and to ignore what the highly lucky successful big whigs are doing. The likelihood of you breaking through to their level is low. Not because it’s impossible, but because of two things—luck, and hard work. There really is no rhyme or reason to success. It’s one part luck: the right story at the right time hitting the right audience. The rest is the result of hard work. The author entrepreneur will invest as much if not more time promoting and selling their book to others. Smart authors will enlist a team of fellow professionals. Which leads me to the next truth.
It’s a mental game, but you aren’t in it alone.
Some imagine the writing process and picture the hermit in her hobbit hole, or some Hemingway cabin tucked beside a lake. For some, I’m sure this is their reality. For me, it’s sneaking in minutes between work, artwork and raising my toddler. Those three aforementioned things are what I must do. The kid-rearing takes first priority of course 😉 Then comes work and artwork. Some days I don’t have the extra energy to create stories, but I’m always writing in some way, and it’s rarely alone.
Gather a tribe of like-minded bookish individuals, not just other writers, if you can help it. Find bloggers (aka readers), editors and designers. My tribe includes all of the above, and I think if not for them, I’d have given up completely years ago. I have a critique partner who I share pretty much everything with and vice versa. I can’t tell you how helpful this is. Not just to keep the brain from going bonkers because you really do spend too much time in your head. It’s liberating to freely bounce mad ideas off someone else. No one quite understands the mental rollercoasters writers go through as well as other writers. If you don’t have a critique partner, I’d say you need one yesterday. Pick someone you aren’t related to if you can help it, either. They’ll be more honest with you than your spouse or sibling. 😉
As you might have guessed, I’ve been thinking a lot about the writing process lately; what holds us back and what pushes us forward. I took the first part of this year off from heavy writing aka novels and it was the best possible decision I could have made. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is take a step back to re-evaluate. As I look at the mistakes and good choices I’ve made in turn, I also look ahead. I’m excited to write again, without the pressure and dread I had built around the process. It’s important to develop a routine, to make writing as much of a habit as possible if you plan to go anywhere with it. But it’s just as important to cultivate every part of our lives. Take care of yourself, listen to your body and your brain when it’s tired. Don’t expect to reach the stars immediately. Writing, and more specifically publishing is a long game. We each struggle and push our way uphill at times, but we aren’t alone. You aren’t alone in your struggles, and I hope that comforts you as much as it does me. 🙂