Coffee Dates: Night Owl or Early Bird

Good Morning, Creatives!

Can we just have a round of applause for those of us who made it through this week? Like, seriously, congratulations! It’s the weekend! We get to rest and write and read books!

Hopefully. Sometimes weekends get booked solid and life gets in the way. But we do our best.

That’s one of the reasons that I love writing in the morning so much. I’ve found over the years that I do my best writing between five and eight in the morning when the world is quiet and the sun is still rising.

Which leads to today’s question! Are you a night owl or an early bird?

My Process

I am definitely an early writer. I like to get up while it’s still gray and misty outside, switch on my fairy lights, and sit down with my kitty to read my bible before the sun rises. Then I go straight to the computer, and most mornings I can fly through 500-1000 words before I even get up for breakfast. Such a good feeling!

My Struggles Within That

Early mornings don’t always happen! Sometimes I really am too tired to move, and that snooze button on my alarm starts looking very nice. Other days, I can’t sleep in to save my life. 5:30 rolls around, and ding, my brain is awake and ready to go, no matter how I happen to feel about it. Sometimes—especially on vacation—it really would be nice to sleep in a bit!

Your Thoughts

What about you? Are you a morning writer, typing with the sunrise and enjoying an early cup of tea to welcome the new dawn? Or do you haunt the deepest watches of the night and compose your words by starlight and moonlight? Tell me about it in the comments!

A Writer’s Life: Rejection

I’m going to confess something.

My portfolio of rejection letters is still in the double digits. Under twenty, I think. Maybe even under fifteen.

Probably under fifteen.

Small potatoes, right? Of course, that’s not including the number of queries I’ve had go out that were simply . . . ignored. I actually had a mini celebration the first time my query letters started getting replies. They were rejections, but the agent/publisher at least took me seriously enough to say no instead of ignoring my existence completely.

A step forward, right?

Rejection

Unfortunately, it’s a step forward into learning to be okay with ‘no’. And, when my book has been the better part of my life in the last seven years, ‘no’ is hard to swallow.

Nothing stings like a rejection letter when what you’ve offered is your heart and soul.

Our books are important to us. We’ve put endless hours of work into them, slaved over ‘perfect’ sentences, and revised our query letter until it makes us want to scream with exasperation. We want a ‘yes, absolutely!’, not another ‘no’.

Unfortunately, ‘yes’ isn’t always an option. And no matter how many rejections we get, they always sting.

How To Make It Happen

Rejection is always a discouraging thing, and too often, it deflates whatever day it happens to arrive on. Writing after that feels particularly impossible, and it’s easy to waste the whole day—or week—in feeling dejected.

But rejections are also a necessary part of writing, and because they are so necessary, we have to learn how to deal with them in a way that’s not going to leave us drowning in discouragement. Part of it, of course, is developing a thick skin for criticism. The rest is having the right perspective about rejection and developing tools to keep yourself moving and encouraged.

I do it with two truths, three tricks, and one long breath.

Truth #1

It’s not us against them. Agents are not out to ruin your day. Publishers are not against you as a person. They are simply looking for the right books to move their own business and career forward. If something isn’t right for them, they’re going to pass on it—either because they themselves aren’t excited about it or because they don’t think they can sell it. They don’t hate you. They don’t hate your writing. This a business and they are making business-minded decisions.

As the author, you also need to need to view it as a business rather than a personal project. When you do, it will take a bit of the sting out.

Truth #2

The wrong agent/publisher is so, so much worse than no agent or publisher. You do not want someone working on selling your book who doesn’t love it or have a vision for it. If they don’t care, they won’t convince anyone else to care either.

Writer, not everyone loves the same books. Agents are readers too, and they have likes and dislikes. They don’t want to be working on a project that they aren’t passionate about, and you don’t want them working without passion.

If they so no, let it be, and be glad they didn’t agree reluctantly just to boost their numbers.

