It’s time to stop resisting other things in my life

I have no idea if this is a problem that other people have, but it’s a big problem for me. I tend to let things pile up and then I put my head in the sand like a mule and refuse to look at or think about the things I don’t want to do. (Yes I know it’s supposed to be, what…an ostrich? But there is a particularly mulish quality to my refusal to face up to what I have to do and it’s like burying my head in the sand at the same time. I stand by my mixed metaphor.)

Right now I’m resisting:

Going to the doctor. I have resisted this for so long I now have to go to three different doctors (I hate going to the doctor at the best of times. Going to the doctor in a totally different culture is really hard and confusing and all my expectations get jerked around, every time. There are so many cultural expectations wrapped up in medical care.)

Making a decision about going home to see my family

Making a decision about going on vacation instead of/in addition to/taking away time from seeing my family

Standing up for what I need (this last is making me cranky as it feels like everyone else’s needs are being prioritized over mine which duh they are because no one else knows what I need because I just keep saying yes to everyone else’s priorities–this is also how I have to go to so many doctors because everyone else kept taking time from work and so I felt like I couldn’t.)

The thing is, when I have this resistance to fixing the problems in my life it spills over into writing. It just blocks up the flow of everything: problem solving, creativity, emotion, thought and writing doesn’t happen without those things. As soon as I start stuff moving, really moving, in these other areas of my life, then probably writing will free itself up again too.

Just to clarify, this isn’t just procrastination. It’s procrastination buried under a la la la if I put my hands over my eyes and ears I can’t hear you, see you, problems, attitude and has a lot to do with me feeling overwhelmed and to not paying enough attention to my needs/wants.

Ok, is it just me or does this happen to anyone else?

Status: I have realized I don’t know what the villain is doing but I made some progress on the B plot involving family members. A little anyway.

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Read

Read something you love or something that will help you.

Ok, I know some of you are protesting, “But, Nicole, I will be influenced and that will be terrible!”

I think the myth of influence being bad is as pernicious and false as the myth of American individualism (after four years of living abroad I have a RANT about this but that’s a whole side rant about how we believe that’s how we live our lives but is not the truth of how we live our lives).

But let’s talk about influence for a moment. Influence is everywhere. You cannot avoid influence. Other words for influence are preference, taste, canon, learning. There would be no The Lord of the Rings without the Völsunga saga. There would be no Sword of Shannara without The Lord of the Rings. There would be no The Deed of Paksenarrion without either or all of the other books influenced by The Lord of the Rings that made Elizabeth Moon decide she needed epic fantasy to do something different than what was influencing her. Everything is in conversation with what has come before.

Influence is where the best art comes from, plus it’s unavoidable so I wish we would all just stop trying to avoid it and embrace it. Rant mostly over.

But, you might be saying, what about voice? You might be saying, I’m a new writer and I don’t know what my voice is yet. What if my book sounds like Ursula Le Guin or Alistair Reynolds or whoever it is that I love so much?

First of all, have you ever seen art students copying the masters in an art museum? Imitation is a great way to learn the skills you want.

Second, if you did manage to sound like Ursula Le Guin, I would probably read everything you wrote because I LOVE Ursula Le Guin and wish there was more of her fiction in the world. But get over yourself. You will never sound like Ursula Le Guin or Alistair Reynolds because you are not them. You don’t have their life experiences or writing history and even if you replicated their writing styles you still wouldn’t sound like them because the things that interest you cannot be the exact same things that interested anyone else. Also, if you’re a new writer you are not that good yet, so stop worrying. And finally, most people are not that good a mimic.

Third, that’s what revision and beta readers are for. When you are done writing your draft, the next step is revision and if you are afraid you copied someone, then you revise all those parts so that you haven’t. Or you give it to trusted readers and tell them, I’m afraid I copied Stephanie Meyer, can you help me? (Also congratulations might be in order because maybe that means you are the next E.L. James.)

(Sorry, I’m cranky today. Because I’m actually on next week’s trick, write something else, in conjunction with this week’s trick, so I’m writing this blog post instead of the fiction I hoped I would be writing. I’m sad and slightly depressed because of some things happening in my life and I find it very hard to write fiction in that state, even though paradoxically, writing fiction would probably help me to get out of it.)

Ok, back to reading something you love or something that helps you because we’re trying to bust writer’s block here. This can take a lot of forms.

Immerse yourself in someone else’s writing and just enjoy it. Let it be a reminder that it can be done and of why you want to do it. Let the thrill of reading wake up the thrill of writing inside you.

