Afraid to Write

I’m putting this out there…

I’m afraid to try writing anything right now.

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Writing used to be my favorite thing to do. Then I started getting published. Don’t get me wrong; being published is awesome. I’m happy about it. I learned a lot about writing through the publishing process, by noting problems in my writing that editors frequently brought to my attention, by reading what others wrote, and just by writing, because the more you do something, the better you get at it.

(I still seem to have a problem with run-on sentences, though.)

The thing about learning to write better is it became a lot of pressure. With each subsequent book, I was afraid of doing it wrong. Even knowing that the first draft is meant for just getting the thoughts out of your head, I felt like I had to write the first draft as perfectly as possible, and had to edit the thing even more perfectly. That was a contributing factor, though not the primary one, to my difficulties in writing.

Now I’m at a place where the last book I submitted was rejected–for good reason; I can see the flaws in it now–and I’m struggling to write anything. I tried to fix the rejected book and got so bogged down in trying to write it better that I ended up giving up entirely on it. At least for now. I’ve been trying for the past several months to write a new book, one I thought I had plotted well enough to get it done. And last week, I reached the point where I realized it sucks. One of the characters isn’t presented the way I want him to be, and the plot is dragging. I’ve already done two major rewrites. To fix the problems I’m noticing with it now, I would have to scrap over 100 pages of writing and start the thing over from scratch. So for now, I’ve given up on that one as well.

I didn’t used to have this much trouble writing, and now it’s standing in the way of my willingness to try to write anything at all. I’m afraid of that struggle. I’m afraid that I’ll start writing something and have it go off the rails to the point that I can’t finish it. I’m afraid that whatever I write will suck. And feeling that fear is keeping me from even trying.

A couple of friends of mine have told me that I should just write, and not worry about what or how I’m writing. Just let the thoughts flow onto the page and see what happens. That’s easier said than done, but I am trying. It’s just hard on the days when I sit at the computer dreading typing that first word, because it means I’m putting myself back on the path of having to do it “right.”

Hibernation

I’m not talking about hibernating animals. I’m talking about myself.

For the past month or more, I’ve felt like I was in a cave. Everything seemed dark, and nothing was interesting. I just wanted to sleep, though I got up every day, showered, and got dressed. Some days, that was all I did.

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I’m not entirely sure what set it off. I have clinical depression, and I was definitely depressed. It was winter, which probably didn’t help any since the long, dark, cold days and nights usually make my depression worse. I’ve been struggling with a novel I’ve been trying to write for nearly a year now and just can’t seem to make work, and that was causing some major self-butt-kicking as I tried to figure out why I couldn’t wrap my head around the problem.

I also had to leave the part-time job I’d only had since September, because I was no longer able to manage the commute and work shift five days a week. The shift was only three or four hours, but the commute was nearly that long, and it was just too much for me. That was what really shoved me into the dark cave. Having to give up a job I usually enjoyed, one with that few hours involved, because I was physically and mentally unable to handle it did a number on my self-image, and that fueled the depression.

So for the past month or more, I’ve been essentially in hibernation mode, just trying to maintain things.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring here, though one wouldn’t know it by checking the temperature (below freezing as I type this) or seeing the snowbanks left from last week’s blizzard. It’s the time when things start coming out of hibernation.

I’m feeling better now. Stronger. So I’m hoping I’ll be able to make it out of hibernation too.

Oops…

January obviously got away from me! I was participating in a blog challenge on my other blog, which required me to post daily, and I completely spaced on posting on this blog.

The challenge was fun, and it required me to stretch my brain a great deal to think of enough topics to fill an entire month. It isn’t something I’m likely to do again.

Aside from the challenge, I’ve spent the past few weeks working on a novel that I started several months ago and hope to eventually finish, as well as adjusting to no longer having a job outside the home. While my kids were in school, I focused on writing, but after both had graduated, I held a part-time job. For various reasons, I’m no longer able to do that, so I’m back to trying to write full-time.

And to hopefully remembering to blog regularly.

