Tag Archive for: motivation

Starting a new writing project can be overwhelming. Even when I’m excited, there’s so much ahead. There’s words, time, decisions, commitment—and when I think about how many words it takes to draft and revise a novel or how many things are still undecided or how many hours (and then days, weeks, and months) are between me and the end of my book, it can stall my momentum. So, it’s important for writers to have some idea of how to create writing motivation.

Lack of motivation isn’t the same thing as a lack of desire. I wanted to dive into my novel back in November, but I only managed to work on it for 15 days before the end of 2023. (Which for some of you probably sounds amazing, but as a daily writer, it’s much less so.) Some of those distractions were related to life—the holiday season, illness, commitments to friends and family—but some of it was from a lack of motivation. Luckily, writers can create writing motivation, it just requires some ingenuity, a toolkit, and knowing yourself really, really well.

Create Writing Motivation

Identify the Easiest Goal

Start by identifying the easiest goal that will also make you feel good about your progress. There are three rules to follow when identifying this easiest goal:

  • Choose something you can achieve every time you sit down to write.
  • Choose something that also gives you room to exceed your goal.
  • Choose something that will feel like progress.

For example, if you usually write 250–300 words when you sit down to write, your easiest goal might be to write 100 words on your novel every time you write. 100 words is less than you normally write, so you know it’s achievable, and since you normally write more, you have room to exceed your goal and feel great about your progress. And just imagine the day you write 500 words. That’s five times your usual goal! Now that’s a lot of progress.

Goals you might consider include:

  • word count
  • time spent writing
  • completing scenes or beats

Track Your Habit

Record each time you meet your writing session goal. You can use any kind of tracker you like but use something that will create writing motivation.

Physical or visual trackers can be good for seeing how small progress grows. You can mark days on a calendar, fill in blocks on a bullet journal, award yourself stickers, or use an app with a visual component (various graphs and chains are common in tracker apps).

It can also be helpful to have a tracker that automatically accumulates your progress. Like, a word count tracker where you fill in daily word counts, but the tracker informs you of how many total words you wrote and on how many days you worked. That data can help motivate you on future weeks and months to challenge yourself to reach a little further—or it can let you off the hook, so you know you’ve got padding for any rough days ahead.

Break Your Plan into Manageable Chunks

Stop looking at your novel as writing and polishing 100,000 words, or even as writing 30 chapters. Don’t think about working on your novel for three hours every day for eight months (or the end math on that being 720 hours).

Start with that big picture, and then break it into smaller and smaller chunks until you find the chunk that sits comfortably in your head and motivates you to write.

You might need to break your novel into:

  • which chapters you’ll write each quarter of the year
  • which chapters you’ll write each month
  • how many scenes you’ll write each month (or week)
  • how many words or hours you’ll write each week (or day)

How you divide your plan into chunks doesn’t have to match your easiest goal—and may help if it doesn’t! Keeping an eye on time for your easiest goal and word count for your plan can provide multiple ways to create writing motivation. If you don’t have twenty minutes to write today, but you can quickly slap together your planned landmark of 200 words, you’re more likely to write than assume it’s a wasted writing day.

The Key to Motivation

The real key to learning how to create writing motivation is to give yourself as many motivators as you can. Word count goals, time goals, scene or chapter or date goals can all help move you forward—as long as they speak to you.

You might rely on a few rewards or prizes along the way, too. Some days that negotiation for a hot chocolate if I write 500 words is the thing that gets me from 437 words to over 500.

Accountability buddies, social media check-ins, and other ways of reporting your progress to someone can also create writing motivation. Knowing yourself, knowing what motivates you, and adapting other people’s suggestions to what you know will help YOU create writing motivation is the difference between starting your project and finishing it.

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative 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.

I made a difficult decision this month to break the chain. After struggling to find the time and energy to work on my novel in any kind of meaningful way, I took a hard look at my writing life. I assessed what my days were like, what my stress levels were like, and why I kept putting off writing. I looked at my motivations and distractions and my goals. My precious, precious goals.

I’ve been writing at least 250 words every day, and after five years I decided it was time to break the chain.

Evolution of a Goal

When I first set the goal of writing 250 words every day, it was a path to a specific end goal. I wanted to move from being a daily writer to someone who writes 1,000 words every day.

