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The Write Life: The Mountain Is So Tall

When you’re starting out in a writing career, it’s easy to look and see what’s at the top of the mountain. Publication! That goal is easy to see, and the path to that goal is easy to figure out: write a book, get an agent, get published. So, you start walking that path by working on a book.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Writing a book isn’t easy, and you knew it wasn’t easy, and that’s okay. This is the first step to the long-term goal and even this is a long-term goal because it can take a long time to write a book. Or rewrite a book. Or rewrite a book again. (And again.) But that’s okay, it’s all okay, because you knew what you were getting into.

But then you’ve got a book, and it’s good, so you start querying agents. And there’s not a problem with the book, there’s a problem with the timing, specifically in that the market isn’t ripe to support your book. Which means you’ll need to write a different book to get an agent. But you can still do something with this current book because self-publishing is an option.

Now the path up the mountain includes writing a new novel to get an agent and self-publishing a book. You’ll need to write (and rewrite) the next book. You’ll need to learn more about self-publishing, including the technical aspects of putting the files together and marketing a book. But it’s okay, you can do this. You already had an idea for another book and have some resources to tap about self-publishing. You knew the path up the mountain wasn’t necessarily straight and there would be deviations along the way, that’s fine. It’s fine.

But now that you’ve started up the mountain, it’s harder to see the top because you’re on the mountain. The easiest things to see are the path ahead of you and that it’s much farther to the top than it looked from the bottom. The mountain is so tall, and it’s going to take longer to reach the top than you thought it would.

 

This is the analogy I used recently to describe how I was feeling to my therapist. The mountain is just so tall, and right now I’m feeling overwhelmed and tired. Those are hard feelings to manage in a creative career because there is so much pressure to keep creating. I feel like I don’t have time to be overwhelmed or tired, and I have to keep going. If I crawl, I’m still making progress, right?

Ha. I’m fairly certain my therapist doesn’t think that’s the healthiest mind set. She frequently reminds me that I have to make room for self-care, which, for a writer, that includes refueling the creative well and leaving time for my brain to rest and cogitate on new ideas. It might mean not writing for a while, or not writing the thing I’m “supposed” to write. Even though I know this, and even though I repeat these reminders to myself, it’s hard to remember because the mountain is just so tall.

 

 

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The Write Life: Escaping September

September was another long, weird month that seemed to drag so much more than the summer. (I’m still constantly thinking it’s the end of July or August.) But the slog of September also brought my usual escape from the stress and frustration of the year: DragonCon.

DragonCon was of course a virtual experience for 2020, and despite attending several successful virtual conventions earlier in the year, I was a little worried about what it would be like. Others have done the work experimenting with formats and troubleshooting technology, and attending social events virtually is now a well-rehearsed skillset, so I wasn’t concerned about them pulling off DragonCon. I was concerned about whether or not it would feel like DragonCon.

DragonCon is a special brand of weird. It’s wandering the lobbies of the Marriott and Hilton and freezing in place while a conga line of Deadpools circles. It’s hugging friends, celebrities, and strangers you’ve been queueing with for an hour. It’s admiring the growing shrine to FedEx Jon on the walkway to the food court and celebrating when you find an enamel pin of the Marriott carpet tucked inside a planter. It’s following up a season recap panel for your favorite show with one about queerness in Batman or how artificial intelligence in science fiction traces back to Frankenstein.

It is being surrounded by nerds celebrating being nerds in a thousand different ways.

And I was concerned it wouldn’t fully translate to an online format.

(I was also concerned about my waning tolerance for video meetings, but that’s a secondary issue.)

My friends and I banded together for group chats during live panels, met for the parade Saturday morning (a mix of submitted footage/photos and parade video from previous years), and even had “lunch” together for a final hurrah on Monday. We had spontaneous video chats with whomever was available, catching up on what panels we went to and which ones were worth watching later (virtual convention means you can rewatch some of the content!), and we introduced each other to new shows and memes. We talked until bedtime every night and were frequently the first people we communicated with in the morning—not unlike con at all.

I watched panels about steampunk, Victorian death customs, and the pyramids of Giza. I moderated a season recap panel about The Umbrella Academy. I watched Q&As with present and past guests like John Romita Jr., Richard Dean Anderson, and Carrie Fisher. I stumbled into unexpectedly hilarious panels like Bar’d Talk, which was a combination of Whose Line and Shakespeare. I shared stories and photos from past DragonCons with my friends (I’ve been going since 2003, I have a lot to share). And I got to step away from the stress of 2020 for a weekend and just… breathe.

Maybe I had to work a little harder this year to feel immersed in DragonCon—I certainly exercised my imagination every time my friends and I joked about saving each other seats in panels or going to the food court when breaking for lunch—but I still got to celebrate being a nerd with other nerds. When it comes to DragonCon, that’s all I really need.

(Well, that and the name of that Peter B. Parker cosplayer from 2019. I really should have proposed marriage.)

 

 

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The Write Life: Quarantined April

The second month in quarantine slowly felt more and more normal as new routines settled into habits and new habits became familiar. Some changes, actually, are welcome and have provided more structure to my day and made me more productive. Whereas March saw my motivation and productivity slowly folding like a flan in a cupboard, April built up to impressive amounts of writing (over 25,000 words) and finally getting back to editing projects. (Which, by the way, thank you to everyone sitting static in the queue for most of the month. Your patience has been key to maintaining my mental health.)

One thing that has helped a lot is that six-days a week I run virtual write-ins for Central Florida Inklings. Inklings used to be my face-to-face writing group that met once a week, but since shifting to an online format, I started offering weekday write-ins. We’ve got a couple times that are stable, but the other times shift, allowing different members to participate and allowing me to have a little variation day to day and week to week, which is, let me tell you, something I desperately needed. Working from home—as I’m sure many of you have noticed—has a sameness that can be devastating. It’s all too easy to forget what day it is when there’s so little variation in your life or schedule. But these write-ins have made me work a little harder to remember the day of the week, and that in turn has helped me stay present and active.

Another improvement to quarantine life is that I purchased some noise-cancelling headphones. It’s now much easier for me to get a quiet slice of time to write and edit, and I can listen to some bops whenever I like. (There may have been a marked increase in Dance Party Writing Breaks over the last two weeks.) I’m still searching out the perfect playlist for writing, but for now, being able to dull the random noises around me is working wonderfully.

While many states and cities are planning to open quarantine within the next month, I’m planning to stay isolated through the end of May. As I’ve said before, quarantine life is a lot like my regular life, so staying isolated to keep my household healthy isn’t much of a burden. But, uh, I may have to venture out for tacos or to stand in a library or bookstore. (Browsing my home bookshelves is just not the same.)

 

 

For full access to The Write Life, sign up on Patreon for $1 or more per month. You’ll also receive a personalized thank you in a future edition of The Write Life.