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leahzero
04-06-2010, 08:10 AM
This is just venting...I'm usually pretty confident about my work, but today, all the wrong things came together to hit me with a coordinated pincer attack.

I turn 28 tomorrow. And I have major anxiety over not completing a novel yet. In one way, it's good: the books I've begun and abandoned so far just weren't up to snuff. If I'd published what I was working on back when I was 25, 22, or even younger, it would haunt me now. I'm grateful that I took my time and did a lot of growing up and experiencing life before I really set my nose to the grindstone.

On the other hand, I feel uncomfortable and depressed about approaching the big three-oh without a single publishing credit under my belt. It's eminently possible that the novel I'm writing now just won't be publishable for whatever reason--wrong time, wrong agent, wrong whatever. Hell, it's possible I'll be an old woman before I ever see my name embossed on a dust jacket (if the paper book market even exists then).

I'm sure it'll happen someday--I know I'm a good writer, and more importantly, I know how relentlessly stubborn and persistent I can be. But despair festers anyway, corrupting every Happy, Positive, Well-adjusted, Self-loving Thought (TM) that I feed myself.

A few weeks ago, I entered a contest at a popular writing blog to be added to their staff as an up-and-coming unpublished writer. I wrote a couple of sample articles and answered a questionnaire, and after running it past some folks, I thought my entry was pretty solid: concise, funny, candid. But I found out earlier today that I wasn't even chosen as a finalist or semi-finalist. I got knocked out of the running early on. I was okay with not winning--I wanted to win more for the exposure than anything (as most of the entrants did)--but to not even squeeze into the finals was a blow to my self-esteem.

I felt like that writer who languishes in the slush pile, only to be summarily disqualified once someone finally picks up my MS. All that effort and waiting, for nothing. Lack of closure is the worst part about being rejected: I don't know what I did wrong, or not well enough. It's hard to process something and move on without understanding the lesson I'm meant to learn.

My blog viewership stats have been falling the past couple of weeks, too, and I'm not entirely sure why. I comment regularly on other blogs, trying to offer substantial feedback or initiate a dialogue, rather than the typical self-promoting "Nice post! Agree 100%!" crap. I've also done some SEO and listed my blog at a few well-known directories...yet viewership is still falling. Is it me?

And I recently had a sort of falling-out with a close friend of mine who also writes, and who's been an inspiration and collaborator for years. She's someone I'm accustomed to turning to when I need to vent or need the unconditional love and support of a friend, and she's turned to me for the same. Now neither of us has that. At least she has other close friends, but I don't, really. I'm an idiot who thinks that I'm a rock, I'm an island, when really I feel pretty lonely without my friends.

This is all on top of being unemployed and desperately scrabbling for freelance work when I can get it.

Sometimes I feel like I'm just kidding myself. That I'm not really as good as I pretend I am. That maybe the reason I haven't finished a novel in all these years--despite constantly talking and thinking about it--is that I'd finally have to face the fact that I'm just not that good. Procrastinating and waffling allow me to cling to the idea that I have potential, that it's just untapped. If only the brutal, heartless publishing world would see it--but I don't even have anything to show yet.

If all of this hadn't happened so close to my birthday, I don't think it would have affected me so keenly. But yeah. Tomorrow I turn 28, and I feel like an idiot, failing at everything I put my hand to, rejected even by my oldest friend.

I'm grateful for a wonderful, loving, supportive, and infuriatingly optimistic boyfriend, who has thrown his support heedlessly behind me. In some ways, though, I feel like having that one person in my corner just emphasizes how alone I really am.

And here I am, soul-searching on an internet forum. Oh boy.

Well, thanks for reading. I hope your April 6th will be better than mine.

stefanie_gaither
04-06-2010, 08:44 AM
Wish I had something more helpful to say other than: I've totally been where you're at right now. And I'm sure I'll be there again sometime in the not too distant future... Such is life (and I don't mean that in a snarky, mean way, either!).

You'll get through this though. You said yourself that you're stubborn and persistent. From what I've gathered, I think most of us writers cycle through periods of confidence and doubt...it's part of the official job description, I think. Just try to think about the confident times, why you wanted to be a writer in the first place...I actually have a folder called "why I write", and in it I've collected stuff like kind words from teachers and friends about my writing, as well as any positive responses from agencies, that sort of thing... I know it sounds kinda lame, lol--but it's really nice to flip through when I'm feeling down about my writing.

I understand how you feel about losing touch with your friend too. I recently 'lost' a friend of mine to her new boyfriend (ie--she dumped me almost completely in favor of him)... She was a huge part of my writing life. She was the first person I ever had the courage to show anything I'd written to, and she's been fundamental the past couple years in helping me to improve my craft, and just in giving me someone to talk to about writerly stuff--stuff that the general population just doesn't seem to get, imo. I'd always considered myself a rock, content in my lonely little writing world, until I met her...and now that I've basically lost her, I gotta admit--it's been a serious drawback for me as a writer. I'll get through it, one way or another--but that doesn't change the fact that it sucks. A lot. On a random side note-- interestingly enough, I ALSO have the super supportive boyfriend (I kinda feel like we're sort of the same person, lol) who is infuriatingly optimistic--but who is completely useless when it comes to writing stuff, bless his little heart.

