Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Writers, Don’t Beat Yourself Up

This is another one of those posts I wrote for Kristie. She asked for a post on Distractions, so here it is.

Let Those Distractions Be Distracting.

Writing’s a funny thing. It’s not a normal career where you go to school, get a job, and then work until you can retire.  Not for your average wannabe author, anyway. It’s a path where you work and work and then hope and then work some more, you learn as you go, and sometimes you never actually manage to turn it into a career no matter how much you hope and wish that you could. Depressing at times, but it can be so much fun. You’ve got to be awfully persistent to make a go of writing. Optimism helps a lot too. So does another career or someone who is willing to support you while you put in your time – food is an awfully nice thing to be able to eat.

But all of that is just the backdrop for the day-to-day struggle to sit your butt in that chair and write. I’ve read a lot of recommendations on writing. One of the things I see over and over is the “Write every day” mantra. Or the “Weekly word count goal.” I’ve seen people’s exceptionally detailed writing schedules. I’m sure all of these different methods work extremely well for some. And if you need them, and they’re what gets it done for you, I say more power to you. You do what works for you.

I personally have written about six manuscripts and queried two of them (spreadsheets full of agents and everything). I’m working on revising the next one I want to query. So somehow I’ve managed to keep going, despite the fact that I personally don’t believe in write-everyday or weekly-word-count. I’ve learned so much through this process, and I’ve learned what works for me.

And what works for me is to let myself get distracted sometimes. Sometimes I just need a break. Publishing is an uncertain world, and that can get you down. Other days you’ve written something brilliant and you know it. Even if no one else is ever going to see it, you know that this little paragraph was just absolute perfection. That your new plot twist is fricking genius. And that will keep you going if you have any real ambitions to write.

But sometimes the holidays hit, and you’ve got fifty million things going on. Or maybe you just finished up a draft of your manuscript, and you are beat. Or maybe you just got back three negative query letters in the same day, and you are lower than low. You know what I say? Take a break. You deserve it. You’re doing this for yourself anyway. Treat yourself kindly. You never know what will or won’t happen for you, and if you go insane along the way, you’ll never get to enjoy the end result.

Certainly it takes persistence, and sometimes I do sit my butt in front of my computer and make myself write even though I don’t really want to. This is what I want to do with my life, even if it isn’t what I want to do right at that moment. I know that, so I’ll keep going.

But every now and then, don’t beat yourself up, just take a freaking break.

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