Saturday, February 12, 2011

Writing even when you don't feel like it

Hey, fellow SMers! Hope your Saturday is going well. I'm off in a few moments to our sister chapter's meeting, and I'm on a crazy deadline at the moment as well, so naturally I flaked when it came to preparing a post for today.

But I want to share a post with you that I put on my blog just this week. I had a lot of comments, and one person who disagreed with me. I'm pasting the blog here, but also including the link if you want to read comments (where we argued a bit, ha).

What do you think?



That’s what being a professional writer is all about. Did you know that? It’s not about waking up each morning with birds singing, wonderful emails from fans the world over, and breakfast in bed prepared by the household staff and served on real china with real silver and a real teapot, etc.

No, being a professional writer is about dragging your sorry butt out of the bed even though your dreams seem more interesting than the book you’re working on. It’s about brushing your teeth, wrapping your hair in a scrunchie, and turning on the coffee or the kettle. It’s about getting that hot cup of motivation (mine happens to be decaf these days) and going to your writing place. Mine is an office upstairs in my house.

It’s about opening the document and staring at the words, thinking they are probably the worst words ever written and that your career is most certainly over, and then clicking over to email, Facebook, and Twitter to waste time rather than face the task.

And then you might get the lovely surprise of a nasty review, or the news that your book is the only one not in the top whatever of Amazon while all the rest of the books in your line that month are. You might want to go back to bed and cry, or turn off the computer and swear you’re giving up because this is too hard.

But you can’t. Because you’re a professional and you signed on the dotted line and someone is expecting delivery of this monstrous piece of junk in a few weeks (if you’re lucky) or a few days (if you aren’t). You. Must. Deliver.

And because you are a professional, you will. You will tackle that manuscript like it’s you or it (which it is) and you will somehow, eventually, win the battle. You may even like it when you’re done. You may be pleasantly surprised, and you may cry and laugh and tell the cat what a genius you are. (The cat doesn’t care, but say it anyway.)

And then, if your editor thinks it’s not as good as you think it is, you may get it back with a letter that tells you what you need to do. The process of crying and foot dragging will start all over again, but you’ll wrestle the beast once more and you will, eventually, win.

If you really are a professional, you will do this even if you didn’t sign on the dotted line. Because you want to sign on that line and you better get used to the pain now. You have to write even when you don’t really feel like it. Some days, you won’t feel like it. Other days, you can imagine nothing more fun in this world that sitting at the computer in your jammies and making stuff up.

But the truth, dear friends, that I’ve learned after nearly 3 years in the published trenches is this: it doesn’t get easier. It usually gets harder. Better prepare for it now.

And with that piece of hard fought wisdom, I’m back to the trenches to battle these revisions. I will definitely win–but I’ll probably get a bit bloodied in the process.


Carla Swafford said...

I'm looking forward the harder part.

The day job I'm in now, I thought I was nuts applying for it. It appeared harder than the one I had before. And it was. For three years I wanted to quit. I cried so much, let's say I even embarrassed myself a couple times. Then finally something happened. I realized I needed to quit worrying about it and just do it. I won't say it's easier, but at the end of a 13 million dollar job that went smoothly, I feel I've accomplished something. It gave me confidence that poured over into my dream. I finally thought if I can do this day job, who can dare tell me I can't get published.

Though it has been more than three years of trying, I know it will happen and I look forward to the scary parts. It'll make me a better person and a better writer.

M.V.Freeman said...

This is so true Lynn!
This past year, I learned this lesson. I've set out to show myself I can and will.

What is the only way you can do this? Write. Write when you don't want to, write when you can. You can't afford to wait for the muse to show up, you need to be there when she does saunter in.

Thank you for reminding me of this. :)

Louisa Cornell said...

My dear Pixie Sister!

THANK YOU for this post! I really needed to read this today! I recently made a list of all of the advantages of my day job ( a job I despise) versus the disadvantages.

Advantages - 5

Disadvantages - 12

FIVE advantages versus TWELVE disadvantages? I blow off writing because I am tired, or don't feel like it, or can't see it for FIVE advantages?

Next I wrote down the advantages of writing as a full-time career versus the disadvantages. And I didn't "Pollyanna" it. I gave it a great deal of thought.

Advantages - 19

Disadvantages - 6

I know I won't get rich writing no matter how well I do. At best I will probably be making a "just getting by" living. Guess what I am making now? Yep. Same thing.

So, what I have to decide is how badly I want to change my life. How much more of my valuable time I want to spend earning those five measly advantages and how much time I HAVE to devote to my writing to get where I want to be and where I deserve to be. Because ultimately the only thing standing between myself and those 19 advantages is me.

I'm like you, Carla. I'm looking forward to the harder part. Because frankly, my worst day writing is better than my best day at the day job will ever hope to be.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Oh, Carla! Hugs on all that crying and teeth gnashing! But obviously you conquered it!

And nope, no one can tell you you can't get published. Three years of trying is not a huge amount--and yet I know it's still a lot when you want to get there so badly.

Some people get there overnight, and some take years. Took me 15 after I added it all up, including the years I quit. So don't do that. :)

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Yes, Mary! You just have to do it. Even when it's painful, though of course you have to go and smell the roses too. But you can't use that as an excuse (and you clearly aren't!).

It was great seeing you today. Sorry I didn't get to talk to you for longer. If you come to HOD next month, I'll bring that Russian book. Just let me know!

Lynn Raye Harris said...

Hi dear Louisa, my darling Pixie sister! I'm so glad if my post helped you at all.

Writing is hard, absolutely, but it's still the best job I'll ever have. I know it even when I bitch about it. :)

I'm sorry you have to work the dreaded day job, but I love your list! When you break it down like that, wow.

And I believe in you! I think you write marvelous stories, and I think you WILL get there, absolutely. It's just a matter of right time, right book. And I will be first in line to buy! :)

Christine said...

I made a commitment to treat my writing professionally and it has paid off. There are days I don't want to write. There are days my darling hubby very kindly asks why I am doing this to myself. Why am I giving myself deadlines and so forth when I'm not published yet? And I say, it will be like this only a zillion times more so when I am published. We need to get used to it now!

The other thing I can't emphasize enough is that learning to revise, truly get into the meat of the story and redo it with gut wrenching agony, is key when one is unpubbed. I am so glad I pushed myself to revise the last two stories more than once. I think that work has prepared me for the tasks that lay ahead.

(Line and clean editing in a second draft with minor plot/tone/character motivation changes are not really revisions!)