Sorry for rambling. I hope knowing that you're not alone makes you feel the tiniest bit better... And if that doesn't help, allow me to at least give you some birthday hugs: :Hug2:

Feel better!

-Stef

Ganymede
04-06-2010, 09:39 AM
While there are many who would argue otherwise, it is my opinion that the best writing cannot come without life experience. Building books takes years.

Welcome to the life of a writer.

If your main motivation for writing is to see your name in print or to win contests, then you will either have to conduct a lot of research and write the most marketable materials you can, or wait out your luck. White it is certainly possible to increase your chances of getting published, there is a certain amount of luck involved -- being in the right place, at the right time, with the right manuscript.

You cannot control the actions of others, and if your happiness and goals depend completely on them, you are setting yourself up for potential unhappiness.

You have a boyfriend who loves you and supports you -- and I know many ladies who would kill to have that.

Some would say it is better to have one loyal friend (your boyfriend I mean) than a cluster of fair-weather friends, which is where many people find themselves -- realising that while they are never alone, they are actually quite lonely. It depends on whether one wishes to be truly cared for, or to be popular.

(As for your female friend, obviously I do not know the circumstances behind that, but if having her in your life is worth an "I'm sorry", and extending the olive branch in spite of issues, then perhaps it might work. And if not -- if you examine that relationship and find that there was more bad than good to it, then perhaps you are better off. A decision only you can make.)

You are young. You are presumably healthy enough to type at the keyboard, which puts you in a better position than many people.

You are unemployed, but many people are, and it is not a thing of shame right now to be unemployed as it was in the past. You are at least able to get some freelance work in your field, again, better than what many people are facing who have to take jobs that are grueling, dangerous, or disheartening because they have to pay the bills.

I say these things to you not to chastise you, but to show you that while things are not as you'd like them to be, perhaps they are not as gloomy as they seem.

Why not make your birthday the start of something fabulous?

Why not start a new project tomorrow -- something over which you have complete control: your first novel?

Writing and completing that will be up to you, and no one will be able to take that accomplishment away from you. Even if it never goes to print in your lifetime -- and the odds of that grow more rare now with the increases in new media and online technologies that will open up the publishing world like a battering ram -- you will have achieved something many people talk about but few people actually do in their lifetimes:

You will have written a novel.

Your first novel may be brilliant. It may be utter crap. :) Probably, it will fall somewhere in between.

But you will learn firsthand the joys, the sorrows, the fun and the difficulties of achieving this feat. And once you earn your spurs, you will make mistakes and learn many things along the way. And it will make writing the second one easier. And the third... :)

Many people expect for things to come easily to them, and when they don't, they become depressed. Writing is sheer, hard, pure work. For many people, *life* is sheer, hard, pure work. And while there are those aggrevating few who always seem to have everything handed to them on a platter, most people achieve things by working unbelievably hard, be it school, careers, having a business, writing, etc. They aren't lauded for it, because it takes many years, and it's not glamourous. But they sleep well at night knowing they have worked to their absolute potential, which is all any of us can do.

Best wishes, happy birthday, and hope you feel better.

Phaeal
04-06-2010, 04:57 PM
You cannot control the actions of others, and if your happiness and goals depend completely on them, you are setting yourself up for potential unhappiness.

Yes, yes, yes. I've come to an unwieldy philosophy compounded of Objectivism, Franny and Zooey and Sri Krishna's remark in Bhagavad-Gita:

You have a right to work. You do not have a right to the fruits of work.

Of course, I have to alter the above with a little Objectivist twist:

You have a right to work, but where the fruits of work are controlled by others, they have a right to buy or not. The only fruit you can absolutely depend on is the process and the product itself.

I think this must be true because it's so hard to accept. ;)

Jamesaritchie
04-06-2010, 06:40 PM
If you're abandoning novels for any reason, yes, you're probably kidding yourself in at least one way. No one learns to write a novel by writing a partial. You can't even learn to write the opening of a novel without writing the ending. You may have plenty of talent, but if you aren't finishing the novels you start, no matter what you think of them, you're wasting your talent. No book is up to snuff until after it's finished and polished, but more important, you can't learn to write anything well by waiting to finish until you have a novel you think is up to snuff.

Too many complicate what really should be a very simple procedure. Forget blogging, forget leaving comments on other blogs. Forget collaborators. Forget entering such contests. Forget anything that isn't writing and finishing a novel.[/I] Such things do not make you a writer, they make you an avoider.

Assuming you have a modest amount of talent, and most do, becoming a successful writer is very simple. Very, very tough, but simple.