I got it in my head from reading the habits of prolific and successful authors that the only way to “Make It” was to write 1K–2K every day. Which I was not doing. (Which I currently have no hope of growing into either, but we’ll get to that.)

My first steps on this path had gone well. I transformed myself first into someone who wrote daily, and then into someone who wrote at least 100 words a day, and then into someone who wrote at least 250 words a day. And most days I wrote more than that!

The original plan was to continue to up that goal every year—or whenever the minimum word count seemed “too easy”—but then I had a reality check.

Reality Check: Getting Intentional

So, like, writing a minimum of 250 words every day is fine. I was able to write 250 words when I was distracted by DragonCon, sick with covid, depressed, throwing up from a food allergy, and in many other really sucky situations.

But many of those times when I was writing those 250 words under less-than-ideal circumstances, I was also not writing intentionally.

I had fallen into the trap of writing literally anything to not break the chain—and then amassing starts of projects I was never planning to continue (mostly because they were babbling for the sake of word count).

I made the decision to write from a project list or with a specific project series in mind (like Writer Resources posts). And things got better. For a year or two. But I still had a problem.

Break the Chain (When It Binds You)

Whenever time was short, my stress was high, my mental health was low, my exhaustion had a vice grip on my brain—I wanted to write the easy words and keep putting links in the chain of 250 words a day.

“Easy” writing for me often equates to nonfiction posts or presentations about writing. In the last year, while I’ve been suffering another round of severe depression and heightened anxiety, I have written way, way more blog posts than fiction.

I have a specific end goal in mind again—a different goal than trying to write 1,000 words a day (which I have also given up as crazy-pants-thinking I don’t need in my life)—that goal is to write a draft of a novel. While writing 250 words a day would help that goal, it’s too much pressure right now.

At the start of a project, while I’m hemming and hawing, questioning my decisions and direction, and just figuring it all out, I don’t need the added pressure of making sure I’m hitting a daily word count. And trying to hit that daily word count was preventing me from putting time into my novel because I knew those weren’t easy words, I wouldn’t hit my 250 goal, and stress! Not writing! Ahhh!

And that, my friends, is why it’s time to break the chain. I have moved away from the original goal, the revised goal is no longer serving me, and it’s time to find some new habits to help support the writer I am today.

(But, uh, still a daily writer… FOR NOW.)

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative 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.

The end of the year is a time for reflection. For writers, that reflection often includes taking assessment of how many things we published or finished, or maybe how much progress we made in a novel—or if you’re an industrious little tracker (like someone around here), how many words, hours, or pages you wrote over the year. Inevitably that reflection turns to the future and to setting writing goals.

Writing goals for the new year should be set on your previous goals, the progress you made, and what your priorities are now. Frequently I’ll look back on goals I made and realize I didn’t even remember setting those goals, which means I did nothing about them over the year. (And ultimately means they weren’t actually that important to me and I probably should have set different goals.)

Let’s talk about how to set better writing goals that support our long-term writing hopes and short-term realities.

Setting Realistic Writing Goals

Define Your Priorities & Reality

Before you start dreaming up writing goals, you need to decide what’s important to you. While that should include what’s important to you about your writing life, it should also consider everything else about your life.

If spending more time with your kids or learning how to knit has become an important part of your life, you need make time for it. Balance your writing goals against your other goals and priorities so everything fits together.

Your writing goals don’t always have to be about doing more. Sometimes making a writing goal to write for only 1 hour per week, or to write 100,000 words fewer than last year, or to write 1 novel instead of 3 is the right call. You’ll feel more successful when your goals match your reality, and you can check them off instead of continuing to shuffle them to next year.

Limit Your Goal List

One of the mistakes I’ve made in the past is trying to tackle too much at once. A list of writing goals that is ten items long has at least six things that will be forgotten or ignored. It’s too hard to focus when there are too many goals, and it’s too easy to forget what you’re not actively working on.

Three or four focused goals that meet your priorities and reality are more powerful than ten goals you wish you could achieve in a perfect world.

Subjective & Objective

Many writing goals are objective:

  • Did you finish your novel?
  • Did you write 200,000 words?
  • Did you write every day?

