Committed…or Nah?

Commitment header

Image found via Pinterest.

Commitment. That is my theme for my yoga classes this week. Got it from The Power Path. I love that it falls in September which is the time of year I commit to my routine, structure and goals again as we head into the last quarter of the year.

I know I am committed to writing. How do I know this? Because of the actions that back it up:

~ I show up to the page severy single day.

~ I post here.

~ It’s why I read so many books.

~ It’s why I take classes and workshops with writers I admire.

~It’s why I create the time and money to honor this commitment

While I am committed to writing, I can see that I am not committed to publishing. How can I see that? By my lack of consistent action. My submission process is spotty at best. I started off the year on a roll. But as the year has progressed and the rejections have stated to appear, my enthusiasm has waned. But I have to remember it is part of the process. So many great writers and books were rejected at first.

So, how can I commit to publishing in the same way I commit to writing? What has worked for writing that I can apply? 

Frist, I show up every day to write. It doesn’t matter if I know what I am going to write, or what I work on. It could be Morning Pages, my blog, my current WIP, exercises from “You are a Badass at Making Money,” or from the on-line class I am taking with Bryonie Wise, “Human is What We Are.”

It doesn’t matter what or how much I write. It only matters that I show up. 

Second, I keep track of those days on a chart in my office. Keeping track keeps me motivated.

These are the two main things I do. Show up and track.

So, every day I need to either submit something or research where to submit.

I will make a chart or find an app and keep track of the days. I think 5 out of 7 is a good goal for this.

Commitment takes action. Action pushes through fear. Obviously, there is something about publishing that scares me. Hmmm…can’t imagine what. Putting my heart and soul out into the world to be judged. Sounds easy-peasy…

But I am going to try and harness this commitment energy. If something is important to me and I say that this is, then I have to act on it. Every single day. Forward momentum is my friend. Stagntation is not.

Onward!

Goethe

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My Days of Hesitancy are Behind Me.

Days of Hesitancy

My days of hesitancy are behind me.

I recently came across these words while reading “Prayers of Honoring Voice” by the inspiring Pixie Lighthorse. It comes from her prayer, “Honoring Security.”

When I read them them I felt goosebumps multiply up and down my arms. I underlined them. I read them over and over.

My days of hesitancy are behind me.

My days of hesitancy are behind me.

I also just finished reading (and actually doing the work in!) “You Are a Badass” by the awesome Jen Sincero. Her books have been on my radar for a while. I have her book about money and I’ve read part of it. Recently I found that copy, then bought her first and her most recent books.

Books find me when I am ready. I truly believe that. I worked with Sincero’s exercises, even (or especially) the ones that made me uncomfortable or felt a little too “woo-woo.” I worked with affirmations, visualization, beliefs and stories and rewriting them.

Then I read those words: My days of hesitancy are behind me.

It felt like I was in the perfect alignment to receive the power of those words. I was riding the flow of the universe. I was doing the work and this was my gift.

Since then (it’s only been about 3 days) I have sent my novel-in-stories to 4 agents.

4 agents in 3 days.

I haven’t sent my work out to 4 agents ever.

I already received a kind rejection and while I was disappointed my first thought was this:

My agent is out there, we just have’t found each other yet.

And I finally, actually, truly believe that.

My days of hesitancy are truly behind me.

An Experiment in Blogging Everyday.

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 3.37.15 PM

If you’ve followed this blog at all the last few years, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been trying something different lately:

Blogging. Every. Day.

I got the idea from Austin Kleon who got the idea from Seth Godin.

I enjoy the structure of needing to write and post something every day.

I found that I was hoarding my blog ideas, saving them for a “better” time. But, as Annie Dillard says:

“One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book, give it, give it all, give it now.”

This isn’t an attempt to build my platform or increase my blog presence/readership. This is an experiment for me, to explore new ideas, to write daily and send those words out into the world.

I’m not worried about timing my posts to get the most traffic or writing headlines that lure readers in. It’s truly just about writing something every day.

As Seth Godin says,

“Are you able, every day, to say one thing that’s new that you can stand behind?”

As I write something each day, I’ve become a tuning fork to the world around me, always seeking something new to explore here. Something I can articulate and stand behind.

The more I create, the more ideas I have.

The more ideas I have, the more I write.

The more I write, the more I learn to spend it all, every time.

The more I learn to spend it all, the more I learn to trust my creative process.

The more I trust the process, the more I create.

 

The Company of other Writers.

Write Smart, Write Happy

Today, I find myself sitting at the bookstore cafe with a grande soy chai, notebook and laptop open. Not an unusual scenario.

