The Day After

Resilience

Resilience

When I posted the Summer of Suck, I had no idea what was waiting for me around the corner. But guess what? Neither do you.

None of us do.

It turns out, what I thought was the most horrible summer of my life was about to get worse. The very next day, in fact.

On the day I wrote that post, I woke up thinking my life was one thing. Believing a story I’d been telling myself about my existence on this planet.

Twenty four hours later, and every day since, I’ve had to learn to navigate a new normal.

What actually happened doesn’t really matter. We’ve all faced similar shifts in reality.

If I had to guess, I’d say it was like learning you were adopted late in life, or finding out your parents are Russian spies rather than the travel agents you believed them to be (ok, I stole that from the best show on TV, The Americans).

THE AMERICANS -- Only You -- Episode 10 (Airs Wednesday, April 10, 10:00 pm e/p) -- Pictured: (L-R) Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings -- CR: Craig Blankenhorn/FX

Pictured: (L-R) Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings, Matthew Rhys as Philip Jennings — CR: Craig Blankenhorn/FX

What matters is that I’m still here. What matters is that I woke up this morning and knew that though I have to continue moving forward, it was time to take a step back. To remember things that make me… me.

It has been 36 days. I survived the first 48 hours with the love and support of family and old friends. I survived the next week with Zzzquil and walks outside and professional assistance.

Here’s the funny thing.

The status quo on which I stood so firmly when summer began, now seems like a pale imitation of a life. Something I was settling for, something I counted on but no longer treasured.

Life presents endless learning opportunities for which we’re told to be grateful. I’m not there yet. I’m hurt, angry, suffering, raw, confused, and still disbelieving.

But I’m not just those things.

I’m also hopeful. I’m surviving. I’m taking care of myself physically (although I now bear a striking resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones – damn eye bags!). And I’m writing.

Sometimes it’s just morning pages. Sometimes a writing prompt. And though the actual course of events that disrupted my life will most likely remain private, I’m processing through writing.

When my personal hell descended I was physically unable to write for a time. But my misfortune has also brought me a gift.

In the wee hours of the morning, when I’ve woken up to kiss my husband goodbye before he leaves for his downtown commute, my hamster brain spins on its wheel.

And a buzz sizzles down the line to my fingers and the urge to type, to process my thoughts through the written word is reignited.

It’s confirmation. I’m a writer. So get your lazy ass out of bed and write.

Mission accomplished. Today. That’s all any of us have.

And I guess I am a teeny bit grateful. The grenade that exploded my universe sent shrapnel flying in many directions. But it also showed me what it means to truly value something.

It blasted through a grimy layer of dishonesty.

That’s what writers are supposed to do.

Would I have elected to go through this summer again in just this way to arrive at my new found insights? Absolutely not.

Newsflash: We don’t always get to choose what life throws at us.

I’m still on shaky ground but I think that’s the lesson. We’re all on shaky ground. Only most of us don’t know it.

Whatever story you’re telling yourself about your life, whatever you’re settling for, whatever you’re taking for granted, take a good hard honest look.

courage

Put forth the effort and risk failure. Risk rejection.

Apologize for an old mistake.

Ask for the promotion.

Throw the party even if no one comes.

Write the damn story.

Tell the truth.

And do it today.

 

 

 

 

6 Thoughts on “The Day After

  1. I’m with you not-yet-met-face-to-face friend. Hug from here to there.

  2. life does absolutely turn on a dime. it’s audacity? it doesnt send a memo beforehand.
    sending good wishes.

  3. I think this is one of my favorites from you – soul stirring, and oh so true……

  4. Thinking of you and glad you’re taking steps toward writing, even if they’re timid, uncertain, shaky steps. Wishing you a better autumn!

Why It’s Always This One Thing, And It Sucks

fear

fear

I was sitting in my car on my lunch hour last Wednesday and I couldn’t figure it out. Not only did I not think I could figure it out, I was convinced I would NEVER figure it out.