Just follow Heinlein's Rules. These are business rules, and they work. But just about ninety-seven out of every one hundred who try find some reason to abandon one rule or another. They always have a sound, logical reason for doing so, and that sound, logical reason means failure.

You've already broken Rule 2.

HEINLEIN'S (Business) RULES FOR WRITING

1. You must write.
2. You must finish what you write.
3. You must refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order.
4. You must put the work on the market.
5. You must keep the work on the market until it is sold.

Read this to understand why the rules are all-important. http://www.sfwriter.com/ow05.htm

The worst sort of avoidance comes in the forms of things that allow you to tell yourself you are writing. Blogs, your and others, contests, critique groups, writer's forums, on and on and on.

The one absolutely unavoidable fact is that you cannot sell a novel until after you write it and polish it, and you may have to write, finish, polish, and keep five or six in submission before you writer the one that really is up to snuff. And you won't have a clue which one that is until someone makes an offer.

You're still two years shy of thirty. If you stop worrying about blogs, contests, collaborators, forums, etc., that's more than enough time to have two finished, polished novels making the rounds, and a third under construction.

Like I said, simple but tough. If you want to, you can find a good reason for not following any of the rules. Or you can buckle down and follow them all, and most likely succeed.

cate townsend
04-06-2010, 10:47 PM
If you stop worrying about blogs, contests, collaborators, forums, etc., that's more than enough time to have two finished, polished novels making the rounds, and a third under construction.


True, and it goes along with sacrificing in order to accomplish your goal. When I first started writing, I gave up TV, friends, going to the beach, shopping, cooking, going to movies. I didn't give up everything entirely (except television), because you need some sort of life to be creative, but I devoted most of my time to learning the craft and the industry.

It's really not enough to just "want to be published" anymore. It goes way beyond that. You have to be willing to sacrifice.

Happy Birthday, leahzero! I hope you are having a good day.

leahzero
04-07-2010, 01:50 AM
Just try to think about the confident times, why you wanted to be a writer in the first place...I actually have a folder called "why I write", and in it I've collected stuff like kind words from teachers and friends about my writing, as well as any positive responses from agencies, that sort of thing... I know it sounds kinda lame, lol--but it's really nice to flip through when I'm feeling down about my writing.

Wow...yeah, it's corny, but I think it's also a fantastic idea. Maybe as something tucked away, out of sight, until you really need it. Thanks for sharing this. :)

leahzero
04-07-2010, 02:04 AM
If you're abandoning novels for any reason, yes, you're probably kidding yourself in at least one way. No one learns to write a novel by writing a partial. You can't even learn to write the opening of a novel without writing the ending. You may have plenty of talent, but if you aren't finishing the novels you start, no matter what you think of them, you're wasting your talent. No book is up to snuff until after it's finished and polished, but more important, you can't learn to write anything well by waiting to finish until you have a novel you think is up to snuff.

Sure. And I agree. But there's also something to be said for recognizing a non-starter before you invest your time and self so deeply into it that you feel obligated to continue with it, despite having reached the point of diminishing returns. If you don't feel passionate about a project anymore and don't feel you are learning as much from it as you could from a new project, what is the point of seeing it through?

Not every artist fits into the molds defined by lists of dos and don'ts. For me, personally, it is not fruitful to stick with a project after I've given it a reasonable effort, put it on the backburner, let it cook on its own, and still found it wanting.

Learning to let go of something you're emotionally invested in, when letting go is what's best for you, is a mark of maturity, IMO.

It's impossible to convey everything I've experienced and accomplished as a writer in one thread--for instance, I have quite a few finished short stories, which are in their own way as difficult, if not more so, to write. And I've worked on long projects in other media, where I've learned various lessons.

I feel like I shouldn't have mentioned my age, because clearly we all have certain preconceptions about age and experience. This thread was meant as a means of venting, not as a solicitation for hard-knock-life advice. But I thank you and other posters for taking the time to read and respond. The spirit and intention of your replies is appreciated.

Satsya
04-10-2010, 11:32 AM
Mmn. Well, keep in mind this is only my own thoughts, but --

It may not be fruitful for you to keep working on projects after they begin to displease you. However the writing portion of your rant seemed to imply that you don't feel that your current strategy is very fruitful, either. Otherwise you wouldn't have expressed so much disappointment in your career.

Disregarding your age completely, could I suggest something? Take the advice of the others here and just finish a novel. Force yourself to finish it, even if you hate it. Do what it takes to reach that last page conclusion.

Even if what you end up with isn't publishable, you will probably learn quite a bit about yourself as a writer, and perhaps even as a person.

In any case, it seems more fruitful than languishing in the situation you describe -- unless you really are truly happy most of the time with your writing career, and this rant was just a one-time anomaly.

Anyway. I don't mean to sound harsh. It's only an opinion. Whatever you choose to do, good luck to you.