Those goals all have an easy yes or no answer, and you can check your progress throughout the year and have a good idea if you’ll achieve your goal. (For example, if you need to write 100,000 words in October to meet your word count, you can probably assume you’re not going to make it.)

While it’s good to have a goal you can measure, in a creative life it can be demoralizing if you realize you won’t reach your goals. When you know your goals are out of reach, it can be harder to make any progress toward them, which defeats the whole purpose of writing goals!

Instead of basing all your goals around objective metrics, include some goals with a subjective component. These goals might include something about craft development, your mindset toward writing, or how you feel about your work in progress. What’s something you want to change about your writing life or process? What’s a goal you can set to put you on the path to the change?

Writing Goals

Taking this advice, here are my four writing goals for 2024.

  1. Write 200,000 words.
    It’s me, you knew there would be a wholly objective word count goal.
  2. Complete a novel draft.
    The planning is complete, and the draft has started! If you want to follow this journey in detail, check out the Behind the Novel tier on Patreon. I’ll be talking all about my novel writing process (successes, frustrations, and failures) over the course of the year.
  3. Clear more mental space for writing.
    I’ve been working on getting my physical space more organized in an effort to declutter my mental space. I want a physical space that lets me drop my baggage and focus entirely on my work. While there are some objective elements to this goal, how much mental space is cleared is definitely a subjective assessment.
  4. FOCUS.
    If I do nothing else, I want to focus on what’s in front of me and not let other projects or ideas distract me—even if they’re really cool! (I do have some leniency for other projects that have been sitting on the burners, but the most time and focus over the year needs to be on the novel until it’s got a full draft!)

So, that’s what I’m working on next year. What are your writing goals for 2024?

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative 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.

Saying you’re going to write a book is easy. So is deciding to write 250,000 words this year. It’s also easy to say you’re going to write 1,000 words every day or get a story published. Writers have no trouble setting goals—the difficult thing is taking actions that will actively support your writing goals.

I’m great at making goals and getting distracted. It’s not that I forget the goal I made—I’m just really good at finding other interesting projects that demanded my attention, time, and energy. In some ways it’s a form of procrastination. There could also be a little self-doubt or imposter syndrome worming their way in there if the goal I set feels bigger than what I think I can accomplish. Whatever the underlying cause of the distraction, I wind up working on things other than my intended goal.

So how do you support your writing goals instead of getting distracted?

Support Your Writing Goals

Keep Your Goal Centered

A sculpture of a hand supporting a tree that is growing lopsided, much in the way that you need to support your writing goals using whatever props you can.

Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

The first thing is to keep your goal centered within your writing practice. If you’re planning to write a book, set daily, weekly, or monthly targets to help you achieve that goal. Those targets can be the number of hours you work on the book, the number of words you write, or some other measurement of progress.

Give the book pride of place in your writing schedule. Devote the most time and energy to that book. If you have other writing obligations (most of us do), try to either work on your book first or devote more quality time to your book on another day.

Ignore Distracting Opportunities

Don’t take on other time- and energy-consuming projects that are unrelated to your goal. If your goal is to get a short story traditionally published in a magazine, don’t work on a novel. Devote your time and energy to reading and understanding and writing short fiction.

Becoming a slush reader for a magazine can help you with your research in that regard—it can give you an insight into what publishers are looking for in a short story within your genre. But agreeing to review novels won’t support your short story publishing goal. (And at some point, you might want to give up that slush reader job to focus on your own writing.)

Goals Take Time

Goals take time to achieve. Remember, it’s easy to list your goals, but it’s much harder to achieve them. Even the fastest novel drafters don’t show up to the page with an empty mind. They’ve spent time thinking about the story, if not writing down their planning.

Give yourself space to focus on your goal and work toward it a little at a time. If you have a deadline, set landmarks to help you get to your goal. If you don’t have a deadline, find other landmarks or ways to ensure you’re working toward your goal and making progress.

And progress does not mean 1,000 words a day, even if that’s your goal. Progress can mean writing 250 words per day for three months, and then upping that daily word count. Give yourself time to get there!

Adjust Your Behaviors or Responsibilities

If you’re able to, adjust your behaviors and responsibilities to align with your goal and focusing your time and energy on that goal. Instead of reading only fiction in your downtime, read books on novel writing or publishing. Instead of blogging those novel reviews, blog about short story reviews.