No, I wasn’t searching for a cure for cancer or even wondering where my next mortgage payment was coming from. My crisis was trying to put my main character’s want into a single sentence. That’s it. Earth shattering, right?

My eyes watered, I started breathing heavy, and finally climbed out of my car to walk it off. This writing thing was supposed to be fun. I’d been devoting hours and hours to it because I was finally admitting to myself it’s what I felt called to do.

And here I was, not working on the third in a series, not posting my NaNoWriMo word accumulation, not shouting on Facebook about my two book deal with Random House (no, Mom, there’s no deal . . . yet). I was struggling to come up with ONE . . . FREAKING . . . SENTENCE.

Here’s what I learned about the novel writing process last week:

  • The middle is hard.
  • Quitting is not an option.
  • You have to welcome ALL feedback and get tougher.

I found some inspiration in Heather Seller’s Chapter After Chapter:

What is really happening is a giant fear attack. you wish you were done—that it was good just like it is. You are scared to look at it again deeply, because you are afraid you’ll find hideous flaws . . . You are afraid you won’t know how to fix these things.

Some people call it writers block. Sometimes we think its our inner critic. Self-doubt. There’s only one thing wrong with any of us and there’s only one antidote.

Fear is the root of all the world’s problems and action is the only cure.

Maybe you’re 3 drafts in (or 4, like me) but have you really torn it apart? Or, are you just smoothing the edges? You just want to be done. But you’re not. You need more versions. It’s what writers do.

Suck it up, buttercup. (That’s me talking to myself . . . and you . . . if you needed that.)

 

 

 

2 Thoughts on “Why It’s Always This One Thing, And It Sucks

  1. I’ve had a short picked up by elephant journal that is about The End Result. Controlling it, wanting to control it and needing it to look like the picture in our heads. I’m on the 6th or 8th rendition (depending on who’s counting), of a memoir. I feel your pain/aggravation/desire, This thing we intend “I am a published author, my words are heard!”, is a fey witch who gathers us in with a sweet smile and then reveals the rocky road we must walk barefoot.

    • That’s exciting news, Deb! Congrats!! I received an acceptance last week on a piece I submitted in May. Then my fear was having it out in the public and it being judged. Even when we think we’ve captured the fey witch (love that by the way), she jabs us with her pointy wand. Onward. Onward. Nothing to do but go onward.

How to Finish Your Stuff: Avoid The Drift

The Drift - Writing Advice Suzanne Brazil

The Drift - Writing Advice Suzanne Brazil

You know the feeling. You’re in the middle of a project (a book, an essay, a short story) and then you’re not. You’re on the edges of it or miles away. It shimmers in the distance like a mirage and you’re losing it.

I call it “the drift.”

You suddenly realize it’s been three days, then a week, then a month since you’ve made any progress.

It feels stale. You find yourself bored by the characters. You think it’s a sign you need a new project. A fresh start. So you let more time go by.

The foundation of your sand castle has blown away. One day at a time. One missed writing session at a time.

How does this happen? It happens grain by grain.

How do you stop it? The same way.

Famous authors all have recommendations to write every day or develop a routine. I like Jerry Seinfeld‘s advice: Don’t Break The Chain. Just grab a calendar and for every day you work on your number one project, mark a big red “X” – then just make it your goal not to break the chain.

Girl-Writing-ruifernandes-flickr-creative-commons-375x395

Drop in on your project whenever you can. You’ve got a day job, your dog has diarrhea or  your kid has a science project due. You don’t have time to brew a perfect pot of tea, don your favorite sweater and light your literary pipe.

So do what you can. Drop in on your characters. Reread a page or a paragraph, or jot down some ideas for a scene. I think of it as being less precious about the whole thing. Conditions don’t have to be perfect, you just want to keep in touch with your story.

“Drop in on your project whenever you can.” 

Steal time. Think of it as something you GET to do instead of another task to check off your list. Print out a couple of pages, stuff them in your purse or briefcase. Pull them out on your lunch hour, or on an extra long bathroom break during that interminable staff meeting.

