We have all felt disheartened as writers. It can manifest itself in a variety of forms. Lack of impetus, illness, stress, unrealistic comparisons, self expectations or stumbling over a particular section in a writing project. Some call it writers block. In truth it is just life.
Firstly, don’t beat yourself up, you are not alone. Every writer, whether novice or any of the top 100 authors, have doubts about what they are writing. We question ourselves – is it good enough, over and over. This can only spiral us downward into self-doubt. There are ways to give yourself a pick you up. I hope these help.
1. Focus on enjoying telling your stories. Do it to the best of your ability.
2. Remember you are building an inventory of your writing but also learning your craft.
3. Lessen your expectations, don’t be so hard on yourself. Yes, we all want a certain quality to our work, but with patience it will come. There is no quick fix.
4. Don’t compare another writer’s finished work against your in process drafts. You have no idea how many changes they made.
5. Remember you get to rule over your own creative process. You choose, shape, mold, and create whatever you want.
6, Your words will, in time, sway minds, move hearts, and touch the lives of dozens of people you will never meet in person.
7. Your words, your stories are your legacy.
8. Do not take rejection personally. Think of it as a learning tool.
9. Take a long-term view of your writing career – no-one is ever an overnight success.
10. Participate in supportive writer groups. Share your work with encouraging friends.
What have you found works for you when you are feeling disheartened?
Yes, it is NaNoWriMo month and there is the usual flurry of activity. Pre-planning, devising ideas, questioning if you should do it or not and the encouragement of the writing community. As I said before this year’s NaNo, for me, has me delving into an unknown genre and the start of a trilogy.
I have booked every Monday off work in November to allow myself extra time to write. This doesn’t normally happen but without the option of taking vacations, this year due to COVID19, I thought my best use of my days would be short writing retreats and extra time in November.
My first writing day, Sunday, was a super day. I had the house to myself, apart from the dogs, so indulged in writing for most of the day. Apart from several dog walks, and the occasional snack! My total for the day was 14,558. And at the time, I was super happy with that.
However, the next day doubts began to creep in. Had I given too many clues or sited too many suspects within those 14K words? This halted my writing. Should I re-start or continue? As we all know NaNo writing is just the first draft of a manuscript, so I shook off the doubts and returned to the story. Last night’s total was 16,951.
I may have to dissect this novel in the New Year, but for now I will enjoy the journey my characters are taking me on.
Are your participating in NaNoWriMo? What is your project?
Weather can have quite an effect on our writing as it influences us emotionally and physically. Each season has its benefits.
Spring brings hope of warmth and plans conjured for outdoor pursuits, clearing of winter’s destruction and planting for summer blooms. It is also a time when a new project or idea may come forth. Use the short days and early evenings to plot, plan and create.
The sunshine and heat of summer tempts us outdoors to the wonderful variety of activities and abundance of the season. Looking at our writing area sends sharp pangs of guilt into our sub-conscious. I should be writing is its taunt. Remember experiences count as research so enjoy your summer. Find a quiet nook to write in the early mornings, or in a hotel lobby observing guests going back and forth or curling your toes in the sand on a beach. People watching is a trait a writer should indulge.
Fall (Autumn) with its burst of colour and chilly winds encourages warmer clothing and the last hurrah before the winter. The seasonal change turns our thoughts inward to postponed projects and the opportunity to begin them. Plotting, character development, and the first lines into a new story warms our Muse.
In Alberta, my homeland now, winter is severe. We experience extreme cold, lots of snowfall and limitations on outdoor pursuits. Obviously, some people relish the opportunity to ski, snowboard, sled etc. but for others it is a time of indoor pursuits and a hibernation mentality takes over. Secluded in your writing area, your focus can dwell on your writing, ignoring the cold, harsh weather outside.
As writers, we learn to use emotional, social, and climatic insights and feelings to the benefit of our craft. It gives us an idea how weather can effect a character’s situation or show the passing of time.
Why did you decide to write an autobiography? For many years, existential questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” have haunted me and challenged me to go deeper into myself. My search for answers to these questions led me to journaling about life moments captured on the page; writing these short pieces called out for expression. Exploring poetry and essay, fairy tale and short life stories helped me find my “real writer” voice. Self-help books, spiritual retreats, talented mentors, friends and a personal interest in storytelling, psychology, image and myth fuelled my appetite for words. Gathering these stories together into an autobiographic novel took a long time. Now that my book is complete and ready for publication, I am more aware of the gifts and talents I can bring to the world through writing.
How long did it take you to write it? I began capturing moments of my life at a women’s writing seminar in 2004. When the instructor said I had an unusual story – growing up female in the macho world of the military – I was surprised; my upbringing seemed “normal” to me. Many of the stories in my book began back then.
What difficulties did you experience in writing it? Because of the transient nature of my childhood, I saw my early life as chopped into segments and filed in my memory by location. Recently when working with an editor, I began to see links and patterns in my life and finally, story connections were forged and fashioned into a smooth narrative. I had difficulty identifying the genre of these stories because they are based on authentic flashes of memory, and reimagined with fiction writing tools. My goal was to reveal my authentic emotions in short life stories and connect with other kindred souls through them.