Playing With Writing

When I was younger, writing stories was a form of playing for me. I created elaborate worlds, populated with many, many characters, and made up whatever I wanted. If I wasn’t in school, I was usually sitting somewhere with a notebook and pen, scribbling something. Or I was using my dolls to act out stories that I would later write.

Back then, I wanted to get published someday, but that wasn’t the main purpose for writing for me. It was something that made me happy. Brought me joy. The creation of the stories was the top priority.

Unfortunately, that started to change when I started getting published. Over time, writing became less about joy and far more about writing something good enough to be accepted, that readers would actually buy. It became about earning money to help pay my bills and buy food for my family.

It became something that stopped bringing me joy, and instead brought me anxiety and fear. The fear that I wasn’t good enough and never would be, especially when I saw other authors earning ten or even a hundred times what I earned. I knew I wasn’t the best at marketing, and I started feeling like I wasn’t any good at writing, either. And because I felt like I wasn’t good at it, the quality of my writing suffered.

These are things I’m working on changing now, though, and that work is part of the reason I don’t have any releases scheduled for 2018. Before I can consider myself ready to submit my work again, I need to regain the joy that got me started writing in the first place. I need to take time to play with plots and characters, with no pressure and no consequences if something doesn’t work.

I don’t know how long the process will take, but that’s okay. What I do know is I need to put myself first, and that means putting joy first.

 

2018: The Year in Advance

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe 2017 is over already.

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In 2017, Harmony Ink Press released two of my novels. Midnight Chat, which came out in February 2017, is about Mira, a girl who is trying to keep her best friend Rob from doing something he can’t take back. She believes Rob is only a danger to himself, but what if she’s wrong?

 

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Dolphins in the Mud, released in August, is the rerelease of a novel originally published several years ago. Chris Talberman is trying to hold his family together–but who will help him hold himself together?

 

The last two novels I submitted were rejected, both for valid reasons largely involving the books’ genre, paranormal, though that wasn’t the only reason. Unfortunately, that leaves me with no releases scheduled for 2018. This will be the first year since 2009 that I haven’t had anything released under the Jo Ramsey pen name, and it’s a little bittersweet.

At the same time, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’m currently revising one of the rejected novels, on which the editors kindly gave me very useful feedback, and plan to send it elsewhere when it’s ready. I also have begun a new contemporary novel, and hope to send that to Harmony Ink by summer. I might do a short story or two and post them on my Free Reads page, and may even take the second rejected novel, which would have been a rerelease, and try self-publishing it through Amazon.

While it’s strange not having anything schedule to release this year, it’s giving me time to get back up to speed on my writing craft, meaning better-written, better quality stories. I have more time to think about options. And I’ll be launching a new adult fiction pen name this summer.

So that’s what 2018 looks like for me right now. I hope your 2017 was a good year, and I hope 2018 will be even better!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays!

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, today’s the day. Which means I’m taking the day off from blog posts, writing, and so forth to spend some time with family.

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(This is not my tree. I wish it were!)

I hope everyone who celebrates Christmas has a great holiday, and I hope those who celebrate other holidays have/had wonderful days then and today. I’ll be back next week with some thoughts on 2018.

Creating Worlds

The exciting thing about writing books is the ability to create my own worlds. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing, even when I was very young. When I was a little kid, I didn’t just have *an* imaginary friend. I had forty or fifty of them! They lived in a place called “Invisoland,” and I was the only non-invisible person who was allowed to visit that place. I created this when I was about three or four. By the time I was in school, Invisoland had cities and towns, an orphanage, and a pretty large population.

This ability to create was the catalyst for me starting to write. I had a huge imagination. I had to do something with it! So I kept inventing worlds where people had magical or psychic powers, where someone could control the weather with their thoughts, or become an accidental secret agent, or conquer evil. Finding out where the stories in my head would lead, and who would become part of them, was exciting to me. I literally didn’t know what would happen in my stories until it happened, and that was a big part of the joy of writing.

As I got older, I didn’t always have the easiest time with my peers, or with other people, but in my stories, and therefore in the world I created, the  main characters had friends. They could do whatever they wanted. I didn’t write the stories about myself, but there was at least a bit of me in every main character I created, and so the things my characters did, and the friends they had, kept me going. Things are a lot better for me now than they were then, but I still love creating new worlds and characters to populate them.