Don’t fall for the allure of the new project because you’ve lost sight of the old. It’s not about rigid routines and perfect practice, it’s about action. Whatever you can do, do that. But do something.

sand-castle

“It’s not about rigid routines and perfect practice. It’s about action.” 

Stay tethered to the world you’ve built, the characters you’re developing and the story you’re telling. You’ll save time by not having to reorient yourself each writing session. Best of all? You’ll finish stuff.

 

4 Thoughts on “How to Finish Your Stuff: Avoid The Drift

  1. I love this, Suzanne! Especially this line: “You don’t have time to brew a perfect pot of tea, don your favorite sweater and light your literary pipe.” I need to remember it’s okay to just plop down at my computer any chance I get, and not wait for the so-called perfect conditions.

    …Similar to Seinfeld’s calendar chain, I always glance at the “date modified” for whatever Word document I’m working on. If I at least check in on my project every day, then that date stays current. If not, then it becomes obvious I’m starting to “drift.”

    • Thanks for reading, Jennifer – and what a great idea on the “date modified” as a reminder! That’s how I make sure I’m on the correct version but it’s a great visual aid, too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. CathyShouse on November 1, 2015 at 6:41 am said:

    I read these tips a few days ago and have since gotten some momentum going on a project I had drifted from. 1. Once I get started, I find myself stealing more time to keep going. 2. It’s surprising how much I get done when I keep in regular touch with the world I’ve created. Thanks!

    • That’s great news, Cathy! I think it’s physics and most writers are not in love with physics. Still, an object at rest tends to stay at rest, which is why it can be so hard to get going once we stop. Planned days off are ok as long as we’ve planned a re-entry strategy. Thanks for reading!!

Counting Thinking as Writing – Guest Post on The Procrastiwriter

The Procrastiwriter - Home of Shanan Haislip

 

The Procrastiwriter - Home of Shanan Haislip

Update: Part 2 of my guest post with The Procrastiwriter goes live today. Be sure and check out this site, a valuable source of information and inspiration for all writers!

 

Big day today! I’m excited to be featured on Shanan Haislip’s The Procrastiwriter. Part 1 of my guest post “Counting Thinking as Writing” can be found here. Part 2 is scheduled to run next Friday, September 11.

The Procrastiwriter is one of  The Write Life’s 100 Best Websites for Writers.

The Write Life Best 100 sites for writers

The mentor who inspired the post is none other than award-winning author Abby Geni. I met Abby in my Novel in a Year class at Story Studio Chicago.

Please stop by Shanan’s site and check out her other articles. Plenty of good stuff here to get you from procrastiwriting to actual writing!

Postive Writer named The Procrastiwriter one of its Top 50 Writing Blogs!

Best Writing Blogs from The Positive Writer

Comments are closed.

What is Your Greatest Fear?

Conquer your fears

Thor and Ruger - Fear of Dogs

Last Sunday night, we were attacked by a loose pit bull. My husband saved us with his work boots and extra long legs. We had finished eating takeout with our daughter and her fiance and decided to walk off the Portillo’s Hot Dog feast instead of lolling on the sofa in a greasy stupor. Our neighborhood park was a couple of blocks away and my daughter’s two rescue dogs–a boxer mix and a spaniel-mix–needed the exercise.

The chaotic scene was a blur as I walked a few paces ahead of our group. All I remember is clinging to the back of my daughter who is four inches taller than me and then holding her smaller dog in my arms as I circled, keeping my back to the pit bull. I doubt I came off as heroic.

Fortunately, there were no injuries. The pit bull got it’s mouth on the boxer three different times but each time, my husband came to the rescue, keeping the dog at bay with his feet. The police were called, the owner showed up to claim the dog and received a couple of tickets, and vet checks ensued.

When it was all over, I had a headache and the desire to cry for two days. At the age of seven, I was bitten by a German Shepherd and stray dogs are my number one phobia. Before spiders or my husband’s irrational fear of sharks (we live in the Midwest for crying out loud), I am deathly afraid of stray dogs.