Three Tricks

  1. Celebrate the failures. This one sounds silly, but look at where you are. You’re querying! Hopefully, that means you have a polished manuscript and a competent knowledge of your own story. Every failure is only a step to success, so be thankful for the rejections. You’re that much closer to an acceptance.
  2. Don’t set all your hopes on one person. Yes, that one agent sounded perfect for what you wanted, or that one publisher would be exactly what you wanted. But there are so many agents and so many publishers. If you put all your hopes into that one person, you’re going to be crushed when they don’t see how perfect it would be and reject it.
  3. Try again. You only fail when you stop trying. Keep a few queries out all the time so that you always have a few hopes left. Rejections are less final and less fatal when you still have a few others to hope for.

One Long Breath

Writer, let it sting. Count to five, close your eyes, and let it hurt. A hope died, and it was painful. You are allowed to mourn for it, allowed to be sad, allowed to take a moment.

Then take one long deep breath and let it go.

Move on. There are other publishers, other agents, other magazines. You have more opportunities ahead of you, and you will find your niche. Dwelling on the rejections will end with discouragement, disillusionment, and dumped manuscripts. You have a place. Adjust where necessary, listen to feedback, and continue on.

Focus on that one long deep breath, and continue with your dream.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What are some of the ways that you deal with rejection in your writing journey? Tell me about it in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing waiting and how best to embrace it in your writing journey.

Living Courageously

I have a confession to make.

I have been keeping secrets from y’all.

Big secrets. Secret secrets.

Some of them are so big and so secret that I can’t even tell you about them yet. (I promise I will soon.)

But I can tell you the first one today.

About a month ago, I got dressed up and went into town for a job interview. My third interview with this particular company, in fact.

A third interview is a big deal, guys. There’s a lot of pressure. And a lot of people to impress. Especially if you want the job as much as I did. So, the whole 45 minute drive into town—I’ve mentioned I live in the middle of absolutely nowhere—I was praying. And worshiping. And reciting scripture. And basically doing anything and everything I knew how to do to keep my anxiety from bursting out and swallowing me whole before I got to the interview.

Because it’s really not a good first impression when you’re visibly panicking while trying to greet people and hold a conversation.

I made it all the way to the parking lot before I started to freak out. Actually, I made it onto the sidewalk.  Like, I made it far. Cause I’m a warrior, y’all. The trouble was, I still had to go inside and actually make it through the interview, which, considering the previous interviews, could have gone anywhere from an hour to two hours.

Which, for an introvert, is a long time to smile and talk to people.

Do you know what ended up giving me courage? You’re going to laugh.

It was Kate DiCamillo, and her wonderful, wonderful book, The Tale of Despereaux.

Specifically, this line:

“Once upon a time,” he said out loud to the darkness. He said those words because they were the best, the most powerful words that he knew and just the saying of them comforted him.

I said it to myself as I went through the doors, and while I smiled and talked with the receptionist, and while I sat and waited for my interviewer to come and retrieve me.

Once upon a time.

Once upon a time.

She was right. Just the saying of them comforted me.

In case you’re wondering, I made it into the interview without panicking. And I sat and talked with twelve people all at once, several of whom had skyped in so they could get a look at me. I smiled and answered questions and asked semi-intelligent ones myself, and when it was over I walked out feeling courageous.

For an introvert who, ten years ago, couldn’t look an adult—or almost anyone else—in the eyes, that was pretty brave.

And yes, after a month of waiting with bated breath, they offered me the job. So how’s that for courageous?

What is something particularly courageous that you have done lately? Brag to me in the comments! I’d love to hear about it!

Coffee Dates: Favorites

Good Morning, Creatives!

How was the week? Anyone make it all the way through? I hope so, because I have such a fun question for you all this week, and it would be a shame to waste it on empty space because all of my friends got flattened by adult responsibilities.

So, here’s to hoping that didn’t happen.

