The Voices In My Head

I have an interesting profession. Other than my colleagues, I’ve never met anyone who works at a private detective agency. I like seeing the surprised looks on people’s faces when I tell them what I do. It’s a lot more interesting than saying I work as a receptionist, which is what my last job was.

But, in the day to day, what I do for a living feels normal. Mundane even. It takes an odd case or a conversation with a stranger to make me pause and think “Wait. My job is actually kind of cool.” It’s moments like these that help me get through the other parts of my job: the boring bits and the stressful bits.

I think that’s why taking breaks is so important. Whether it’s taking a few days off work to get away for a bit, or taking a break from writing or querying, or whatever it is you do to work towards your dream.

I’ve spoken before about how hard it is for me to write at the same time as I submit. I think part of it is how many voices are there when you’re submitting: Agents, friends, critique partners, well-wishers, competition judges. I find it really difficult, after listening to those voices all day while I’m querying, to then sit down and listen to my own internal voice. It’s hard for me to block everything else out, the voices telling me I’m not good enough, or that my last book was fantastic, and what is this piece of rubbish? to just write.

Sometimes this makes me want to give up on the whole trying to get published thing. What I love about writing is the day to day, the putting words down on paper. I find the other stuff hard to deal with. But I have this dream of one day being able to quit that day job to write all day every day, and in order to get there, I need an agent, I need an editor and I need readers. All of these things a good things, GREAT things. I’d love to have people reading what I write one day. But it means I need to find a way to balance both the outside voices and my inner voices. To both write and submit. And I’ve come up with a few strategies.

The first is the Just For Fun project. I started writing it about a month ago, and I’m a third of the way through. I think I’ll finish before November. The great thing about a JFF project is there are no other voices. I’m not writing it with the goal of submission, so I can do whatever I want. It doesn’t matter if it’s horrible, it doesn’t matter if it’s utterly unsellable. It’s mine and mine alone. When I queried my first book I didn’t write a word for months, I was so paralyzed with doubt. Not a single word. The fact that I’ve written 20k in a month is a miracle.

The second thing is taking breaks. Querying is an intensive process, at least how I’ve been doing it. Sometimes I find myself getting so wrapped up in queries and competitions and blog posts that I start worrying about silly things like trends and putting sentences together if I ever have to talk to someone on the phone. Sometimes I need to take a step back, block out all the voices and learn to breathe properly again.

It’s like with my day job. Taking a break from the madness helps me to see the cool bits about querying. The full requests and the friendships made with other writers. The fact that I’ve written a book that some people think is GOOD. These are pretty awesome things, but when I’m neck-deep in queries I can lose sight of this. I can get lost in the stressful stuff and the exhausting stuff and the stuff that makes me want to curl up under my bed and never come out.

I’m starting to see that it’s all about balance. A balance of work and play. A balance of creativity and business. I used to say these things just don’t go together, but I think maybe they can. You just have to find your own strategies to make it happen.

So, to sum up, when you start hearing too many voices in your head, it’s time to take a step back. Or possibly see a mental health professional.

A place with no voices. Or at least less than are currently in my head.
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The Voices In My Head

Life in Circles

Three years ago, in August of 2009, I started writing my first book. It was about a city and a murder and a young girl working towards her dream of becoming a journalist. And superheroes.

A few weeks ago I started writing my third book. I like to think of it as a spiritual successor to my first book, as it contains all the same elements as above while being completely and utterly different.

What is so beautifully, wondrously clear to me as I start this new story, in this new world, is how much I’ve grown as a writer.

Also about three years ago, I started this little ole’ blog. Almost every post back then was about some new element of craft that I’d learned. I was learning so much, so fast, and my story just couldn’t keep up with the growth. These types of posts have become more infrequent these days, but it’s not because I’ve stopped learning things. Quite the opposite. It’s because the things I’m learning now are harder to articulate.

Voice. The difference between the right word and the wrong one. Depth in character, beyond questionnaires and character worksheets.

Of course, I still have so much to learn. SO much. The beautiful thing about writing is that you’re always learning. Each story is its own beast, and it’s in the wrangling that you grow.

But being here, writing this story that I’ve already attempted once, that I tried to give up on again and again, that keeps weaseling its way back in, is like making it to the top of a small mountain and looking back at all the miles I’ve trod. I have so much further to go, so many more mountains to climb, but look! I’ve made it this far, and isn’t that amazing?

Sometimes in the deep, dark depths of an unruly draft, or while forgoing hygiene to revise that scene just one more time, it can feel like you’re making no progress at all. Sometimes when the rejections just keep coming and you’re stuck in some dead end job, working nights and weekends on a goal that looks like it may never come to fruition, you wonder if it’s really worth it. If maybe you’re wasting your time.

If I could go back to past-Beth in these moments I’d whisper in her ear: Yes.

Yes, you are making progress. You are learning and growing as a writer in a thousand different ways. You can’t see the big picture at the moment, but you will. You’ll round that last corner, climb that last hill, and there you are, at the top of a mountain.

It’s been three years since I decided I was going to finally sit down and write a book. I’m not published yet. I haven’t made my goal. But there have been milestones, big and small. And today I stand on top of a mountain, looking back on all the steps I’ve taken, and reader? I’m feeling pretty fine.

***

I chose this picture to end the post not because it was related at all, but because it makes me smile. My friend Raech and her favourite animals. Also, Raech was one of my first ever readers. She’s been there from the beginning and she’s always been enormously encouraging to me. Thanks, Raech!

Ducks!
Life in Circles

New Beginnings

One of my favorite things about writing is that there is always a new story to tell. There are always new worlds to explore, new characters to journey with. You’re never truly done, because there is always more to do.

I’ve started a new story. This is both wonderful and terrifying. Wonderful because I love this world. I love these characters and I can’t wait to tell their story. Terrifying because in this business there are no guarantees. I could spend a year or more working on this story, and the market may shift. Another book just like it might come out. There is no way to know if this book will ever sell.

New beginnings are all about faith. That first step, that wonderful, terrifying step into the fog, is an act of faith. You never know where the journey might lead you. Should I have written that idea instead of this one? Should I have started somewhere different? Will anyone ever read this? Am I wasting my time?

I don’t think you can ever answer these questions. The questions you can answer are: Am I passionate about this story? Will I see it through to the end? Am I okay if no one ever reads it? Am I stretching myself? Is there anything else I would rather do?

It’s the answers to these questions that are really important. It’s the answers to these questions which really determine if that first step is worth taking. And for me it is. Now and always.

I want to be the person that tries, even if that means I will fail.

So, those are just a few thoughts I’ve had while starting my new novel 🙂

3078 / 70000 words. 4% done!
Oh, you want to know what the new project is about? I’ll give you a hint:

As I’m learning more and more about protecting the copyright of other creatives, and I have so much respect for DC Comics, I’ve taken the picture down. But you can find it here: http://media.dcentertainment.com/sites/default/files/files/2010/02/flsv2_6pp_prev-4-copy.jpg
New Beginnings