Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Writing is a mind game

Sally won four contests and finaled in five. Ben got an awesome agent with his first query. Tom sold the first book he ever wrote and hit the bestseller list. Emily just signed a three book deal with an awesome publisher who can't get enough of her stuff.
Meanwhile wretched writer won a prestigious contest but no one wanted to publish the book. Ambitious author started with a small press certain he'd jump right into something bigger but for some reason he can't break out. Disappointed dabbler entered twenty contests and the judges all hated her work--even though she has been following all "the rules" for ten years and going to writer's meeting regularly.
Let the mind games begin...
Writers are competitive, daring, dramatic people. Otherwise we wouldn't dream of attempting to write and create a story. We are lured by our own sense of success whether that's winning a contest or two, publishing a hard cover book, hitting the best seller list or simply being able to make a living at this madness. Someone once wrote that to be a writer is to be a gambler. We are all working on that next book in hopes of hitting it big. We all need the next "fix" of success.
Reality check #1: you cannot control the market place-not even a little. Not even if you're a marketing guru. Once you write and polish a book you have no further control over it. That means that two people can have the same great idea, have the same amount of talent, write well polished books and one may be a success while another one flounders. It may be something as simple as your name, your agent's name, who gets the book to the agent/editor first or even a tropical storm swamping a warehouse with all your books while the competition's books hit store shelves. (Seriously, floods, train wrecks, it's all happened.)
Reality check #2: Everybody's different. What does this mean? It means you can't compare what happens in your writing journey to what happens in any one else's. So what if all your friends are selling and celebrating victory after victory while you polish and resend and gather rejection letters. You are not a failure. They are not better than you. STOP comparing apples and oranges. You are not your friends. You are not Sally or Joe or even the person you consider your nemesis. Thinking that they are showing you up leads only to madness. You'll find yourself not finishing your work certain you will fail. You find yourself hating to hear their good news even though you like them. You might even try to copy them or figure out what they did to get where they are. Soon, you may be so obsessed that you quit writing all together. You fling books at walls swearing that editors are crazy if they think this dreck is good enough to publish. If you find yourself procrastinating or polishing the same three chapters without finishing the book or chasing trends only to discover it's no longer vampires but zombies, no longer zombies but werewolves, no longer werewolves but mummies and you would rather shove a toothpick in your eye then congratulate your best friend on her latest sale. Stop the madness. Open your window. Stick your head out and shout, "I'm mad as hell and I just can't take it anymore."
Now step away from the computer. Step away from the story. Take a break, get some water, deep breathes, do yoga, stand on your head. Move your computer sideways. Change your perspective. Even take a month away from writing (or more) if needed to gain perspective. Writing is life. Some people are born rich. Some people are born poor. Some people catch every break while others work their fingers to the bone year after year. While it is natural to compare yourself to others, remember this: writing is hard enough without playing mind games. Some say you need a thick skin in this business. I say you need proper perspective. Whatever you do- fight the bitterness with fun. (Bon fire of the rejections letters anyone?) Fight the disappointment with flare (shout "ompah" and do shots of chocolate for every thanks-but-no-thanks) and cherish all your friend's victories as your own (party like it's Dec. 21, 2012.) Dare NOT to compare and celebrate the journey you are on. Play. Live. Enjoy. Life is too short to do anything else. Cheers~

14 comments:

Anita said...

All so true...great reminders!

Email me if you get a chance...would love to ask you a few questions about Seton Hill.

Stephen Tremp said...

How right you are. Life is too short. I just lost a good friend over the weekend.

Stephen Tremp

Heather Snow said...

Great advice, Nance. And so true. Our own work ethic, effort, willingness to grow and learn, and perseverance is all we can control.

Thanks for the gut check.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Anita, thanks for stopping by. I'll talk to you soon.

Stephen, my condolences on the loss of your friend.

Hi Heather, thanks for the comment. Many writers come to me to talk about how to persevere. They get caught up in their own idea of how well they "should" be doing vs how well others are doing. And forget about what they are doing.

It is so easy to get caught up. I know I do it sometimes, too. :) Cheers~

Rosalind Adam said...

Thanks for the advice. I think this might just be the right time for me to step away from the computer just a bit and maybe do some yoga too.

Marilyn Brant said...

Here, here!! Thanks for the fabulous post, Nancy, and the all-important reminder that we each have our OWN writing journey. Nothing that happens to anyone else--for good or bad--can either elevate or diminish our accomplishments. :)

India Drummond said...

What a great post!

The mental aspect of writing is so much harder than the 'putting words on paper' part. The frustration, the uncertainty, the rejection and risks... it can all be crazy-making!

Love the important reminders here. Well done!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Rosalind, I recently moved my desk to a different place in my office looking for a fresh perspective. And yoga helps me to stretch out after a long day huddled-yeah, huddled, over the keyboard. :)

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Marilyn, "Nothing that happens to anyone else--for good or bad--can either elevate or diminish our accomplishments" This is so true. Sometimes I think I need to paint it on my office wall! :)

Cheers~

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi India, thanks!
Sometimes it feels like a foot race instead of a life style. Doesn't it? Cheers~

Kathryn Magendie said...

YES! these are thoughts I've been having - esp after attending a book event recently and listening listening and watching watching authors....

There is never enough if we keep looking for more!

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

What wise advice. It didn’t take me long in this business to realize I needed to celebrate my own little victories regardless of how minor, and never ever compare myself to another writer. It’s made me a happier, more satisfied person.

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Kathryn, Hi Jane,

Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. The sad part is I need to remind myself of this at least once a year-lol. Otherwise I get all caught up, even though I know better.

Cheers~

prashant said...

Thanks for the gut check.
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