Worldbuilding is one of the most important parts of writing. Even in contemporary fiction, things have to be consistent. Fortunately, for me, it’s also one of the most fun.

Everything Leads…

…to something else.

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Unfortunately, sometimes that interferes with getting stuff done.

Last weekend, I started out with great intentions. I was going to get some blog posts done, remove a few things from one of my other websites, do some shopping for the household, and, of course, write.

But then I got sidetracked by trying to find images for blog posts. And then I realized it’s going to be 2018 in a few months, and I needed a new calendar. (I don’t buy wall calendars; I print out calendar pages from a free calendar website. I have Google calendar as well, but sometimes it helps me to have something I can just glance at quickly instead of needing to open a new browser window or pick up my phone.) Then I forgot I was doing that because I checked my email while I waited for calendar pages to download.

The emails led to the realization that I hadn’t cleaned out my inboxes recently. So I did that, and read a few emails I hadn’t gotten to yet, which contained links I wanted to check out. Which led to me bookmarking the pages to which the links sent me, which led to me needing to delete some bookmarks. Meanwhile, I remembered I was downloading calendar pages, and realized I had too many things in my downloads folder, so I started clearing things out of that or moving them to my Dropbox files.

And so on, and so on…

And meanwhile I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t doing blog posts. Some of the things I *was* doing were useful and beneficial, and I counted them as productive, but some, like reorganizing Dropbox files, were just busy work that didn’t really *need* to be done.

Being a writer, or working for yourself in any way, takes a lot of self-discipline. And a lot of avoidance of “ooh, shiny!” I think I need to work harder on those…

Moving

I might be a bit scarce online for a few days. We had until August 15–i.e. tomorrow–to get out of our current apartment, which means that things are now completely hectic, and a lot of things are getting lost.

I really don’t like moving, but I think we’re going to be in a quieter, happier place once things are settled. It’s just the getting settled bit that takes time and energy. And packing. And unpacking. And lots and lots of boxes.

So once things are a bit more organized, and we have internet and electricity and all that important stuff, I’ll be online more. Meanwhile, please feel free to leave me a comment, or message me through my Facebook page (link in the sidebar). And please check out Dolphins in the Mud!

Some Thoughts About Dreams

In this world, there are those who create, inspire, and live their dreams unafraid. We all need to be unafraid to live our dreams. All of us can at least try. You might not reach your goal, but if you never even try, you’ll never have the chance. Let go of the “can’t” and “shouldn’t” and fear. Start now. Dare to shake the world.

Sometimes we might feel like we’re nothing special. We haven’t done anything noteworthy, nothing that hundreds or millions of other people haven’t also done. We feel like we’re just one of a number, nobody that others would notice in a crowd or miss when we’re gone. But here’s the thing. Everything you’ve done is unique, because *you* are unique. Even if billions of others do it, no one does anything exactly the way anyone else does it, because no one is anyone else. Just as an example, no one phrases things confusingly in the same way I do.

Almost everyone has dreams and hopes for their life. When was the last time you made a list of your dreams? Have you done so recently, or did you decide the time has passed to accomplish them? For many things, there’s no such thing as “too late.” You might have to adjust your hopes and expectations, but you don’t have to give it up completely.

When we’re kids, we have dreams. We know what we want to be when we grow up, and that’s really cool. But sometimes those dreams are talked out of us. Our parents tell us we’re being unrealistic, or other kids make fun of us. It’s important to let kids hold onto their dreams. Even if it doesn’t seem probable, that doesn’t make it impossible.

Believe you know the things you know. Personally, I sometimes hold back from writing something because even though I know plenty about it, I’m afraid I’ll be wrong. Or that others won’t believe I know what I’m talking about. That makes it awfully hard to get things done. It doesn’t matter if they believe in me. It matters if *I* do.

Too many times, I’ve talked myself out of doing things I wanted because other people have told me I can’t. I’ve changed that in the past few years. There’s still a way to go, but I’m not holding back anymore.