How did you come up with the title? In my childhood, our family was in constant transition, and my tools for coping with goodbyes and hellos and consequently with loss and resilience. Alternate titles I considered included “Permission to Speak, Sir!”, “Nesting Places”, “Home and Away”, and “Finding Home Without a Map.” These titles spoke to my developing comfort with being at home in my heart and belonging in my own skin. At one point, the title was “Saying Goodbye is Easy – Letting Go is Hard”. The second half of this title was dropped because it became obvious to me that letting go of the past was getting easier.
As a child of a military family – what can your story teach others? The stories we tell ourselves and others influence what we believe about the world. The military has its own myths, my father’s story included World War 2 events, and my mother told stories connected me to generations of extended family and how the military influenced them and my own childhood. All the legends and myths to which I was exposed inspired my narrative of leaving the sanctuary of home and seeking independence. I believe that many women experience loneliness and isolation when they choose to leave their parents’ home and grow into their own lives. Reframing my life story allowed me to understand that it is a universal story.
The book is a collection of short stories – why did you chose this format? Short stories stand alone, and a collection of short stories are sometimes linked but not always; a novel-in-short-stories has a narrative arc even though the stories stand alone. It is not a memoir because that genre covers a set period of time. Autobiography is factual but many of my stories were imagined to make a point. My research revealed that short stories are more likely to be accepted by a publisher if the author’s stories appear in literary magazines or their writing is well known. This format seemed to work for me because it suited my experience in life.
Do you write in any other genre? I began writing poetry in the 1970s, and I was seeking inspiration for poems when I attended the women’s writing classes in 2004. With encouragement, I began writing prose and personal opinion essays for magazines. Poetry continues to intrigue me and I hope to add to my published books of verse but I also have a novel on the back burner (which is also told in segments!), two based-on-real-events historical fiction books and a non-fiction book. I do not write fantasy or romance and tend to lean towards literary fiction.
Do you have other books? Since 2004 I’ve created several handmade poetry chapbooks, and published two books of poetry. I’ve also self-published a book of essays and a volume of personal fairy tales. All of them are inner focused, and intended for kindred spirits who are interested in myth and metaphor.
Where can your readers find you on social media? On FB as Kathie Sutherland Author, on Twitter as Kathie.Sutherland aka wordpainterpoet, on LinkedIn, Instagram and on my website kathiesutherland.com where my books and writing companionship services are available. I offer Inner Child workshops, Reminiscence and Listening Services, a scuba diving-inspired workshop focused on going deeper into emotions and create “Portrait Poems” as personal gifts.
Do you have a blog? Since writing “Saying Goodbye is Easy”, I have gain clarity about the purpose of my writing. I want to give back through coaching and writing companionship. I have renewed my blogging practice.
What did you learn about yourself while writing this autobiography? The whole of my writing life has been about acknowledging and accepting myself. This autobiography has been narrative therapy for me. Each piece I worked on required me to come to terms with the theme of the story I was writing. One of my greatest strengths is my love of learning. That love brings me back to the greater life questions and my search for answers. I love learning through research. I love learning about words. I love inner work. I love writing to grow.
I started to write when I was 21 years old. I had completed my Associates Degree in Creative Writing then decided to put myself out there as a screenwriter.
2. Is poetry a self expression for you?
It is more than self expression. Its me finding the seedling that sprouted the roots of my emotions that run at high velocity. Once the ecstasy, dark or light, of my anxiety passes, I write a poem. Almost as if I took off the anvil that kept me in the depths of the salty water of an ocean, rose up for air, then anchored my darkness in the ocean while I make it to shore.
5. Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in the book?
Boone is a sarcastic, goofy, playful kid, who has a longer path to growing than his best friend Jacque. A foster child taken in by a rich snobby British family. He is articulate, polite, honest, an avid reader, can monkey his way from tree to tree, and loves to solve mysteries. Shammy, Boone’s love interest, is wonderfully weird, blunt, sweet, un-apologetically herself, loving and caring. Flint is a high functioning autistic boy who depends on Shammy and loves his mom.
6. How did you come up with the idea of the story?
When I was a screenwriter, I always wanted to write a series. I didn’t know what medium or what it would be about, but I knew certain things would remain the same. It’s like Stephen King once said: Good ideas stick around.
I wanted to write something that doesn’t involve much technology. I feel that if it is too modern, it creates too much convenience. A gripping story requires characters to rely on their wit and what is at their disposal. When your back is against the wall, you better know how to fight like hell. This series is about that. Testing the human spirit.
7. What is the theme of the book – the message you want to convey to your readers?
That we don’t need peers and parents to teach us everything. Sometimes the good and bad that happens in life, is what helps us grow. Test us on what we are able or not able, willing or not willing, too afraid or not at all to try. But I don’t want my readers thinking they don’t need guidance. We all need it. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. But who we get help from isn’t always who we expect or hope it will be.
8. Is this a standalone book or will there be a sequel(s)?
As mentioned earlier, this is a series. I’m not sure how many volumes. I go by how the characters grow. If they have gone where they need to go, and completed their life’s arc, then I’ve done my job. This is my third book of four. First two were unpublished by me because amazon has strict rules about using only one name for the author by line. It is Urban fantasy.
Volume 2 of Boone and Jacque will be available in October 2020. Subtitle is The Brothers’ Odyssey. Follow A.G. on his social media pages and message him for teasers.