Or if you have a Patreon and are shifting your goal to writing a novel, maybe change one of your reward tiers to talk about the novel writing process. (Which is what I’ve just done—details at this link!)

If you have other writing responsibilities you normally perform, consider how they can work to support your writing goal, and then shift them so your goal is centered in your writing life.

 

Achieving your writing goals is possible, but first you have to support your writing goals! Look at the other things you do and ask, “how is this going to help me meet my goals?” Make sure you give yourself time and energy to devote to projects and tasks that will help you make progress. And while you’re doing all that—give yourself the grace to make a misstep and course correct. Adjusting your schedule, expectations, and focus is all part of the writing process!

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative 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.

If you’ve been following along for the past year, you already know I’ve been taking a long break from novel writing to take care of my parents. With the major illnesses under control, and adjustments and new routines established, I can finally inch back into novel writing. This means refamiliarizing myself with plans, getting back into the characters’ voices, and figuring out what’s been percolating in my head while I’ve been away. In short, it’s a novel writing return!

I know I’m not the only one who’s been in this situation—coming back to a novel after a long (sometimes years long) break—so I wanted to share what I did this month to reconnect with my novel.

Take Stock Before Writing

The first step is all about taking stock and figuring out where you left off. For this novel, it included reading over the outline and making notes where the plot seemed a little draggy. (Turns out in the two years away, the outline did not magically fix itself.)

I have many different parts of this story drafted, but since I’m working from a new outline, I decided to not bother rereading any drafts. I will be incorporating things from previous drafts, but I think I’d prefer to revisit those as I get to each scene since my outline is so detailed.

I also discovered I created a writing schedule, which will help with the next step….

Update the Novel Plan

Updating the novel plan starts with updating the outline. I only had a few notes to address in the opening chapters, but they required shifting scenes and chapter breaks, which also created a need to update the story map. (The story map is a document that tells me who is in each scene, where it takes place, and which plot threads it involves.)

The novel plan also includes plans for how to write the novel, specifically what my writing schedule will be. The schedule I previously devised had me writing 3–4 scenes per week, and while I aspire to that level of productivity, it’s just not realistic with my other obligations.

Instead, I looked at the estimated word count of each scene and then doubled that number (because I know the chaotic, word-heavy way I draft). Keeping a realistic goal in mind, I decided I am unlikely to write more than 4,000 words per week, so that base schedule has me writing 1–2 scenes per week.

Renewing Voice

Reconnecting to a novel includes reconnecting to the characters. Because it’s been a hot minute since I wrote anything substantial for these characters, I wanted to reacclimate myself to their voices. I picked a few moments and various character combinations to write about and went at it!

Making my novel writing return by starting with some odd moments let me approach the writing at a slower pace while I was still finishing plan adaptations. It also meant I could test some of my plans to see how much I can actually write on a busy day with my new routines and schedules.

Novel Writing Return!

The hardest part of the return is to stop dawdling and get writing. That means officially writing a scene that will—gulp—go into the novel.

So that’s for next month! 😅

(Seriously, updating the outline and story map took longer than I originally thought it would—but no regrets about that time spent! For me, the planning stage is important to keeping my brain on track and untangled as I draft. Other writers struggle with the planning and revision; my writing struggle is drafting.)

I am coincidentally starting my draft in November, though not doing NaNoWriMo. Anyone else setting ambitious writing goals outside of a challenge structure?

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative 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.

I’ve been struggling in my creative life because I’ve been struggling with my mental health.

Creativity is connected to wellness. Dysfunction comes quickly when your body or mind isn’t in its usual form. It’s easier to become distracted, to lose motivation, to get frustrated, to feel lost, to forget why you were doing this in the first place when your mental health is suffering. You can wind up feeling the work of writing and publishing and none of the joy.

Getting advice and support for these particular problems can be a challenge because not all resources are meant to support writers with chronic issues. For all the positive thinkers out there, we can appreciate you, but you don’t seem to understand what it’s like for us writers dealing with chronic illness.

Blocks formed by chronic illness aren’t a mindset problem. We’re not “focused on failure” or failing to see silver linings. Sometimes we physically cannot “write through it.” Chronic illness blocks start by preventing writers from getting to the page when we have the desire to write.

