Maybe I Need a Hug–or a Vacation

This was the view from my hotel room balcony in Fort Lauderdale in February 2010. Instead of enjoying Florida, or seeing any sights, I spent the week in my room, working on my second novel, BODY COPY.

Time for a confession.

My novel LOST NOTES has been frustrating me since I decided to examine my protagonist’s motivation. Instead of finding his, I lost mine. Then I walked away from the page. For more than a week, which is a huge deal for a daily writer like me.

Granted, my kid’s sick and we’ve had sleepless nights, and ridiculously early mornings, so I haven’t had much time to sit at the computer. But those are excuses. I’ve let my frustration about my story–and the negative self-talk I usually avoid–get in the way of moving forward.

I really believe this book, when finished, will be the best of my three novels. But what if it’s as good as it can be and nothing happens? What if the result is a big old so what? More specifically, what if I don’t find an agent? I’ve always written for myself, first and foremost, but obviously the industry is so strapped right now it’d be ridiculous to ignore that economic reality. Things may change in the next year or two (or four) while I’m writing and revising LOST NOTES, but they might not. There’s no guarantee, even if I write the amazing book I’m laboring to write, that I’ll find an advocate. Someone who believes enough in my work, and in me, to go out and try to sell it. And that’s a little depressing.

Usually writing’s enough. This week? It hasn’t been.

Part of the problem (other than the aforementioned sleep deprivation) is that I’ve been calculating how much of my life I’ve put on hold to write. I’ve begged off family events, postponed house projects, stayed inside my hotel room on vacations, woken up at crazy hours and missed out on a whole lot of good times so I could sit in front of the computer and bring a fictive world to life.

I suppose could use a dose of success. A pat on the back, even. But despite having a polished manuscript, BODY COPY, I have opted out of the agent hunt for now to focus on the new novel. Success won’t be coming any time soon because I’m not even out there hunting for it.

The only cure to this malaise–and all this dastardly thinking about the decline of the publishing industry–is to get back to writing on a daily basis. I’m a writer. I write. A breakthrough, or even an awesome sentence, will give me that sense of satisfaction that’s been missing all week. (Although I could probably still use a hug…)

What sacrifices have you made for your writing? What keeps you going?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Fiction, Revision, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Maybe I Need a Hug–or a Vacation

  1. The great thing about a hug and a pat on the back is that they can be delivered simultaneously.

    ::BIG HUG::

    That being delivered, my advice is this. When writing, write. Try, as much as possible, not to think about the agent, the publishing world, the fame, the fortune, the (etc. etc. etc.). Also the editing and revising. Don’t think about that either. Write for the writing.

    If you’re playing the saxophone and you’re thinking about how the club is going to screw you (again), and how the drummer is sleeping with your ex (still), and how the indie record company has offered you a contract that only a masochist would ever sign, and how the guitarist’s drinking is becoming less and less amusing, and how you wrote at least half of the tune you’re currently playing and got no credit, and how more than half the tables are empty, and how you’ll have to sit through dismal sets by three other bands before you can load out, and how you’re going to get maybe one hour sleep tonight before you get up to go to your day job…

    Well, under those circumstances, the solo you’re playing will suffer.

    And that solo, that moment when you step to the edge of the stage and play like this is the last one minute and thirty seconds of your life, sweat pouring off you so your fingers almost slide off the keys, that can make all the rest worthwhile, and the few people scattered around the place will feel a tingle that’s an echo of what you’re feeling.

    Write for that, that’s my best advice. Write for those who want to read your writing, however many or however few. Including you.

    Count me among those, by the way. I’m definitely interested. So, that’s one. I’ll bet there are more.

    • Thanks for the hug and the pat on the back, Anthony! I so appreciate the awesome musician metaphor. I’ve given some similar pep talks in the past to writers caught up in publishing angst. It’s so nice, now that I lost my focus temporarily, that you dropped by and shared your wisdom.

