Go online and everyone is sharing his or her successes. Social media bombards us with them. Everyone is bright and shining all the time. It’s hard not to start comparing yourself to your writing friends on Facebook and feeling like you don’t measure up.
Over and over, I’ve heard about how important it is to smile from the wrist down and only post positive things online. I think it’s an important policy. We absolutely want to put our best foot forward online and be our best self. We want to put things out there that we will stand beside for the next ten years.
But this starts to warp our perception and make us think that these online personas are actual day-to-day personas. That no one ever has a failure or a down moment. And that’s not only untrue, but dangerous to our mental wellbeing.
By all means let your wrists grin like idiots, but understand this is not the day-to-day reality of being a writer. In your writing life, there will be more twists and turns than anything Six Flags could do with a rollercoaster. Good stuff and bad stuff will always find you. And sometimes the good stuff takes years, while the bad stuff comes at you on a weekly basis.
As a writer, how do we deal with this crazy life that we’ve chosen?
For me, that question holds the key to everything. This life with hundreds of rejections, agents that went away, and the book deal that fell apart, this life is my choice.
And there are times that I have to admit defeat. I have to lose all hope. I have to go to the darkest places in order to find my way back up into the light. So when things go wrong and they compound and I feel like I can’t take one more bad thing and then it happens, that’s when I let myself give up.
I throw my hands up and say, “I can’t do this anymore.” Because in that moment I can’t and I can’t see a moment in the future where I can.
I have to let myself surrender to the uncertainty, to the self-doubt, to the annoying voices of naysayers telling me it’s not going to happen. I sink into the muck of my misery.
I voice all my worst fears. No one will ever publish this book. No agent will ever want to work with me again. Even if I publish this book, no one will want to buy it. The reviewers will hate it. I stink and the book stinks.
I spiral until finally I accept that the book isn’t good enough. That I’m not good enough. That this is all pointless. That I will never amount to anything.
And then I say out loud, “I’m stopping. I’m giving up.”
Acknowledging that I’ve reached this point is an important step. But I don’t stop there. I push onward. I ask the hard questions. The ones that need to be answered. What will I do instead? Is there anything else I want to do as badly? Is there anything else I love this much? Is there another life I should be leading?
I usually stay there for a while and think about it. Could be days or even weeks. I have to find my way through this. So I dig down into my soul, rooting around for buried truths.
What else could I be doing? Would I be doing, if I weren’t writing? I think about all the roads not taken. I imagine where they would lead me. Then I ask, is that where I want to be? Who I want to be? And if it isn’t, what is?
Every time I reach this point, I inevitably come back to writing because it’s the way I want to spend the days I have left on this planet. It’s my legacy. The one thing that will outlive me. Writing is what I want to do more than anything else.
I choose to write. I choose to be a writer.
And once I’m certain of that, I have to face my insecurities. Maybe I’m not good enough right now. Maybe the book needs work. I can work harder. I can keep learning and trying. I can get better. I will get better. Because I choose to be a writer. And that means I take everything that goes along with it. All the rejection. The self doubt. The almosts that break my heart. I choose it all.
And I re-choose it several times a year. Because the only way I can take all the uncertainty is to remind myself that this is my choice, and at any time, I can get off this crazy train and do something else. Deep down, I know that there is nothing else that I want to do, but I need to know there is an escape hatch, even if I never ever use it.
So I write and I submit and I keep trying. Because that is what writers do.
And the only way I can stay sane is to let myself give up from time to time. That’s when I see what I am really made of. The giving up moment gives me control over my destiny. It allows me to see why I am on this path and to keep going despite every obstacle I face.
Never one to say no to a road trip, she’s climbed the Great Wall twice, hopped on the Sound of Music tour in Salzburg, and danced the night away in the dunes of Cape Hatteras. She loves the ocean and hates the sun, which makes for interesting beach days. The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is the first book in her YA time-travel murder mystery series.
Kat Preston doesn’t believe in ghosts. Not because she’s never seen one, but because she saw one too many. Refusing to believe is the only way to protect herself from the ghost that tried to steal her life. Kat’s disbelief keeps her safe until her junior year at McTernan Academy, when a research project for an eccentric teacher takes her to a tiny, private island off the coast of Connecticut.
The site of a grisly mystery, the Isle of Acacia is no place for a girl who ignores ghosts, but the ghosts leave Kat little choice. Accompanied by her research partner, Evan Kingsley, she investigates the disappearance of Cassie Mallory and Sebastian Radcliffe on their wedding night in 1886. Evan’s scientific approach to everything leaves Kat on her own to confront a host of unbelievables: ancestral curses, powerful spells, and her strange connection to the ghosts that haunt Castle Creighton.
But that’s all before Kat’s yanked through a magic portal and Evan follows her. When the two of them awaken 129 years in the past with their souls trapped inside the bodies of two wedding guests, everything changes. Together, Kat and Evan race to stop the wedding-night murders and find a way back to their own time—and their own bodies—before their souls slip away forever.
Buy a copy of ‘The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts’ at Amazon.