Conquer your fears

This past year has been a time for me to do those things that make me afraid…call myself a writer, submit things I’ve written risking rejection, perform at a Live Lit Storytelling night. I’ve faced these fears but still balk at walking outside alone. I do it. But I have to force myself.

After the dog attack, I’m more hesitant than ever. This reminds me of a class I took about 15 years ago. I don’t remember the exercise but I remember having to name my greatest fear. It wasn’t dogs, spiders or sharks–it was the fear of living a life filled with regret. I could feel it happening. I was meant to be doing something else but I couldn’t see what it was so sometimes I didn’t even look.

“This takes a lot of self-belief…to just follow an idea and believe something will come of it.” ~ Insa

Writing may not be my ultimate calling. I think it is. It feels like it is. Facing the scary stuff is opening me up. Each time I push through the membrane of my safe existence, I catch a glimpse of possibility. Fear, worry, regret…they’re my stray dogs. How do you face yours?

 

2 Thoughts on “What is Your Greatest Fear?

  1. Great post Suzanne. What an awful experience! Hope you’ve recovered by now.

    I also have a fear of large/yappy dogs. Especially when they are running wild! WHY do people Do that?? Grrrrr!! I think I have too many fears to list. I face them by keeping my eyes tightly closed, and going “La la la la la la la” and pretending it’s not really happening. Not the best way I know! 😉

    I am convinced that writing IS your calling, Suzanne! You are so good at it. Keep facing those stray dogs! You can hide behind me if you like. “Woof!” *Happy waggy tail* 😀 <3

    • Thanks, Angela! Your method just may work. I appreciate the support and am a fan of you as well 🙂 As always, having readers (and supporters) is the best reward–that is, after doing what we feel we are called to do. And keep the dogs on a leash, people! Sheesh!

What if I’m Not Good Enough?

heart-shaped rocks on Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan Lakeshore Walk

Last week, I made a conscious effort to find a new place to walk and a different coffee shop in which to write. I usually use the elliptical at the gym or walk in a nearby forest preserve path. Similarly, I write at the local Panera. The booths are comfy, iced tea refills are free and they have outlets and free wi-fi. Everything about these walking/writing routines struck me as dry and boring.

I set out to find the lake. Not a small local lake…I was looking for Lake Michigan. I knew it was less than 10 miles from my house in the Chicago suburbs,  but unless I was having a touristy day in the city,  I rarely venture there. Considering my love of the water both salt and fresh, the stupidity of this hit me as I was in my car driving to my usual walking spot (driving to walk may strike you as stupid but…oh, nevermind).

Lake Michigan Lakeshore

Within minutes, I was standing on the pebble-strewn shore of the lake breathing in the air as I listened to the waves break. I wasn’t sure how far I’d walk as it was unfamiliar territory. I noticed all the shiny, smooth rocks embedded in the sand and decided to go just a little farther.

Last year (on a new adventure), I met this wonderful writer lady who collects heart-shaped things. I don’t know her well but we spent time together at a writing retreat and I was impressed by her warmth and positive outlook. She posts beautiful pictures of the heart-shaped objects she finds often accompanied by kind, generous and uplifting thoughts.

After we met, without meaning to, I began searching for heart-shaped things. Leaves, rocks, you name it, I’ve searched for them high and low usually without much luck. Most days, when I remember to pay attention, I find vaguely amoeba-shaped blobs that if I squint right and cast a shadow might pass as hearts…wounded ones.

heart-shaped rocks from Lake Michigan

The beach was strewn with pebbles, boulders and stones and I couldn’t seem to find one true heart shape among them. Like my inner writing gremlin, I began telling myself maybe I just wasn’t qualified. Maybe I didn’t have the inner stuff required to see something unique in nature’s debris. I wasn’t as nice as the heart lady. I wasn’t as “spiritual,” whatever that means.