This week’s question is about favorites! Writers have so many different caps they have to wear, but I personally would be lying if I didn’t have one or two that I favored above the rest.

My Process

Everyone has their own favorite part of the writing process! I personally love description and building new worlds out of pen and paper. I put on music, usually something from Two Steps From Hell, and give myself as much time as I need to explore the new surroundings and see everything I need to see before I try to put anything on paper. It’s an adventure every time, and it’s a huge part of what I love about writing. We writers get to visit such extraordinary places!

My Struggles Within That

I am a chronic overwriter! My editor is always despairing over it. I have to limit myself to only a few especially beautiful settings within a single book, when I would much rather explore every single room in the castles, every single dungeon, and every single deep wooded hollow I come across.

I’m learning to keep to the settings that really matter to the story, but sometimes I definitely run away with myself.

Your Thoughts

What is your favorite part of being a writer? Do you love your characters? Suspense? Stunning plot twists? Descriptions and intrigue? Tell me about it in the comments!

A Writer’s Life: Discouragement

I’ve been writing for seven years.

During that time, I’ve hit many, many low spots. The worst were moments of discouragement.

I’m never going to make it.

I’ve wasted my time.

This book is never going to be published.

Thoughts like these hit and hit hard when writers are burned out. It’s as if they know we’re tired, they know we’ve been working too hard, and they know we’ve just been rejected, and they gather like vultures.

And writer, it gets ugly.

Discouragement

We’ve all been there, haven’t we? Moments when nothing makes sense, when the books we’ve poured life into for months and sometimes years seem flat and uninviting, and we’re just ready to give up.

Discouragement doesn’t just kill stories . . . it kills dreams.

Dreams of a bestseller. Dreams of your book in your hands. Dreams of having something to teach younger authors. Stories wither in the face of discouragement, creativity dies, and slowly—if it isn’t curbed—your dream dies too, because who can write with someone standing at your shoulder constantly telling you you’re a failure?

And if that someone is yourself, it’s hard to get away from the condemnation.

How To Make It Happen

Writer, this doesn’t have to be a reality. Discouragement hits and hits hard, true, but we don’t have to succumb to it. We’ve fought this battle before, and we’ll fight it again. Writing is that kind of job and life is just that way.

Writer, I hope no one has ever told you that you wouldn’t have to fight for your stories. Because you will. Again and again and again.

And by the end of it all, it will have been so worth every scar and every weary, battle-stained night.

You can’t dodge the fight, but you can make doubly sure that you have the weapons you need to keep yourself—and your stories—on the right path.

Writer, here are mine. I do it with two truths, three tricks, and a daily choice.

Truth #1

Discouragement is built up over time . . . the more you think about it, the worse it gets. Allowing negative comments from yourself and others, spending time wondering if you’ll ever ‘make it’, and worrying will poison your thoughts. It will start with ‘maybe not’ and build and build until you’ve trashed your manuscript and changed a ‘maybe’ into a ‘definitely’. So spend more time on hoping and dreaming than you do on naysaying. They’ll get you further.

Truth #2

Prevention is easier than recovery. It’s easier to nip a discouraging thought out of your mind the moment it appears, instead of waiting for it to grow into something that will need to be dug out with a backhoe because the roots have gone so deep.

Taking three months to recover from burnout is much more difficult than making a habit of pausing in your thoughts and saying, “That’s not truth.”

Three Tricks

  1. Have a person. Someone you can talk to about all of this in a safe place. Someone who isn’t going to tell you to give up or laugh off your concerns or spend more time giving advice than they do listening. Someone who will listen patiently and simply say, “I know it’s hard. You’ll get there.”
  2. Have a box of encouragements written by yourself on your good days. Keep it by your bed. Or on your writing desk. Somewhere you can always get to it. Fill it with favorite quotes or bible verses, with notes from yourself that are goofy and funny and serious. Notes that encourage you to keep going to and explain why you still do this. It will be pretty hard to remember this stuff when discouragement comes knocking.
  3. Have a policy that you never, never make decisions on a bad day. Never. Ever. Because the worst decisions you will ever make will be the ones that are made with a headache, eyes red from crying, and an anxiety-knotted stomach. Those are the decisions that end with burned manuscripts, hurt relationships, and a damaged you. Any decision can wait until you’ve slept, eaten, and showered.

