Tag Archives: Psychology of writing

Happy New Year, and a Frank Speech by me

First off, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. May 2015 be a joyful and peaceful year for you.

My New Year’s resolution–with regards to myself–is utter frankness, both in my personal life, and in my writing life. And so I am going to be frank with you. I’ve kept quiet about some things that happened to me in 2014, but I’ve decided it’s best I start being upfront about them because of the impact they’ve had on my writing commitments.

First off, back in August 2014, as I was working on the revisions to the second half of Lies, Magic, and Nightmares, I was in an incident with a person who was suicidal. The safety of a child was at stake, and there were several times in the confrontation with the suicidal person when it turned into a physical fight.

However, I am very fortunate. I’d been through training with a good sensei in Aikido twenty years ago, and I also had gone through the Citizen’s Police Academy taught by good officers of the Los Alamos Police Department. That background helped me when I found myself a first responder to a situation I never dreamed I’d ever find myself in.

And I hope I never again find myself in such a situation. I am glad to say that both suicidal person and child survived with no injuries, and I got off with minor bruising and a mild injury to a thumb joint. I can thank the Aikido training for how minor my injuries were, for I instinctively kept my muscles relaxed.

I did develop post-traumic stress disorder (PTSD), though, and it wrecked havoc with being able to write fiction for months. Good counseling and support has made the PTSD subside, but the writing deadlines got dropped.

I put on a brave face to show to the world, but in private I found myself asking during these last few months, “Is fiction writing still worth doing? Is writing about imaginary people meaningful?”

I can highly recommend Stephen King’s novel Bag of Bones if you want to know what it feels like to be a writer who comes to question the value of fiction writing.

I discovered that the only reasons I want to start writing again are that 1) the imaginary people I write about seem real to me on certain days, and I want to find out what happens to them. (Hmm, that looks rather crazy when I type it out, but it’s the truth.); and 2) I’ve found I gain insights into human nature that make me a little wiser and kinder.

Both of these reasons have given me the push to get started again, despite the significant cost in time and energy.

So I fired up the computer; reread the first part of Lies, Magic, and Nightmares; and have gone back to work on finishing the second half of the rewrite. So it will be done. It will be late … but it will be finished.

The print versions of Cubicles, Blood, and Magic and Tales from the Threshold are also on their way now that I can mentally focus.

Another thing I’ve decided is that if I have nothing meaningful to say, I’d rather say nothing at all. The world is flooded with enough filler as it is. I will post on occasion about new stories that are being published, or special sales where you can save money on my stories, but I will keep them to a minimum because I hate spam and I want to make sure I don’t cross the line into being a spammer.

Best Wishes for a Good 2015 for all of you, Lynn

Since social media is becoming unpredictable at times in what it shows users, the best way to keep tabs on what I’m up to is to sign up to be notified of new blog posts. You’ll find an email tool for signing up, as well as an RSS feed tool, on the left side of my website near the top, next to the most recent blog post.

 

 

 

Links: the extrordinary poet Ruth Stone, and Barnes & Noble

In case anyone missed it back in November, you can read about the extraordinary poet Ruth Stone in the New York Times. I call her extraordinary not only because of her talent, but also because of her steadfast refusal during her lifetime to quit doing what she loved most: writing poetry.

She finally achieved literary success at the age 87 when she received a National Book Award in 2002. She’d been a poet for over 50 years by then and despite all she had been through had kept writing.

I couldn’t help thinking as I read about her life–what if she had given up on poetry in her fifties and sixties when things were rough? What if she hadn’t kept going? It was in her seventies that she began to break through.

In other links, Digital Book World has two great articles: one on Barnes & Noble’s strengths, and one on Barnes & Noble’s weaknesses. The article on the weaknesses includes a look at Amazon’s KDP program to contrast it to Barnes & Noble’s Pubit that is well worth the time to read.

The Time of Turtle Steps

For the past month, every time I sat down to write a major post about goals, productivity, and other topics of interest to me, I’ve ended up tossing out what I wrote instead of posting it. Too much of it read like boring platitudes.

I was probably spouting too many platitudes because there were a couple of life crises that happened during the last two months behind the scenes, and as a result I had to hunker down and focus on using what little time I had to just write. Everything else–blogging; getting the editing done on stories to be published as ebooks; marketing plans–got temporarily paused.

I now call times like these the “Time of Turtle Steps,” because even when I keep working, I feel like a turtle surrounded by hares. It feels like everyone else is racing past me while I plod along far, far behind.

And yet, I’ve now learned enough to know that I’m wrong. Those turtle steps add up over time if I keep doing them step by step by step…the hard part is to keep going. Too often we stop out of despair.

Let me give an example from my own experience. In October, a couple of crises hit at the same time.

I wasted a lot of mental energy in October beating myself up for my slowed pace in writing and in working on my career. There was little time to write, and my final word count for the month was 23,255 words.