heart-shaped rocks from Lake Michigan

On my writing journey over the past year I believed I was immune to writer’s block and determined I would not let my doubts keep me from taking action. For the first time in over a year, I’ve gone almost an entire week without working on my WIP. Still, I don’t think it was really a block – I never sat down to work on it. I’m not sure why but I’m back today. I’m pushing on.

heart-shaped rocks from Lake Michigan     heart-shaped rocks from Lake Michigan

Maybe we’re not meant to analyze why we get stuck or why we lack confidence. Maybe we’re just supposed to push on. Just like that day at the beach. I decided to go past where I was comfortable. The heart shapes were there all along,  beyond my comfort zone.

heart-shaped rocks from Lake Michigan

 

5 Thoughts on “What if I’m Not Good Enough?

  1. barb armstrong on May 11, 2015 at 9:53 am said:

    Sometimes your wisdom shocks me!!!!!

  2. Beautiful photos.

    Maybe you needed a break, it’s called re-charging! And I’ll bet that your seashore strolling has given you fresh inspiration. Hope so! You can’t keep a Brazil down for long!!! 😉

    Spiky hugs,

    The Hedgehog x

    P.S. Next time can I come with you?? 😀

  3. Hi Suzanne,

    I really enjoyed your story.. you must be a good writer as I felt I was walking on the beach myself picking up heart-shaped stones 🙂
    There’s always a reason why we get ‘ stuck ‘ , but as Angela said, maybe you just needed a break and a change of scenery.. Writers are artists, so I suppose going to the same coffee shop for a long period may not inspire you enough. Perhaps, in your spirit, there is something you are not quite satisfied with in your work and the story needs to shift it’s focus.. we have a deep wisdom that guides us to stop and reassess things. Ask yourself questions and you will find the answer.. trust yourself !
    The flip side of this of course could be… fear, doubt, lack of confidence.. So, building yourself up and believing in yourself could kick-start you in no time !

    Keep writing !!

    Orla. x

    • Thank you, Orla! Such wisdom in your comments. I am trying to recognize fear and doubt as signposts that I’m on an exploratory mission. Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to connect.

Revisions: Lessons of the Second Draft

Frustrated Writer

Frustrated Writer

In my wildly popular* post “I Wrote A Book, Now What” I shared what happens after typing “The End” on a first draft.

*Wildly popular means read by someone other than my mother and best friend.

Here’s an update on my progress.

Like sex or Godiva Chocolate Cheesecake, the learning curve for writing a novel is something you have to experience for yourself. No writer can convey what the process will be like for you because the process is never the same.

Cheesecake_GodivaChoco

Gratuitous photo of chocolate sex

Similarly, no recounting evokes the mental anguish and befuddlement of the actual undertaking. Hence, most unsuccessful novelists simply shelve their hideous first efforts and move on to the next project, or give up all together.

My bio on Twitter is accurate, I am pear-shaped and pushing 50. I’m determined to improve so I’ve got to face the fear of the second draft on this project. Then and only then, I will decide if the story is worth further effort.

So far, my revision process includes 50 new pages of material and a 30-page handwritten outline of the entire novel as it currently exists.

I needed to know the present world of my characters and show them interacting more before I start them on their journey of transformation. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so fast. In the new material, my main character is now 10 years younger and childless. Lesson: Generating new material often presents new problems for the writer that have to be resolved throughout the entire draft.

The first draft for a pantser (writing by the “seat of your pants” vs. planning) is like magic. Things just flow out through seemingly no effort of your own. But 290 pages of information is a lot to remember which is why characters end up with different names half way through and you can’t remember who’s related, etc.

writers-block

There was so much for me to learn, I applied and was accepted to a Novel in a Year program. The writing teacher strongly suggested I give outlining a try. Ugh.  Lesson: Outlining at some point in the process is incredibly useful for consistency and as a reference for rewriting.

So how do you do it? A typical day of revision is waking up early, making a cup of tea, stretching in the kitchen and then sitting down at my desk. I open up the word document and reread the previous material from my last session. Then I review my editor’s comments and decide what to tackle for that session. Either I’m adding a new scene, removing a section, correcting errors, etc.