What is unusual, these days, is for me to be drawn to a book on writing. A book that promises to help me “become a more productive, resilient, and successful writer.”

Now, I used to devour these books daily when I first knew I wanted to write. It was how I taught myself to write. I read books on writing fiction, writing essays, writing from prompts, writing practice, the writing life, writing goals. You name it, I bought it and read it. What I didn’t do was write very much.

Oh, I’d write Morning Pages and I filled notebooks with writing practice gleaned from Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones.” I loved how she made writing so much more accessible by declaring that just as an athlete practiced drills or a pianist practiced scales, a writer also needed to practice. It bought writing back from that lofty pedestal I had placed it on. It took the fear out of it by calling it practice.

I hunkered down into my writing practice for years, filling notebook upon notebook. The problem was, I got stuck in practicing. Don’t get me wrong. It served me well. I learned to put pen to page and write under pretty much any circumstance. I learned how to make space and time for writing in the life I was currently living ( a stay-at-home mom with young children) instead of waiting for the perfect time. I learned to write past my censor.

But I didn’t use what I had learned to actually get in the game of writing. When I finally began writing stories, taking classes and workshops, that’s where the bulk of my learning took place. Writing and finishing stories taught me how to write.

I’ve written dozens of short stories, some published, some not. I have a completed novel-in-stories (looking for an agent). I am well into my second novel, about 6o,000 words into the first book of a YA fantasy trilogy and am beginning to gather notes for a memoir on writing and yoga.

So, with all that writing under my belt, why  do I find myself drawn to this particular book today?

Because it’s a process.

Because I am always a student.

Because I am not afraid to be a beginner.

Because of course I want to be a more productive, resilient and successful writer.

Because now I know that I can read a book like this but, more importantly, I know I have to follow through with action: writing, querying, submitting, reading, setting goals and meeting those goals.

I know there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to being a writer.

I know that merely reading about becoming a successful writer is not enough but I am humble enough to be open to advice from others along the path.

I know that I am willing to put in the hard work necessary. And these kinds of books feel like my own personal cheerleading squad, telling me I can do it. Telling me that I am not alone.

Telling me that it’s okay, that we can walk this path together.

I am grateful for their company.

The Practice of Devotion to all that Lights Me Up.

Facing the Challenge of the Agent Query

Keep calm and query on

I worked on my agent query letter yesterday.

I am finding it truly difficult. It’s not just the logistics of paring my novel-in-stories down to 100-200 words that give enough info to pique an agent’s interest but without giving everything away—though that is challenging.

It’s also the idea that I am committing to sending these 60,000 words out into the world. Once they are out there I have no control over how people react or respond. That’s a little ( okay…a lot) unnerving.

There’s also this other piece of the puzzle that dawned on me yesterday. I don’t like asking for things. The query letter is all about asking an agent to take time out of their already hectic schedule to read my book. I am asking them to help me get it published.

I understand it’s their business and they are in the market to take on a book they feel passionate about and they have a vested interest in getting it out into the world. But it still feels like I am asking for a favor.

So, instead of letting all that stop me like it has before, here’s what I did:

I felt all the feelings: nervous, scared, excited, vulnerable with a little bit of guilt and dread thrown in.

I breathed through it all (thank you yoga).

And I revised my letter. I read other successful query letters and decided what fit best for my voice and the voice of my story and I just did it. It’s still not quite right but it is getting there.

I’ll let it sit for another day and read it again with fresh eyes. Meanwhile, there’s this YA novel that I am about 40K words into…

 

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Mid-year Check-in

Photo: Karin Dalziel via Flickr

Photo: Karin Dalziel via Flickr

January found me wanting me to make yet another resolution to get more serious about my writing.

Usually this involves a detailed list of projects I want to start, finish, revise and submit by certain dates throughout the upcoming year. It ends up being a fairly grueling schedule that sucks the fun out of writing before I even begin.

This year I decided to try something different. At the end of the year, I participated in an online “Renew & Review Writing Challenge” with Jill Jepson. It helped me to look over the past year to see what worked and what didn’t in my writing life. It also helped me to clarify what I wanted my writing life to look like for the next 12 months. What I loved was how we focused more on intentions rather than goals. Goals are product, intentions are process. Goals are future, intentions are present. It just really resonated with me.

When January rolled around, I took a four-week hypnosis workshop at my yoga studio designed to align us with our resolutions for the new year. I showed up each week with the intention to show up to writing practice and life, to all aspects of it:

My writing life will continue to flourish in 2014 by showing up daily to my creativity and writing; being comfortable with not always knowing what comes next; allowing myself to play; giving myself permission to succeed or fail; being present to and grateful for the process.

