Weekly Musing: Jealous Much?

An interesting blog topic I found suggested talking about whose writing career you are most jealous of. Provocative and in my opinion, if handled correctly can come across as more inspirational rather than full of green-eyed envy. The topic certainly got me thinking. There are certainly authors whom I’m inspired by, but that’s from a prose standpoint rather than their careers. In that respect then yes, I admit to being jealous. As a reader I respond to authors who paint a beautiful, emotional picture and give me a story full of unique, interesting characters. As a writer, I’m jealous of authors who are able to paint a beautiful, emotional picture within a story full of unique, interesting characters.

But is there one author whose career I’m jealous of? After much consideration the answer is no one’s. Sure there are authors whose level of success and income level I’d like to achieve even a tenth of, but do I envy them in the dictionary definition? No.

I have a few reasons for this. The first is it’s not a natural part of my personality to be jealous of people. Am I envious of the seemingly easy way some are able to write without the tremendous amount of effort and numerous drafts I have to go through? Hell, yeah. I’d love to be as quick as them. Yet though I’m envious, I’ve learned each writer works at his or her own pace. Truly there is no one correct path to success.

Another reason is because so much of publishing is luck that it doesn’t make sense to be jealous. Every author has been rejected, waited for that one publisher or agent to take a chance on him or her. Many well-known authors have even changed publishers for one reason or another after becoming A BIG DEAL. Due to the cyclical nature of the business, a manuscript rejected today may very well be picked up in a few years. Or with the proliferation of self-publishing an author could take a chance and publish their book themselves and see what happens. A lot of it comes down to being at the right place at the right time.

Finally, my last reason is once I began writing more actively, I began to understand the amount of work that goes into each story. Even bad stories take a lot of time. If anything, most authors never come close to earning enough for the hundreds, possibly thousands of hours of work they put in. In fact, most authors do not make the kind of money J.K. Rowling, Stephen King,  E.L. James, Ken Follett, or other very well-known authors do. They are the exception rather than the rule. Realizing this early on I think lessens the need to be jealous of another author’s career.

Instead of being jealous, remember success didn’t come easily or overnight no matter how out of nowhere it seems. Far too often we don’t hear about the work that was put in. More than likely it’s the same amount of work you currently are putting into your career. Unfortunately, there are so many uncontrollable factors which go into success it is easy to become jealous. It may seem like they had it easy or didn’t receive as many rejections, but they still struggled and lamented their luck. As much as you can, turn that jealousy into fuel for inspiration. Jealousy is normal, we are all humans, but do not let it prevent you from working toward your dreams.

Weekly Musing: 2017 Goals

Happy New Year one and all! I hope for everyone’s sanity 2017 is a much kinder year to us all. And since we are now in a new year, it’s resolutions time. I’ve always disliked the word resolution because I associate it with everyone getting super excited believing they will achieve their goals only to pretty much give up by the end of January. Instead, I like to use the word goal as I think it lends itself to being more obtainable.

Because I view this time of year as a chance to set goals, I’ve been thinking of what would be most achievable for me.

As always, I have the continuing goal of working to improve my writing. But one thing I want to stay away from is getting caught up in all the posts and articles of writing advice. Knowledge is power and while I enjoy learning, too much information for me has negative side effects. I noticed I was getting to the point where a voice in my mind developed overanalyzing if what I was working on was worth it. In order to save what little sanity I actually have, I’m going to reduce the amount of time I spend reading about the writing craft. After all, shouldn’t my time be used to actually write, which is the best way to get better.

Another goal is when I get to the next stage in my career, that’s when I will start looking for information. To read and try to absorb information about things I’m not ready for just feeds into my natural ability to overthink.

One of the big things I want to accomplish this year is to have a “finished enough” draft of the historical fiction novel I’ve been working on for years. To me this means finally get the plot the way I envision it, to do justice to the main character the way he sounds in my mind, and to be polished enough to reveal it to the world for feedback.

Because I took the last few months of 2016 off from submitting short stories for publication, I will start submitting again. In conjunction with this, I’m going to work on composing new stories. A wrinkle I’ve added is organizing markets into ones which offer a flat fee vs. those who pay by the word. I want to go after the higher paying markets first and work my way down. I figure this strategy is a way to recognize my work has more value than I give it credit for.

In 2016 I was unable to attend any writer conferences or workshops due to timing and funding concerns. This year I would like to attend at least one, hopefully two. Unfortunately, one which had been taking place where I live decided last year to suspend operation indefinitely. On the other hand, I’m fortunate to live in an area which has lots of opportunities.

