Hello, hello to all my foxy friend folx. It has been a minute (two months!) since we last chatted. How have you been? Are you hydrating? Napping? Talking walks and talking to trees?
I have been doing all of those things and most of the summer, for me, has been about refocusing and letting my mind and my heart recuperate from a hectic school year (and tbh, it's not looking like this school year is going to be much better, but as long as I don't have to manage live stream students AND in person students at the same time, I'm going to take it as a win. The bar is low.).
In today's blog I'm going to talk a bit about how I've struggled creatively these past few months, what I've identified as the root of my problem, and how there's not really any actionable options to fix it. WAIT! WAIT! Don't leave yet, it's not all doom & gloom. I have a point, just stick with me.
Writing and pursuing publishing is not a task for the feint of heart. It's not easy, not everyone can write a book, & not all those that do complete a manuscript have the persistence to take constructive criticism, revise that story multiple times, be one of a hundred queries that show up in an agent's inbox, or survive the high levels of rejection. But then there's the rest of us that do it anyway. Even though it takes a toll on our mental and emotional health.
If you're a sane, logical person, you're probably asking yourself, WHY? WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THIS TO THEMSELVES???
Well, Todd, it's because we love creating stories and characters and worlds. And part of any story telling tradition is sharing them (hence the "telling" part). In our hearts, all artist create because it feeds our souls and to not create would leave us miserable and unfulfilled. And writers are artists. I write down the stories that lurk in my brain because I want to share them. I want others to read them and get as excited as I do, to be inspired by them, and to find new truths about themselves or their world. Or just to be entertained, I'm 100% down with someone reading my stories and just being excited that it was a fun ride with no deeper dives.
Over the past two months, I've really struggled to move forward with my writing goals and my overall plan for my future. In the spring, I had quite a few irons in the fire and I was manifesting the heck out of them.
And then each and every one snuffed out.
In the end, I was left with nothing to show for a lot of hard work and effort. No new job, no new place to live, no agent offering rep for the MS I had been querying. Add in some good old pandemic isolation and I wasn't in a great place mentally or emotionally. June was a really rough month for me and I felt even more isolated and alone than usual (there were a lot of personal factors wrapped up in this that I'm not going to get into!) and I was finding it difficult to find motivation to keep pushing forward toward my goals.
Because if I was already working hard and doing absolutely everything I possibly could and wasn't finding success, what was the point? And maybe there isn't one. But, for me, that wasn't an acceptable outcome. I know what I want and with the gods as my witness, I will have it. It took me a month and a half to dig out the root of my feelings and while it didn't fix anything and I still don't have any of the things I want, I have a better understanding of the why.
For me, it's a combination of not feeling seen (or appreciated) as a writer and it's the knowledge that I'm currently doing everything right and the universe is still opting to give me the big middle finger.
Let's start with issue #1: Not feeling seen or appreciated. I italicized feeling because there is a distinction here that needs clarified. It's not that I'm not seen or appreciated, what I'm saying is that my current level is not measuring up to where I want it to be.
I have a very small number of people I send my manuscripts to for CP/Beta purposes. And don't get me wrong, they are wildly supportive and give me boosts of confidence and encouragement, but it waxes and wanes (as I'm sure my encouragement for them does! Full respect for the mental spoons they can send my way--their health and well being always come first and sometimes you just can't spend the energy outside of yourself). Which is why I said I feel like I'm not seen. It's based in my perception.
I look forward to the day when I get emails or messages from readers who found a part of themselves in my stories. I want to know that somewhere, someone is reading my story and that their lives are better for it. I love when my friends scream about my story, don't get me wrong, but I want randos with no connection to me being just as excited. You know what I mean. And since I already have my friend's support, I've adjusted my goal post and now I want MOAR.
And right now, I feel invisible. My friends have all read my current WIP that I'm getting ready to query and I have nothing new to offer. I don't talk about my writing with my family--the few conversations that have taken place never end well and the last time it came up, I quickly shut it down and said it was an off limit topic of conversation. I don't have any active queries, so there isn't a snowball's chance in Hell that I'm going to get an excited email from an agent. So I'm just stagnating in this weird place of waiting and it's driving me batty.
To cope, I spend a lot of time twitter fangirling over my own stories and characters and knowing that NO ONE is going to get those tweets or even care. But I still tweet into the void, because I have to be my biggest fan. And it's exhausting being your own biggest fan and advocate in a world that would rather ignore you because you don't stand out in a way that garners $$$$. Another facet of this is that I am damn good at maintaining an aura of EVERYTHING'S FINE. And that I'm doing okay and I don't need checked on, or regular encouragement. This is absolutely a way of protecting myself. Through a series of life events, I've learned that being emotionally vulnerable or prioritizing myself around others leads to BAD HEART THINGS. So now I keep it locked away and will quickly steer the conversation back to what I can do for someone else rather than what my own emotional needs might be.
