Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Secrets of Kidlit: Surviving the Winter

I know what you're saying. Winter? It's June! But I recently read a blog post written by Pitch Wars alum Amelia Coombs about moving on and making it through the hard times in a writing career.

Because this writing thing? It ain't all sunshine and roses twenty-four/seven.

But you know that. We all know that -- we just don't talk about it often. And it doesn't matter what stage of your career you're in, we've all been there, feeling lost and wondering if it's all over. Whether you're shelving yet another manuscript after navigating the query trenches as a veteran, your critique partners think your current project is a cliched dud, your agent's getting crickets on your manuscript (again), you're a published author who keeps writing and writing and writing and yet no one seems to want to buy that second (or tenth!) book, or you're well into your career and reading terrible reviews about your latest release (or worse -- no reviews because no one's even reading your latest release) . . . Welcome to Winter.

There's something comforting about knowing you aren't alone in feeling like this. And alone is how a lot of us feel when we hit Winter. Because out there, in Happy Cheerful Summer Sunshine Twitter and Facebook World, it feels like everyone is signing with agents and selling four-book deals and getting sixteen starred reviews and everyone is retweeting it and yes, you're genuinely happy for that person and you know that their success has no impact at all on your career, but you're also thinking, "But I don't even need to hit the list! All I want is ________." Yeah. It feels isolating, doesn't it?

You are not alone. We all deal with this at some time or another, many of us more than once, and some of us for long stretches of time. And the worst part about it is how it can affect your creativity. You might feel this intense urge to get your work out there so you can "catch up" to all of these other people somehow, but that urge ends up being exactly what's holding you back. It's almost impossible to find that quiet place in your mind to do your best work when you feel like you have to get it done now, now, now or else your career will shrivel up and die.

So what can you do?

1) Unplug. Get off social media. Everyone understands the need for a break now and then. You might find it much easier to get the words written if you're not constantly bombarded with the very thing that's making you feel like you're falling behind or not good enough.

2) Find your people and vent. It is OKAY to share these feelings! But what's important is finding the right people to share them with. (a.k.a. not your public Twitter account). Critique partners, family (if they get it), writer friends, tight-knit writerly Facebook groups ("tight-knit" is key here -- you need to feel secure that your privacy will be respected). Letting it out can help so much.

3) Rediscover the joy of simply writing. We can get so caught up in the business side that we lose the true reason we choose to write. Take a moment, a day, a week, a month to write whatever you're most inspired to write. Don't worry about whether it's a hot genre or whether it'll sell. Just write for the love of writing. It's not something you ever need to show anyone, unless you want to. The agents and the editors will still be there when you're done.

4) Find the rest of your life. It's easy to fall into the I'm a Writer and That's All I Am trap. You're not just a writer. You're a human being with family, friends, and hobbies. Plan that family vacation, start that exercise routine, try out those recipes, take up knitting, do whatever makes you a whole person, apart from writing.

5) Breathe and remind yourself that it's not a competition. This sounds obvious, I know, but simply taking a few breaths and remembering that we aren't competing against each other can do wonders in relieving that pressure to succeed.

You might also want to check out this great Kidliterati post from Becky Appleby on professional envy and how to use it for good. And remember -- you're not alone!

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