In November, I decided that while I couldn’t participate in NaNoWriMo since I wanted to keep working on my novel in progress, I could at least change my attitude and stop beating myself up. The crises continued to eat up lots of time in November, but once I accepted that I was a turtle, I found I could mentally relax and enjoy the writing more when an opportunity appeared to grab an hour to write, and I passed the 50,000 word mark for November two days ago.

So my productivity more than doubled once I stopped beating myself up about my writing pace and lack of time to do career tasks.

There are times in our lives when a crisis hits and we have to jettison everything but the most essential tasks. Be kind to yourself and don’t beat yourself up for the slowed pace. It’ll just make it harder to get anything done.

Be a turtle. Do each step by step by step, and keep going…and you’ll be surprised by how far you can get in a month. I certainly was.

The Madness of Perfectionism

I hate making mistakes, no matter how small. Hate, hate, hate it. I’m one of those perfectionists that psychologists like to lecture about. And I know I’m not alone in the world–there’s a whole lot of perfectionists I know.

Being a perfectionist is a pain in the butt when it’s out of control, because it means one can get stuck in a rut of endless actions done over and over and over, or else one quits too soon. It’s an “all or nothing” mindset.

It’s a good thing babies don’t have this trait. Can you imagine a baby deciding after his first babble: “Hey, that didn’t make sense at all. I must have no ability for talking. I might as well quit now and stay silent.”

And yet I’ve seen people quit endeavors after one or two tries because they weren’t perfect at it. Perfectionism, when allowed to reign out of control, can shackle us in mental chains. We give up too soon. Or don’t even try at all, telling ourselves, “There’s no point, I’d screw it up anyway.”

As a perfectionist who loves to write, there are days when I wonder if I’m just a glutton for self-punishment by doing fiction writing on a daily basis. There are so many balls that need to be kept in the air during the writer’s juggle: plot, characterization, setting, narration style, word choices, grammar, structure, etc….no matter how a writer tries, there’s going to be mistakes.

For instance, I just got back today a corrected novel manuscript from the copy editor, and discovered that I’d accidentally left out a few bits of information about one of the villains that readers needed to know.  As the writer I can see into all the character’s heads at the same time, but the reader can only see into the characters by the words that were written on the manuscript page.  That’s why writers have first readers go over a manuscript–no matter how hard we try, we will not fill in all of the “lost” information the reader needs.

Still drives me bonkers when I forget to write something down for readers. I’m a perfectionist. I want to get it right the first time.

I’ve had to learn to accept that mistakes are going to happen. I still get upset, but at least I no longer quit or cycle endlessly in revisions. I find it helps to remind myself about my years in QA in the software industry, and how there was a point in the software release cycle where there were diminishing returns on the investment of time in revisions. There comes a point where a manuscript–or a piece of software–begins to fall apart the more you mess with it.

I’ve always like the advice one old pro gave me, which was, “Once you find yourself changing something in the manuscript, then changing it back to how it was before, it’s time to stop revising and send it off.”

There are days I’m sorely tempted to take the current urban fantasy manuscript that is being edited and hide it so that it’ll never see the light of day, even though it’s been read by an editor, several fellow writers, a careful first reader, and a copy editor at this point. My perfectionism flaring up.

I have to keep reminding myself that there comes a point that a piece of work needs to be released into the world to fend its way on its own.

Also, if I’m continually redoing old work to death, new work won’t get done, ala George Lucas and his endless revisions of the Star Wars films. Lucas is going to end up the patron saint of perfectionism at this rate. :P

So when perfectionism rears its ugly head, remember Saint George…

The Power of Kickstarter and Other Links

I’ve been swamped with writing and editing work, so that’s why I’ve been so quiet here on the blog for a bit. But there’s some links I want to share before I forget.

Everyone has probably heard all about Kickstarter (the funding platform for creative projects), but if you haven’t, go and check them out! Kickstarter is proving to be a great way for professional artists to get the start-up funds they need and for people to support favorite artists and web shows. For example:

A writer friend of mine, Annie Bellet, was able to successfully use Kickstarter to help fund her tuition to Clarion this past summer.

The web show Put This On just successfully raised over $70,000 to film Season Two.

Travis Hanson, a fantasy/comics illustrator I got to meet briefly at Albuquerque Comic Con, has successfully raised the funds he needs to print his web comic in book format.

Money has always been an issue for artists, especially filmmakers and illustrators, so the rise of crowd-sourcing such as Kickstarter excites me to no end.

In other news, Dean Wesley Smith has an important technology blog post on how writers, publishers, and booksellers can use Book Cards to market an e-book cheaply and attract readers into independent bookstores to buy e-books for their e-readers. WMG Publishing and Lucky Bat Books were passing out the first ever e-book cards at Worldcon to show off this brand new marketing idea.

And 20+ year pro Bob Mayer has some blunt, quick advice on how to be a fiction writer that has a career that lasts for decades.