These intentions held a much more fluid space than the rigid goals I’d normally set for myself. I showed up to my writing and yoga practices, letting one nurture the other. I listened to the meditations from the hypnosis workshop each night, letting the words flow into my subconscious, letting them work their magic.

It all worked. We are halfway through the year and I have a new relationship with my writing life. In six months I have:

–       Finished revising my novel-in-stories

–       Wrote an agent query letter

–       Began rewriting a second novel

–       Jotted notes for a YA novel

–       Participated in a 4-month apprenticeship for elephant journal in which I wrote 19 personal pieces, edited close to 60 and gained an in depth knowledge of social media

–       Became an elephant journal columnist once the four months was up

–       Started my own writer Facebook page

–       Rededicated myself to building a Twitter audience

All of these accomplishments are great. Seriously, I am super proud of myself. But it’s not even the main point. The main shift I’ve experienced is a more fluid relationship to my writing, to showing up to my work. Much less angst and reprisals. More joy and compassion.

And I think that is filtering into all the nooks and crannies of my life.

I can’t wait to see what the next six months hold.

How about you? Any intentions or goals for the summer? For the rest of the year? I’d love to hear about them.

 

 

What I Learned

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are some pix of the state of my office while frantically finishing my novel. Notice my essentials: chocolate, Starbucks and an empty wine glass.

 

 

 

 

On Thursday, March 15 I finished and submitted a draft of my novel-in-stories to this contest. I’d seen it in the December issue of Poets & Writers and wished I had something ready. My awesome writing group convinced me that I could definitely get my current work-in-progress done by the deadline. I had my doubts, but I focused and worked hard almost every day, putting in nine hours that final day. I learned a lot over those three months of intense work.

I learned that:

–  it is incredibly satisfying to be able to say “I wrote a novel” rather than “I’m writing a novel”

–  I can work and write in an incredibly focused way, especially with a deadline prodding me

–  I work best in forty-five minute sessions, followed by fifteen minutes of some other mindless task like dishes or folding clothes or browsing through the bookstore, letting the scene/story percolate

–  when I am immersed in my writing but not drowning, the story is always simmering. I go to bed thinking about the characters and story and wake up thinking about them.

–  I can’t read very much when I working so hard on my own writing. There’s not enough space in my brain to contain it all.

–  I have several phrases and words that I like and use more often than I should

–   I actually have a revision process that works for me

– that at some point I have to just let it go out into the world, trusting that I wrote to the best of my ability

WOW! Shoutout

I’d like to give a thanks and a shoutout to WOW-Women on Writing for awarding my story “Ripe” an honorable mention in their Winter Flash Fiction contest. I encourage any and all writers to submit. It’s a small entry fee, they keep the submissions under 300 and they award up to 20 prizes. Beyond their contests, it’s a great writer’s resource with a little something for just about everyone. Check it out!

Like a Kiss

I received my first fan letter about a month or two ago. It totally caught me off guard as it was regarding a story that had been published several years ago in a small university journal. The reader found my old blog address in the author’s bio and took the time to write to me. It was a lovely note. He had really read the story and had specific  reasons why he liked it. I was delighted and disconcerted at the same time. Delighted for obvious reasons. Disconcerted for more nebulous ones. I still partake in the publishing-as-validation dance. I look at an editor accepting my work as a form of validation that yes, I am a real Writer. Does a rejection then invalidate me? No, of course not. I continue to write. I understand how subjective this process can be. I understand how many submissions I am up against. There is definitely a supply and demand element. I know these things, in my head. In that soft, vulnerable part of my heart, however, things are not so black and white. Instead, there are endless shades of gray.

On a deeper level, the letter left me feeling exposed somehow. And vulnerable. Which got me thinking about why I put my stuff out there in the first place. I write because I have to. But I don’t have to submit that work for the world to see and to like or not like. I tell myself I try to publish in order to make a connection, to touch someone the same way I have been touched by stories I have read over the years. Then, when I get acknowledgment that I have indeed touched someone with my words, I retreat. The note could just as easily have been nasty. And we all know how much easier it is to believe the bad stuff rather than the good stuff about ourselves. The ideal place to come from shouldn’t take the praise to heart, nor the criticism. I don’t know about you, but I rarely live up to the ideal version of myself. I know that if I ever receive a nasty response to my work, it will clobber me. Sure, I’ll get back up, but it will be that much harder to send out my work the next time.

In the end, it’s not about validation or rejection but of reaching out. What comes after that is out of my hands. As John Cheever said, “‎”I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss – you can’t do it alone.”