Go to other authors for technique and inspiration. Maybe you need to look at how other authors end their chapters or interweave character action with dialogue. Pick up a book by someone you admire and examine how they did the thing you’re having trouble doing. I love Heather Seller’s advice in Chapter After Chapter: Discover the Dedication and Focus You Need to Write the Book of Your Dreams. She says to have six wise guides for the book you are working on. From memory, I think she says have three fiction books that are like the book you want to write and three non-fiction books that you find helpful and inspiring, but I think any combination of fiction and non-fiction works. These are books that are like the book you want to write, in genre, tone, theme, style, etc., or craft books that will help you get there.

Right now, my books are the Phryne Fisher mysteries by Kerry Greenwood (totally cheating, there are like 20 books in the series), The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells, Point of Hopes by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett, Fearless Creating: A Step-by-Step Guide To Starting and Completing Your Work of Art by Eric Maisel, and What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro.

Oh, you know what? Light bulb moment: Those are the wise guides for the book in revision, not the guides for the novella I’m currently working on. That might be part of my problem, right there. I’m a pantster, so it helps immeasurably to have the shape of an book I have read in mind when shaping my own.

Read to learn craft or for motivation. I need to add a book on how to write mysteries to my six guides, but I haven’t found one that really works for me yet. Instead I’m listening to back episodes of the Writing Excuses podcast on character to help me figure out how to handle all those characters who just might be the murder suspect and so need page time in a way that doesn’t happen in other genres. I read parts of Fearless Creating when I need to be reminded that fear, or as Eric Maisel calls it, anxiety, is part of the process of creativity. And I’m reading What Every Body is Saying is because my main character is supposed to be good at reading body language and I’m certainly not.

That’s it for this week.

I’ll get back to you about the wise guides I choose for my novella. I also thought I’d add a progress update since I’m using these techniques as I write about them to wrestle with my own writer’s block.

Today: blog post written in lieu of fiction; fiction wincingly glanced at and a bit of exposition for copied in from one book to another.

Write just one sentence

This is really good when I’m having trouble getting started for the day or when I don’t know what’s next or when resistance has set in hard and I’ll do anything as long as it isn’t writing.

I promise myself “You just have to write one sentence. That’s it. You don’t have to stick with it, you don’t have to wrack your brains over this, just write one sentence and you’ve done your writing for the day, and you’re done, without feeling guilty about not writing.”
And then one of two things will happen.

I will write one sentence and I have done something. I have accomplished writing. I have one more sentence than I did when I woke up. I promise myself I will write one more sentence tomorrow and that’s it.

Or, I will write a lot more than one sentence because once I’m in front of the computer and I’ve broken the resistance by convincing myself I’m not going to do very much at all, it’s not worth resisting because I’m not really going to write, I’m just going to write one tiny little sentence, the inertia of writing takes over and I write. Because that one sentence spawns another sentence and another and before I know it I’ve written five sentences or one hundred sentences.

It’s a win-win situation because the writing advances one way or another.

The writing blahs

I’m in that place where I’m starting to get feedback on the novel I sent to beta readers but not all of it so I can’t start fixing the problems and it gives me the writer blahs. You know, where you feel like you can’t do anything right and will never be able to fix the novel, the story, the blog post, so why even try? That’s where I am and it’s terrible.

But…

I have some methods to trick myself out of this feeling and the one I’m resorting to today (and probably the rest of the week) is index cards that I’ve written affirmations, quotes, and things I’ve learned and want to remember. I have a stack of about 50 that I’ve compiled over the last 10 years and I read them to myself (sometimes more than once, often out loud). This way, past me, who was in a better place, has a chance to boost my mood, remind me of how ridiculously stubborn I am, or kick me in the butt. Here are a few examples that have helped today:

Not writing is not an option.

When I feel stuck what am I telling myself?

The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing —Henry Ford

Failure is part of the game. Get up and try again —Barbara Stanley

Writers steer by wonder desire — Heather Sellers

I am tenacious in achieving my goals.

As long as I’m facing the right direction it doesn’t matter the size of my steps —Erica Jong

How does one become a butterfly? You must want to fly so much that you’re willing to give up being a caterpillar —Trina Paulus

Having a nemesis

Or

Comparisonitis

And Writer’s block

I don’t have a nemesis. I do have writer’s block regularly and I have a whole introductory post about why I want to post regularly about getting out of writer’s block, but I had a bad case of it this week and didn’t actually finish that introductory post. But here I am, writing, so I’m out of it again (tentatively), and I need to write about having a nemesis.