Brainstorming, questioning, making lists of possibilities are all part of my process right now. Will I leave the kids in the story? Did I show enough interaction and conflict or tension between the main character and her husband in the first chapter? How am I going to tie the last chapter of the new material to the old material?

At first I was sure I was lost. I put off sitting down in front of the laptop. I didn’t know how to wrestle the three-inch stack of papers and notes into submission. What kind of an incompetent writer doesn’t know the age of her main character?

writingprocess1-1024x692

What I’ve heard, read and by the grace of the writing gods have come to internalize is that as long as I’m still working at it, learning and trying new things, I’m writing. Lesson: This is my process for this book so it is the right process. The struggle means I’m learning.

If you’re struggling with a first draft of a novel or short story or essay, congratulations. You’re writing.

(All photos via creative commons – click on photo for link)

One Thought on “Revisions: Lessons of the Second Draft

  1. barb armstrong on April 30, 2015 at 7:15 am said:

    Congratulations, you’re writing!!!

#Top10Tuesday: 10 Ways to “Think Big” for Writers

10 Think Big Tasks for Writers

10 Think Big Tasks for Writers

“Your playing small does not serve the world.” ~ Marianne Williamson

10 “Think Big” Tasks for Today

  1. Act as if –Don’t already have a cover of your WIP? Why not? Today’s the day. Make a “coming soon” mock-up and post it on your blog or FB. Already published? Envision and document your dream review or interview.
  2. Tell 3 people you’re a writer – Go On! Don’t be shy. What do you care what they think? They may want to hire you, interview you, mentor you, BE you! You might just inspire someone else.
  3. Order business cards. Now! Pick a font, include your email and social media info. Pass them out like it’s a real job. Or change your title on your resume, FB page, blog, etc.
  4. SUBMIT something…anything…anywhere. You don’t want to make a habit of submitting unpolished things but try poking a hole in the dam, prime the pump, get the juices flowing. Choose your cliche!
  5. Create a tracking sheet for your rejections and set an ambitious goal to be rejected at least 52 times—1 for each week this year. Crying is fine as long as you keep clicking “submit.”
  6. Contact an author you admire through Email, Twitter, or FB message. Don’t send suggestive photos, that just embarrasses everyone. Send a thanks or a compliment. Many will engage and we all love a pat on the back.
  7. Learn one new craft thing and then share it with someone else. Best tip you’ve heard all day? Who doesn’t want to know what that is?
  8. Envision the most “writerly” of locations, instruments, outfits and use them all at once. If you’ve dreamed of writing on a rock by a pond wearing a sweater with leather patches on the sleeves, get thee to a thrift store! Pick out an old sweater, grab a fountain pen and perch yourself on a rock. Congratulations—you now LOOK the part but you still have to write something…anything!
  9. Write a review of the best book you’ve read this year and post it everywhere. Put good energy out into the universe.
  10. Share your successes in the comments below (thinking positive is also a ‘think big’ action). Lather, Rinse, Repeat!

“Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs.” ~ Vaclav Havel

 

2 Thoughts on “#Top10Tuesday: 10 Ways to “Think Big” for Writers

  1. Hey, Suzanne. Somehow I found my way to this post from last year… Call it serendipity. 🙂 Anyway, it struck me as something worth remembering. This could definitely be a “pinned post” if there is such a thing. So much inspiration here!

8 Signs You Might Be in “The Dip” and How to Write it Out

Winter hike writing setbacks
Frustrated Writer

Photo by Don https://www.flickr.com/photos/fallingwater123/

I was stuck inside for the third day in a row, planning which blanket to cover up with before watching the seventh hour of The Voice. I scrolled through Facebook and read a post from a fellow writer offering hope to another writer in the doldrums.

