In keeping with the theme of safeguarding one’s sanity while working (or aspiring to work) as a writer, I want to share two things that keep me going.
1. The Happy (writing) Place:
I’m lucky in this aspect, because my happy place feeds directly into my writing. I recharge by connecting with surroundings I love, whether it’s a natural one like the beach, or simply a room decorated in a way that makes me happy. Creatively, I’m really into settings and details, and since I began writing, those settings have always fallen under the umbrella of Happy Places. So going out, say, on a boat, or to a mid-century hotel on the beach, not only feeds my soul, but it feeds my writing, too, by putting me physically close to the place I’m trying to convey. It’s equal parts relaxation, research, and make-believe. I can just “be” in a place like that, and let my mind ruminate on a plot or detail–or, I just take another sip of my drink. I’m very zen that way 🙂 If I can’t make an actual getaway, I find my happy place on my patio at home, or in my little writing nook, surrounded by pictures that spark my imagination (which I blogged about before and totally need to post pics of the finished space, btw).
Now, your mileage may vary if you write dark. If your story world is a bleak post-apocalyptic landscape or a creepy dungeon, this may not work for you. Unless a dungeon is your happy place, then yeah, go for it. Not judging!
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
This was the single thing thing that has driven me crazy over the past few years of my writing career. When I first started, I wrote fast. My speed came from a combination of enthusiasm, ignorance of craft, and ass loads of free time. And I wanted to get that puppy done, man! Out there and earning me some fat stacks! Then, Hubby and I decided to start a family, and a little thing called Life happened. And I’m not gonna lie, I struggled. While I was pregnant, I felt frantic at the time ticking away while my brain was in a fog. The baby came. My friends around me started getting published. Instead of focusing on the joy of a new chapter of life, I was beating myself up over how slowly the chapters on paper were coming. I was a rock in a fast-moving stream and my critique partners and all the other writers in the internet world were silver fish passing me by. I almost quit.
But slowly, I found my feet again, and my (rusty) creativity returned. I told myself, do a little bit a day. Do what you can. Slow and steady wins the race. Sure, but does the tortoise really believe that when the hare goes whizzing by? Then, I realized there is no race. A story comes from your mind, heart, and soul. Yours. No other person’s publication, or success in whatever way you want to measure it has any bearing on your story.
Maybe if you’re trying to cash in on a fad, it might feel like a race. But even then, the pace of the publishing industry throws that idea out the window. Let’s say a book about a time-travelling dog hits big, and now time-travelling dogs are the next big thing (which would be awesome). If you sat down right now and wrote your own version, by the time it your trend-driven book got a release date, the fad would be over. Only if you cranked something out, spent barely any time on edits, and rushed to put it on Amazon would you possibly hit the trend. Whether that reflects so well on the writer is a subject for another article.
One important note: I am NOT talking about deadlines, y’all. Then, it is a race, and your editor has the stopwatch and she’s tapping her foot at the finish line. Success, though, and the timing of others’ success is not the race you’re running. It isn’t fertilization, people. There isn’t one reader, or one publisher waiting for the single book to make it there first. Just remember, it isn’t a race. And books aren’t sperm. Although, there might be sperm in a book…but again, that’s a subject for yet another article.
And on that note, I’ll conclude my sanity-saving wisdom.