There’s this person. Let’s call them Pollyanna (why I don’t agree with Pollyanna’s bad reputation is another post, completely outside the scope of this one, and let’s stick with her reputation as someone who is unwarrantedly optimistic). Pollyanna is in one of the online author groups I’m in. They post a lot (I never post). They ask for advice (I’m so bad at asking for advice in public. One on one is ok.). They are very determined, or at least appear so (my determination wavers like my short-lived experiments with playing the violin).

Today, Pollyanna posted that they had found the answer. I had already answered this question, several months ago, and read Pollyanna’s book, which was available to purchase. I gave Pollyanna some additional unsolicited feedback (sometimes I can’t help myself. I don’t know if this is righteousness or an overdeveloped need to help other people.) to the effect that the question they were asking wasn’t their problem. Their problem was they needed to work on the craft of writing. (The writing was very bad. I know I’m a snob about writing, but really, it was. Very. Bad.)

Pollyanna did not listen to my advice. That’s ok, advice is like birdseed. Some actually gets eaten by birds and that’s great. Some gets eaten by squirrels and hey, that’s ok. Some dies (sorry, birdseed) and some grows into weeds (I don’t actually know if that’s true, don’t yell at me if birdseed doesn’t become weeds, I like the idea and I like weeds. No, I don’t have a lawn, but if I did it would be weeds so insects and butterflies could live in it.). Anyway, never mind about the birdseed. Back to today.

Lots of people were helpful and supportive in the online group. It’s a great group. Pollyanna answered some follow-up questions. I read them (masochism isn’t pretty). I learned that Pollyanna had published several more books (I haven’t) and was advertising them (I’m scared of advertising and have talked myself out of it until I have more books) and SELLING 1-5 of these terribly written books per day (I am not selling that many books a day). And I realized something. The difference between me and Pollyanna was that they were still going, full steam ahead, and I had gotten stuck. I hate being stuck.

I also kind of hate Pollyanna and their unwarranted optimism and confidence all out of proportion to their ability. And competitiveness (I am very competitive) and jealousy (I swear I’m not really a terrible person but being a writer means wearing your insides as your outsides and that’s why it’s so damn hard sometimes) and comparisonitis (I CAN do what Pollyanna is doing, I’m just not doing it and that’s why more people are reading their terrible books than are reading my wonderful books, I just have to write them) kicked me in the competition organ (I think mine is at the base of my throat), so, kicked me in the throat and here I am. Writing. Thank god and Pollyanna. My nemesis. Today.

 

I’m giving myself until Tuesday to write fiction because post-novel funk is a real thing and I’m going to Hong Kong this weekend for Melon 2019, Aliens on the Galactic Silk Road, and how COOL is that!? It’s also my first real writer’s event since I moved to Bangkok almost four years ago.

Because accountability is also important in fighting writer’s block, here are the other things that got me to this point today and that I will write about: morning pages, cognitive behavioral therapy tools, community, whining, acknowledging post-novel funk and inspirational index cards.

Two promos I’m in this month!

I’ve been a bit cagey on here, and not really said that I’ve published a book under a pen name because I’m nominally trying to keep my real name and my pen name separate for now, for work reasons BUT you can get my book for free until December 20th through one of these promotions and I’ll tell you it’s the one with the beautiful purple cover with three girls. And if you do by some chance download my book, if you leave a review, I’ll love you forever.

YA Series Starters

YA series starters

There are NINETY-ONE free books in one promo and forty in the other and something for everyone I think. I won’t lie, many are not up to my very high standards of writing, but the thing about indie books is they often will have characters and subjects you can’t find in traditional publishing, and if one matches the thing you really want but don’t find too often, then the quality of writing is not as important. So there are quite a lot of f/f stories, including teen lesbians fighting aliens, and also an autistic main character who kills demons.

Action girls, adventures and friendships

Action girls

Um, is there anything more up my alley than that title?

 

Anna Akhmatova

My 2013 post about Anna Akhmatova continues to be one of the most popular on my blog even though it’s just a few short lines about her masterpiece of a poem Requiem. I wonder if it’s because we’re looking for people who shine lights in the darkness? Americans as much as Russians visit that page. Or looking for the women who came before us, the ones who persevered, who left us something of themselves, when so many didn’t have that chance.

I didn’t know much about her when I posted it, just that she was persecuted for her poetry under Stalin. Wikipedia says Lydia Chukovskaya described how Akhmatova “would write out her poem for a visitor on a scrap of paper to be read in a moment, then burnt in her stove.” This one line provoked an image in my mind of the paper flaring into fire, curling up over the words, and diminishing into ash; and it provoked feelings, of admiration for her cleverness, the bittersweet pain of imagining her burning her own words and the fierce courage it must have taken to write them and rewrite them for her trusted visitors. I still don’t know much about her, but I want to know more.