“Poor thing,” I thought. That couldn’t be me because I’ve been on a straight path upward, no detours or setbacks. Since I got the guts to call myself a writer last spring at the non-ingénue age of 48 ½, my signs from the universe all confirmed that I’m not wasting my time on this whole writing thing.

I clicked on author Kristen Lamb’s blog post and recognized myself in the photo – a dark-haired writer with her face in her hands. The recognition called me to read on about the “span of suck” that is “The Dip” and how it might not be such a bad thing.

What are some signs this might be you?

  1. Everything’s been going your way and then it’s not.

This would be the “waiting for the other shoe to drop” scenario. I’d had a lot of mini-victories but then a few rejections came my way.

  1. You’re not actually writing.

I was back to talking about writing. Reading about writing. Not getting much writing done. A recent blog tour I’d signed up for ended and I didn’t have fresh material for my blog. Worse, I had no desire to create fresh material.

  1. You’re current project seems impossible to save.

The second draft of my WIP was under way but I suddenly became sure I didn’t have the talent or creativity to figure out plot issues, add interesting characters or finish it.

  1. You begin Fraud-Fretting.

Maybe it’s the alliteration but I loved this term. I was all of a sudden positive that having sold a few pieces, gotten a local byline in the paper, finished a first draft of a novel all added up to something other than being a writer. Maybe it meant I was a plumber?

  1. You withdraw socially from your writing peers.

Whether you’ve been connecting online or in person, all of a sudden, you don’t want to face the people who are really doing it. You begin wondering if cable will air old episodes of The Voice or American Idol which will help to take your mind off what you’re not accomplishing.

  1. You stop showing up.

You haven’t been at your desk in days. Your laptop is fully charged and you intend to conserve energy by not turning it on. You’re all thumbs so don’t even try to pick up a pen or pencil.

  1. You pray for the cold snap to continue so you can remain covered on the couch with a semi-plausible excuse.

Those talent shows are not going to watch themselves.

  1. Your hair has been in a greasy pony tail for days and you have food stains on your sweatshirt.

This could be more serious – rely on your family for indications.

How do you get out of it?

  1. Give yourself a break. Kindness works. Don’t berate yourself into a deeper dip.
  2. Set a time limit. “I will give myself 3 days to wallow,” etc.
  3. Hold a pen or pencil (do not point the sharp end at your heart) while watching The Voice or Idol.

    Winter hike writing setbacks

    Winter hike – Fresh air tonic for the writing blues.

  4. What have you been dying to write? If it’s not the WIP or that’s too scary to face, write something for fun. Send a raunchy email to your BFF gossiping about that horrible woman in your office.
  5. Call a mentor, coach, teacher so they can tell you how normal this is. Do not call your mother who will either tell you how beautiful you are (having not seen your greasy pony tail) or will give you the number of her friend that can get you a good job.
  6. Confess your doldrums to your best social media friends. Sit back and watch the inspiring quotes and memes roll in.
  7. Revisit what made you want to do this in the first place. Successes? Bylines? That poem that made your friends cry?
  8. Breathe. Move. Fill the well. Go to a movie. Dance to your favorite song. Have sex! Eat chocolate! Re-read your favorite book.

I tried all of the above. Not necessarily in order. Number four gave me the start of an essay I’d been holding inside. Yesterday, a trusted mentor confirmed that my fears were shared by “real” writers at all stages. Intellectually I knew this, emotionally I needed to hear it.

Staying in “the dip” isn’t an option. Nature doesn’t work like that. Setbacks become permanent only if you quit. Something better is coming. Will you be ready for it?

 

 

 

4 Thoughts on “8 Signs You Might Be in “The Dip” and How to Write it Out

  1. Kristen Lamb on March 3, 2015 at 10:18 am said:

    Thanks for the shout-out and this made me laugh. Love how you riffed with it. We ALL hit this place. Sometimes it’s just knowing it goes with the job that helps. It isn’t permanent.

    • Lovely of you to comment, Kristen! Really enjoyed your blog. Happy to say I was up and writing this morning. Thanks again for stopping by!