  2. Emerald Barnes says:

    Since you shared a confession, I will share the same. I’ve been feeling the same way. I make excuses not to write because sometimes I feel like it’s just not even worth it. I feel second-rate at best and start comparing my writing to everyone else who is obviously better than me at writing. I think it’s just one of those weeks, but I just write. As long as I get my ideas down, I know that during my revision I can make it better. I just keep reminding myself that this isn’t an easy business to be in, but it’s definitely worth it. (Well, I hope it will be.)

    I even try reading over some of the stuff I thought was good about the story, and it really does help. I get to thinking, “Hey. I wrote that. I can do it again. Just write!” It may be silly, but it does help me. 🙂 I hope things get better for you soon.

    • I’m glad it’s not just me, Emerald! Thanks for sharing. It’s true we can go back and fix to our heart’s content, and thanks for the suggestion to read portions that work, rather than focusing entirely on what needs revision. I’m feeling better already!

  3. Have a big electronic hug from me!

    Know how you feel but I reckon it’s entirely natural to have such moments of self-doubt and pseudo-regret. Bottom line it seems is that you write, you like to write and you love writing. Don’t forget that…

    Hope you find that inspiration again soon.

  4. Bryna says:

    What helps me when I fret about my future as a writer–I still fall into the unpublished category despite my childhood aspirations of being published by the time I turned seventeen (which came and went)–is to remember why I write. I do it because I love it. Even though characters are uncooperative, plots sometimes fall to pieces, words jumble together to make a mess on the page, and I don’t know if I’ll have a future as a published novelist, I still love it. Something inside of me is hardwired to string words together and craft worlds from nothingness, and even when it frustrates me to the point of giving up, I can’t let go. It’s my deepest dream.

    Another thing to remember is sometimes you need a break. Do as Covey suggests and spend time to “sharpen the saw.” Enjoy time with your family. Enjoy Florida when you visit. Enjoy hobbies that aren’t tied to writing. Giving ourselves some space sometimes gives fresh perspective and rekindles our love for the stories we make.

    Best of luck. Hope things improve soon. 🙂

    • Thanks, Bryna. I’ve always had publishing aspirations, and I was lucky enough to get really close to success, but it didn’t materialize that time. So I have to keep writing! What you said about being hardwired to write novels sounds like me. It took a while to realize I wasn’t a short story writer, or a poet, but I’ve been hooked on novels since I wrote my first one (in 1998–and I never count it in my book-tally because I never revised it).

      The reminder to take time away is much appreciated! Who is this Covey, though? I haven’t heard of “sharpen the saw” before and it sounds great.

      • Jo Eberhardt says:

        Stephen Covey – 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

        The 7th Habit is “Sharpening the Saw”:

        Suppose that you were to come upon someone in the woods working feverishly to saw down a tree.
        “What are you doing?”, you ask.
        “Can’t you see,” comes the impatient reply. “I’m sawing down this tree.”
        “You look exhausted!” you exclaim. “How long have you been at it?”
        “Over five hours,” he returns, “and I’m beat! This is hard work.”
        “Well, why don’t you take a break for a few minutes and sharpen that saw?” you inquire. “I’m sure it would go a lot faster.”
        “I don’t have time to sharpen the saw,” the man says emphatically. “I’m too busy sawing!”

  5. The hope that I will succeed keeps me going. The thing I’ve sacrificed? Probably sanity! ^_^

  6. It’s funny about the novels/short stories thing. I used to think I was hardwired to write novels, could never write a short story that was worth a damn, but then I started to write mystery stories and now I’ve written a dozen of them.

    Of course, they’re sort of turning into chapters in a novel, too… 🙂

    • Good point. I may someday go back to the short form, but at some point I realized I read novels almost exclusively, so perhaps I should be writing them instead of stories…

  7. Jo Eberhardt says:

    The initial writing process has always been the hardest for me. The idea, the characters, the plot, the theme… all of it is in my head and my heart and (somehow) the back of my stomach. But trying to get those thoughts out of my body and soul, then converting into words on a page that other people will understand can sometimes feel like vomiting razor blades. Or giving birth through my ‘third eye’.