I’d also like to participate in NaNoWriMo this year. Hopefully I’ll get that historical fiction novel finished enough by then to take a chance on drafting a new piece. My brain is teeming with ideas and characters that are dying to be let out of their cage.

Finally, I hope in 2017 I will finally be able to truly let myself go on the page. To be comfortable allowing the characters be who they are no matter how unlikable they may be at times. To be dark, sad, and angry. To be light, fluffy, and in love. I know I hold back on the page because I allow myself to absorb others’ criticisms of when authors go to uncomfortable places or make a character unlikable even when it is justified and well done. I struggle with not wanting to be conventional, yet desiring to be published and seeing conventional is what seems to sell and is embraced by the general reading public. I guess what I’m trying to say is I want to find my voice and style.

That’s it for my 2017 goals. I hope whatever your goals or resolutions are, you find the energy to keep going. Realize too that it’s okay if you stumble and take a break. So good luck to everyone out there and Happy New Year!

Weekly Musing: 2016 Reflections

I think an overwhelming majority of us can agree that 2016 was a really rough year and one many of us would like to forget. Yet I can’t and during this month of reflection, I’ve thought a lot about what this year has brought me professionally. It was certainly a mixed bag, more so than in previous years.

The Good

Published stories: This year saw four stories published. This is great and brings my total up to ten stories in the few short years I’ve been submitting work. Even better, I got paid for three of the four stories so it seems like my continuing goal of only seeking markets which pay was a good decision.

First Interview: 2016 saw my first interview ever. Published on the Charlotte Writers Group’s website, I felt honored to be approached for the feature especially when many of the other interviews featured members with published books.

First Guest Blog Post: Back in August saw the first ever guest blog post on my little piece of the internet. Author M.K. Williams approached me via the website blogtour.com and asked me if she could guest blog. It was a neat feeling being asked and it was fun working with Williams. Here’s to a long career for her!

The Not-So-Good

Publishing Prospects: While I saw four stories published, three of those stories were things I submitted last year. Unfortunately, I have a giant goose egg in my spreadsheet for stories submitted this year. Needless to say this was demoralizing as each year since 2013 has seen the number of stories accepted for publication increase by one each year. Instead it feels like I’ve take a giant step backward. Some of the rejections were simply the story not being a right fit (an error on my part for not submitting something appropriate), while other rejections had to do with the story not quite being there for them or the issue was too full.

I’m not ashamed to admit that late summer I decided it would be best for me to take a break from worrying about publication. With a book I wanted to revise, my time needed to be focused elsewhere. The blow to my ego also factored in since nothing but rejections takes a toll on one emotionally. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away from something for a little while in the hopes of coming back to it in a better frame of mind.

Other Thoughts

Looking over the goals I set for myself this year, I didn’t quite live up to some of my expectations. Some I did meet like working more on diversifying my reading. I also did revise a historical fiction novel I’ve been working on and off for years. While I’m still fumbling around with the plot, damn those historical events, I feel like I’m getting closer to being what I’ve seen as it plays out in my head. In addition to the historical fiction novel I revised, I also did another revision on a novel in a completely different field. From those experiences I learned it is best to focus entirely on one project from and take a smaller break from it before diving into the next revision.

One of the goals I abandoned pretty early on was tracking my word count and aiming to up it. I’m discovering that the more metrics I try to implement, the more it hampers my creativity. Seeing days with zeros doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Those could be days where I’m doing research or revising an outline or scribbling down a story idea or simply dealing with personal matters. They are not indicative of a lack of work ethic and I know what I’m capable of doing. So no more tracking numbers.

As this year has progressed I found myself questioning if I’m actually getting better as a writer. I’m not honestly sure. I find myself more often than not struggling with how to get the characters and their emotions just right. Looking back onto earlier pieces I think those had more energy and depth than what I’ve produced of late. Perhaps because the more I learn about the craft and the industry, the more that information clogs my mind and affects my creative process. Perhaps what I’m actually experiencing is struggling with finding my voice and style. It doesn’t help that I’ve always been hardest on myself.

Another change I hadn’t expected was questioning much of the advice circulating around about writing. Some of this has been thinking deeply about supposed “rules” which often times come down to personal preference. To me, so much of this advice is drilled into writers it feels as if a writer’s individuality is sucked out in an effort to fit in. No wonder the authors with a unique voice and style stand out from the crowd.

 

2016 was certainly a mixed bag. Next week I’ll go over my 2017 goals. I hope 2017 will be better for everyone and Happy New Year!