  2. barb armstrong on March 4, 2015 at 8:52 am said:

    Yes I am your Mom and I understand the doldrums dip, believe me! However, It would be a shame for you not to wallow a day or two and then continue on with your fabulous self because I am sure you give other people a lift most of the time. They really look to you to boost them up and cheer them on so snap out of it and get to work and always remember that I am sure you were put here to make the world a better place and you do!

    • Mother!! Hello and thanks for telling it like it is (or how you think it is :-)) I was hard at work this morning, so there! Love you!

The 2K International Writers’ Blog Tour: Author Interview with Amrita

2K International Writer's Blog Tour

Friday the 13th got you nervous? Relax, read and get to know Amrita:

Amrita

My name is Amrita. I’m 26 years old. I have an M.A. in English. I’m currently doing my M.Phil. My interests are in literature, Psychology, music, film and comedy. My blog’s called Of Opinions, where I write on Psychology, culture, writing and blogging. Don’t be put off by its name, I promise you it is more interesting than it sounds!

What is the first piece you remember writing (from childhood or young adulthood)?

Apart from the many overenthusiastic school essays and personal poetry, the first piece I remember being excited about was a short story I wrote when I was thirteen. It was for the school magazine, and it was called Shakespeare in Space. Sadly, it got rejected, and I don’t have a copy of it either. I remember Shakespeare being very excited (and very wordy) to be in space.

What is your favorite aspect of being a writer? Your least favorite?

My favorite aspect of being a writer is the complete sense of engagement the act of it brings. Musician Craig Wright has called art a “collateral” experience to life, but writing makes me feel more alive than anything else.

My least favorite is, of course, the loneliness. I cannot create in an environment of chaos and as much as writing makes me feel alive and passionate, I miss the ability to not have anyone around to share that passion. Writing itself isn’t lonely however. I see it as conversations, as excitedly sharing a story with someone who is, genuinely, as excited by it. But, physical loneliness can never be compensated by literary togetherness.

Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, what is your best tip for beating it? If not, why not?

I do believe in writer’s block. In my case, I’ve usually found it to be a life block. The more I write, the more I find that it is better to have all your ideas out, even before you consciously think about them, than to be creatively blocked in waiting for the right idea. Creatively, I see writing as a series of decisions, right from a plot or a character one, to one of narrative flow, to one of syntax or choice of words.

With a life block, it is more specific, and you have to see for yourself how to solve it. With a creative block, to reiterate what I just wrote, just let your doubts rest and let all your clumsy, stupid, silly ideas out. Then, preferably after some time has gone by, go back and see what can be done with them. With my blogging, I find, pieces that I often hate myself or find to be too awkward or silly, somehow, don’t get received in that way. You can never have reins over perfection. You just gotta keep swimming, and believe that someone will notice if they see anything of value.

What is your current writing project? What is the most challenging aspect of your current writing project?

My current project is my M.Phil thesis on the representation of women in the music of women rock artists of the 1970s. I’ve also been peripherally working on other ideas and, of course, on my blog as well.

My primary current writing project ( my heart gives a few anxious leaps if I say or write its name! ) has been the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life. The ratio of life block to creative block is 70:30 for this. I love what I write about; it just hasn’t been the right time in my life to write about it. But, the work is more important than I am. Another potential ‘women in rock’ book may not do the world any good but, I will nevertheless try my best to give these artists their critical due which many of their contemporary and extremely sexist critics, did not.

What supports you in your writing?

An immense, deep-set, unshakeable, complete, crystalline love for art. High and low, past and present, fine and applied. Art sustains me, gives me enthusiasm for life, gives me courage to do something to make my life worthwhile, and most of all, makes me feel highly grateful to be alive. Nothing else, but to be in the vicinity of art, makes me want to write. I see writing as an act of love, and that love is motivating enough to support me through thick and thin.

What are you currently reading?

Still soldiering on with The Goldfinch!

Where can our readers find you and your books online?

http://ofopinions.wordpress.com


 

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