A Daily Choice

Discouragement isn’t the sort of trouble that you can cure once. It doesn’t go away with a few feel-good quotes and an extra box of chocolate after dinner.

Sometimes, it takes months.

It takes choices.

It takes getting out of bed and doing the things that you know are right even when you don’t feel like it.

Writer, this journey is long. It is discouraging. It’s rough to see your work rejected, it’s rough to spend hours on a plot hole that will just not go away. It’s maddening to write a chapter six times and still not like what’s on the page.

But you know what? Maybe that seventh try yields a chapter that you love. Maybe the next query is the one that’s going to get accepted. Maybe tomorrow you’re going to find a solution to that plot hole that is so brilliant it leaves you tingling.

Success is possible. It is within your reach.

But not if you give up because you were discouraged. So make those choices every single day to work through your discouragement, so that you are around for the days when everything just clicks.

Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.

What are some of your daily strategies for dealing with disappointment and discouragement? Tell me about them in the comments, and stay tuned for next week, when we will be discussing rejection and the best way to handle that unwelcome email.

Springtime and a New Baby

Does anyone remember Baby Groot?

He’s a year old now. A whole year. I can hardly believe it. They grow up so fast.

We haven’t had a birthday celebration for him yet, mostly because I am waiting for his new leaves to come out, but in the meantime, something exciting has happened!

We had a baby!

Isn’t she cute?

(I’m pretty sure this one is a she.)

I gathered about six acorns last fall and kept them all snug and damp in the back of my refrigerator. Only two of them ended up sprouting, and this little beauty is the first to make an appearance. Her twin is in an identical pot, and I expect to see him popping up any day now, since he already has a very nice root system growing.

Now I have to find names for them. If you happen to think of any that you particularly like, please drop them in the comments! I’d love a little help.

As you can see from the pictures, it is raining this morning, the flowers are blooming, our woods are flushed with green, and spring is finally here. As you cannot see (thankfully) I am so, so sick. And have been for a while. If you think of it, send comforting thoughts and cold remedies. I would definitely appreciate them!

Do you have any new arrivals around your home, plants or otherwise? Tell me about them!

Coffee Dates: Frustrations

Good Morning, Creatives!

Tomorrow’s the weekend! Anyone have any plans? Writing, adventuring, or just sleeping? (I’m mostly planning on sleeping, if at all possible.)

Since I need sleep (and I always do) this week’s question is about frustration. Which part of your writing journey frustrates you the most? What gets you really heated and annoyed with it for interrupting your story’s flow?

My Process

Writing can be so, so frustrating, and it’s never more frustrating for me than when I know I have limited time, I know I have a pile of work to get finished, and all I can do is stare at a blank screen or pound out wooden words that I can’t enjoy or savor at all.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in this, right?

If I’m honest, these moments crop up because my body and my brain need REST, and I am not very good at resting. I like to have my to-do list, finish my to-do list, and get a bit extra done for luck. Anyone with me in this?

My Struggles Within That

I cannot convince my poor tired brain to cooperate without taking proper care of it. Which irritates me. It makes sense, of course, and I know it makes sense, but I would rather it didn’t make sense and I was able to force out a few thousand words whenever I felt like it.

Because I am impatient.

So, instead, when I start staring blankly at a screen, I am learning to take a pause, take a minute, and just rest. Read a good book, lie back and close my eyes, or just stare out the window for a while.

Someday, I’ll convince myself to do this on a regular basis.

Your Thoughts

What is one of your biggest frustrations while you’re writing? What steps have you taken/would you like to take to counter that frustration? Tell me about it in the comments!