But as a writer, I have a need to be perceived. I want to be appreciated. I want head pats. All earned of course. I don't want people throwing platitudes my way out of pity (that's a whole 'nother brain block I have). I want to see my words making a difference to someone, somewhere and right now, they aren't.
They're trapped in a file on my computer, not doing anyone any good.
Which leads me to the second half of of my summer doldrum, the fact that I am currently doing EVERYTHING possible to advance myself. I have a plan, I have goals, I'm constantly working to level up and do better in all aspects of my life. And it's gotten me no where (don't any of you come at me with the BUT HARDSHIPS MAKE YOU GROW or BUT YOU'RE DOING BETTER THAN PAST YOU!!--I know that aspects of both of those are true, but in the end, I'm stuck in a job (read: district--I LOVE being a teacher) that I'm not thrilled with, a town where I can't be myself, and, well, publishing is a mess).
And there's nothing else I can do to make any of those things change except get up each morning and toil away. I'm the human equivalent of Boxer from Animal Farm. If I just work harder, things will happen! But in reality, I'm just going to end up at the knackers while still singing the praises of the pigs who sent me there.
So what's the point of this blog? It's not a pity party. It's me openly acknowledging that I want to feel seen and appreciated more than I currently am. It's me saying that at this point, I have no control over my future as a writer. It's a matter of whether or not someone in the industry thinks I'm worth $$$$ or not. So much of the social media of writers is either LOOK AT ME I HAVE THE THINGS!!! or /i am trash and should just be ejected into the ether/ that it's hard to find a balance of realizing it's okay to not be perfect, or that it's okay to say there's nothing else I can do right now--I'm doing everything right.
Society is weird, we're socialized (especially femme identifying folx) to not show confidence and to readily accept blame for things we have no control over (ie: the "well, I'm clearly not working hard enough" lie). My lack of success in being published has nothing to do with lack of hard work. It has nothing to do with confidence. My internal confidence is off the charts, but externally, I'm still trying to make myself small so that no one thinks I'm conceited. I'm far from perfect, I continue to mess up, to learn, and, most importantly, to grow. And I've had to accept that, right now, at this moment, there's nothing else for me to do. It doesn't mean I'm not motivated or that I've given up. What it does mean is that I've had to unlearn the idea of overworking myself. Continuing to cosplay Boxer will not lead to my eventual world domination...er, publishing success. It will lead to burnout and self-loathing.
It's okay to WANT. And I want so much. So, so, so, much. It's okay to want attention and head pats. Having a balance of internal and external validation is healthy. It's okay to feel like you aren't getting enough--feelings are valid--but process it so you understand it. For me, I realized that while I have a damn good support system, it's small (which impacts the amount of feedback) and the fact that my goalpost has shifted from curating a reliable and safe space to share my work into wanting a broader audience.
Why does it matter? Publishing is not an easy path and while the ongoing social media (read: Twitter) discourse is lovely for transparency, it's also heartbreaking. Agented and published authors are struggling to be seen and perceived, what hope do unagented authors have? (Keep in mind, I'm saying this as someone who considers getting 5 hits on a blog post as HITTIN' THE BIG TIME.) I have not yet struck oil in the branding department--I know what my brand is, I just haven't figured out how to package it for easy media consumption. Being seen is human. Being appreciated is human. But the world also expects us to be humble and accept whatever scraps we get and be thankful. Hard work is absolutely a part of publishing, but there's a lot of luck (good & bad) involved that sometimes seems like it invalidates all that hard work and effort.
That's not working for me. I want more. I want to be seen. I want to be recognized for the amazing human being that I am. And that's the point I'm trying to make. Sometimes you need to step back and realize that it's not you. The world wants us to make ourselves small and to think that we aren't good enough. I'm here to tell you it's a lie.
BE BIG. WANT MORE. BE AMAZING.
In short, the world isn't ready for how fucking amazing I am (or how amazing YOU, dear reader, are). It has a few months to get it's shit together while I keep whittling away at my plan. I will move forward--but I'm also prioritizing myself. My heart and my mind, but especially my heart.
(As always, please check out my Twitter if you would like to comment! There are a lot of things I love about this site, but the fact it requires a log-in to leave a comment is NOT one of them *big sigh*)