  • It is physical pain stopping us from typing at the computer, or sitting at a desk, or holding a phone.
  • It is a migraine forming when we look at a glowing screen.
  • It’s seizing or aching muscles and joints that make it difficult to hold a pen or perform small motor functions.
  • It’s a too-active brain that struggles to settle into a moment.
  • It’s an autonomic sleep response that makes us drowsy to avoid stress.

It’s an overwhelming concern that this will never end, that nothing will change, that we have no control over what happens. In short: it is hopelessness, which cannot be overcome by an aphorism and a sunny attitude.

Mindset is part of the solution—because accepting the truth of a situation is part of dealing with chronic illness and mental health—but it’s a small part of the solution. The real solution is developing a well-stocked kit of tools and strategies to help mitigate the blocks caused by chronic illness and to accept the days when you have to call it quits.

My toolbox for anxiety and a lack of focus includes bookmarked ambient mixes and ASMR YouTube videos, Lifesavers and chocolate, very cold water, taking off my socks, updating tracking information and schedules (numbers and data!), and many, many other things designed to focus my thoughts, trick my anxiety, or ignore my hopelessness enough that I can fumble my way to productivity. (And some days part of my toolbox is communicating with others so they’ll understand when I shut off all notifications because omg even one will derail me.)

Having a fully stocked toolbox is a huge help, but it may not “fix” things, and I often find myself rooting inside a near empty box, trying to find one last ditch thing that might pull my brain together. Those are the days when I have to accept my situation and be satisfied with my minimum workload being achieved. Some days the minimum is enough.

 

 

For full access to The Write Life and more about what I’ve done to assist with my creative 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.

My writing life has been very scattered of late. While I still have writing time planned daily and I haven’t broken my streak (still at least 250 words a day every day, just like the last several years), what I’ve been working on has been haphazard. After I finished my last writing project in early March, I’ve been struggling to focus on the next project.

  • I’ve started an outline and draft for another writing workshop.
  • I’ve revisited my next novel outline and taken a few notes on what threads I may need to reevaluate as I draft.
  • I’ve dawdled with a new short story.
  • And I’ve drafted the beginnings of a few new blog posts.

But I’ve had a lot of difficulty sticking with anything. (Or finishing anything, as you might have noticed how many times I said “started” or “beginning” in that list.)

The end of last year and beginning of this year has been really rough on my mental health. I’m starting to come out of the worst of it and am reassessing my schedules and routines to find better ways to ground and care for myself. (Sleep. Sleep has been a BIG problem.) But it’s difficult to focus on writing when my mental health is so out of whack. (Not to mention that the lack of sleep finally caught up with me and I’m sick for the first time in two years.)

A writing life is about a lot more than ideas in the brainpan and words on the page. It encompasses a whole lot of other things—priorities, time management, mental and physical health. When one of those things is out of whack, it’s hard to have a bountiful and satisfying writing life. I mean, the mechanical side is there—I’m putting words on the page every day—but the focus to finish and the confidence to keep going through a hiccup? Those are the things I’m struggling with.

When I’m experiencing this kind of struggle, I allow myself a little grace, focusing on just 250 words per day and not pushing beyond that. I also release my grip on “what counts” as writing and am more likely to include stream-of-conscious brainstorming, notes, and questions. (Hey, all those words eventually get me to the finished story, so why not count them?) The last thing I do—and the thing that often helps the most during these times of struggle—is I follow my attention.

If I want to capture the ideas for a presentation on writing time travel fiction (slotted for May with the Orange County Public Library, register here for the virtual workshop), I work on that instead of the project I’m “supposed” to be working on. That allows me to capture some of the excess thoughts cluttering my head and reduces the number of things distracting me. Hopefully I only need to do this for a day or two, and then I can resume my regularly scheduled writing. (But sometimes it takes more time to get a brain back on track.)

These little “vacations” are what I do instead of taking a break from my words, but for anyone not chaining together a consecutive streak of thousands of days of writing—a break is probably a really good idea!

Mostly this month I’ve been working on ways to bring my physical and mental health in line, including drinking more water, making more time for mindfulness, and doing my very best to accept that some days any effort is my best effort.

What have you been doing to care for yourself in your writing life?

 

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.

Woof. As far as months go, this one has been stressful.