    When I’m really struggling, I remind myself that I’m good at the editing process. I’m great at rewording entire paragraphs to get the point across more clearly. I’m fantastic at taking bad prose, giving it a bit of time to ferment, and then filtering and distilling it into something approaching pure genius (in my own opinion).

    So, just write. Even if it’s crap. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Even if you reduce an intensely emotional scene to four purple-prose filled sentences. Even if you forget how to string together a series of nouns and verbs into a recognisable sentence. Just write. Once the words are on the page for the first time, the creation part is done. You can figure out the best way to discipline them later.

    • Just write. A battle cry of sorts! It’s so great that you know how smart you are with editing and, by reminding yourself of that part of the process, you give yourself permission to keep rolling (or vomiting) forward.

      Any thoughts about the future of the manuscript can tamp down that momentum. And hey, maybe that’s part of my problem. This book is the first one that I’ve plotted out, so I know exactly what I want it to be, but I’m still working on getting there. What’s going onto the page, as first draft, isn’t exactly that ideal story. Hence some of the frustration.

  8. Jody Moller says:

    I am still at the point where the only people to have read my first novel are my sisters and my mum – in other words the people that have to tell me I am fabulous whether my writing is or not. And as a consequence I am constantly plagued by doubt. The doubt manoeuvres its way into my brain and I find myself putting down my current WIP to go back and edit again. The problem is that the editing isn’t fun… writing is. Seeing your imagination come to life on paper; looking back and reading over something you have written and getting goosebumps – that’s what makes it all worthwhile. Pick up something you wrote – read it – realise you are amazing – you will get your inspiration back.

    • That’s a great point about others reading your work, Jody. I am really lucky to have my critique group. We’ve all studied with each other on and off for years, so I know they’ll tell me what doesn’t work–and they won’t let me get away with anything!

      I used to love the first draft writing process, by the way, but my last novel in particular converted me to the joys of editing. To see the story become sharper, cleaner, clearer. It’s like turning the lens on a manual camera and watching the picture come into focus. Now that I’m writing a first draft, it feels a little more like the razor blades Jo mentioned than it used to, and I’m looking forward to editing!

  9. Moose says:

    I’m a musician rather than a writer, but I totally get where you’re coming from. If I’m going to call myself a musician then I should be doing music everyday, it should be my priority – but every few months I’ll have a couple of weeks or so where I don’t even touch it.
    I think it’s important to be vigilant about maintaining space (temporal and mental) for our passions each and every day – just because they’re our passions doesn’t mean we automatically do them. But at the same time sometimes we need a break, for a fresh perspective and to remind us how much we miss it – and feeling guilty about it doesn’t help. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Oh and ::hug:: !
    I hope you’ll be back in your groove soon 🙂

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Moose! I think all these creative endeavors are linked when it comes to discussing our respective crafts, discipline, goals, etc.

      I have to say, after taking my weeklong break and getting frustrated, I’ve returned to the page with new excitement–proving your point that it’s good to have space from our passions so they can grow, and so we can remember why we’re so passionate about them in the first place. I’m blazing through chapters in the mornings, thanks to a kid who’s sleeping again, and feeling really good about the changes and where the story’s going. Whew.

      And thanks for the hug!

      • Moose says:

        Yay, that’s really good to hear! I was just saying to someone else yesterday that it’s so nice to read about other people’s successes. I’m glad you’re feeling reinvigorated and I hope this spell of inspiration sticks around for a good long while!

      • Well, as I indicated, I think making music and writing are more similar than is generally assumed.

        Great news that things are moving along again.

  10. Pingback: Prostitution, Or Writing What I Don’t Know | Laura Stanfill

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