I’d like to claim it was good stress, the kind that causes me to dig deep and get things done, but mostly it was the kind that drains my energy and leaves writing time as struggle time.

Boats on a dry river.

Photo by Chester Ho on Unsplash

Other responsibilities, lots of piling work, emotional decisions, health concerns, invitations to socialize, and an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion all left me with a case of creative burnout. I struggled to translate thoughts into words. I felt like I didn’t have the time to devote to complicated projects. I was easily distracted and found making narrative decisions a challenge. Some days I looked at the open document and just sighed heavily and felt a gigantic “no” welling in my chest.

Those are tough feelings to carry as a creative, especially one working on their seventh consecutive year of daily writing!

But I am still working on that streak, so I was able to write, despite drawing from a creative well that felt scraped clean.

  • One of my tried-and-true methods of writing when I’m feeling drained is to work on something easier. “Easier” for me often means blog and Patreon posts or other nonfiction writing. Sometimes it also means planning a novel, rather than drafting one. (Writing a synopsis that can meander and have terrible ideas is a lot easier than crafting scenes that have to connect.)

    Frequently if I can get 10 or 20 minutes of the easier project done, I’ll feel warmed up enough to tackle the more complicated project, or I’ll have hit a word count that makes me feel comfortable spending time on a project that involves thought more than words. (This is the trade-off for having yearly and monthly word count goals, by the way.)

  • Another method that frequently works is to grab a writing prompt and start something new. A writing prompt is a fresh start with no baggage. That level of freedom can be easier to interact with than a project I’ve been contemplating or working on for a long time. Sometimes those doors opening to an empty space feel more inviting than a half-decorated room, and it’s easier to put pen to page and draft some words to warm up for the day.

    I admit, when I first started using prompts this way, I struggled with feeling like I was wasting my time because not all of those starts turn into finished stories. It required a shift in my thinking to allow myself room for creative play and to accept that sometimes what I need is free range across a blank page with no expectations—including no expectations of producing finished work. (That said, I have turned at least one prompt into a finished story in the last year, and there are a few others I’m still thinking about, so that’s not a waste at all!)

  • Writing long-hand instead of working on my computer is another way of freeing myself. My computer is where so many of my responsibilities live, so sometimes it’s distracting to use as my main writing tool. (That’s also why I try to do tasks in specific locations—editing at my desk, writing in my bedroom, etc.) Switching my writing tool can unlock the part of my brain held captive by my exhaustion and other responsibilities. A notebook, or sometimes my iPad, can offer a different view on what writing looks like and provide the fresh water I need to refill my creative cup.

It’s been a struggle to write daily this month with everything else going on, but day by day I’ve been getting it done by using one of these tools when things got a little tough and I needed to rely on something more than my own stubbornness.

 

 

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.

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.

 

 

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.

In the middle of the month, I took a one-day vacation to the OCLS Book Festival. I’m calling this a vacation because even though I absolutely wrote that day, and even though I was taking notes in the pursuit of my writing career, the event, schedule, and whole day was a wonderful pause on my go-go-go anxiety and I was instead able to go-go-go with the flow and ended up listening to some wonderful speakers and renewing my motivation to write. 

The keynote speakers were Daniel José Older and Delilah Dawson, both authors who I’m only tangentially aware of (because they’ve written Star Wars books, ahem). Both keynotes were exceptional (Daniel’s was an especially fantastic way to kick off the day) and both left me jazzed to write. I left the Book Festival feeling recharged, more motivated, and more confident in my ability to do the work. Refilling my motivational and creative wells was exactly the kind of vacation I needed to get myself back to the novel planning I had put aside the week before.

Following the Book Festival, my friend and I decided to stay out longer to write and then get dinner. The continued flow of the day, the easy decisions and laid back attitude reminded me of what writing is like when everything is flowing smoothly. When I’m not worried about where the story will end, how polished it will look, or what I’m going to do when the story is done, everything has room to breathe. It’s a pretty different state of being from my normal setting, so the escape was welcome and, honestly, necessary. Living with anxiety as a writer and freelancer is a pretty harrowing thing (my disorder does not mix well with the uncertain, unstable life I’ve chosen), so having these moments of peace bolstering my career is essential to keeping myself moving forward.

 

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.