A Book Breakup Letter

Dear Book,

I know we got off to a tentative start. You were packaged beautifully enough, and so many people said we’d get along, so I took a chance. I was happy to invest my time even though we didn’t seem to have a lot in common. I thought that I might have to get to know you a little better to see if we really clicked.

I’m sorry to say that this is the end. I don’t want to waste any more of your time, or mine, because clearly this is going nowhere. It’s not you, it’s me. Work’s been so busy lately, I haven’t been getting much sleep, and I just don’t have the energy. Maybe the timing was all wrong. Maybe we could have had a good time if I was younger, or maybe if I was a little older. I don’t really know. Maybe I’ll run into you again someday, we can pick up where we left off, and by then we’ll have grown into one another’s tastes.

You did show me a few new things, and I’m still grateful for our acquaintance. I hope that you won’t take this the wrong way.

Regards,
A recovering compulsive book finisher

Being a Parent Can Make You a Better Writer

Being a parent can help you be a better writer, and that doesn’t get talked about enough. Instead, you usually hear about how little time you’ll have, and how hard it can be to look after a young child and keep writing. When I found out that I was pregnant, I was honestly terrified I’d never find time to write (or have time for myself) ever again. I’d seen friends drop off the face of the earth after having kids, and that scared me too.

This post isn’t really for those of you who already have kids, but maybe for those of you thinking about children and a little worried like I was. Yes, your life will change, but it can be a positive change.

First of all, a caveat for the women: your hormones will go up and down before and after having a child. You don’t know how your mood might be affected, and sometimes the bad effects snowball when you dump sleep deprivation on top of them. Post partum depression is real too (and you should see a doctor if you suspect it). If you breastfeed, your hormones might not balance out until months after weaning. For me it wasn’t until more than a year after giving birth. For you it might be weeks or months. If it’s taking longer than you expect, don’t worry, you haven’t lost yourself. Be kind. If you can’t write for a while (I couldn’t), it’s okay. Eventually baby will sleep through the night and you’ll feel new again, I promise.

Some of the good things…

You get super good at squeezing tasks into short bits of free time.  The baby is napping, QUICK! eat, shower, do laundry! There’s nothing like a crying baby for a timer. Pomodoro technique? Try ‘while the baby sleeps.’ It’s like rolling dice.

You just experienced something crazy and wonderful. You survived sleepless nights, you know how much punishment your body can take, or not. You get to be reminded of what it’s like to be young again. All of it is more realism for your story toolbox.

You have a little person to write for and to tell stories to. You get to watch their imaginations develop and help them grow into future readers.

You gain perspective. Yes, rejections are still tough, but they’re nowhere near important as the kiddo tugging on your leg. You might find it’s so much easier to let them go, not just because you have no time to dwell, but because they are just a small part of your life.

And you know, sometimes you need a break to recharge. By the time you have time to write, you could be itching to create so badly that you’ll have super amazing outputs.

Yes, parenthood can be really tough at times, but there’s so much good stuff to experience too. It’s all worth it.

Related Reading: If you feel like you’re falling behind in life, don’t. You are exactly where you need to be.

ALSO NEWS!!!! I’m super excited to announce that I have a story coming out in POC Destroy SF. You can check out the table of contents here.  This is the first story I wrote post baby :)

March Recap

Writing days: 1
Brainstorming / Research / Plotting : 18 days
Days baby slept through the night: 5

Read:
Salt and Iron by Tam MacNeil
Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

As you can see, there was DISASTER on the sleep front, but the new novel’s boiling away nonetheless. The world and characters have fattened up enough so plotting was possible.

This time around, I’ve been trying to imagine where the story might actually go if it were to become a trilogy (whether or not I ever write more than the first book). I’m finding great pleasure in sewing the seeds of future discontent.

But things have been going slower than I’d planned. I’ve only just begun plotting, though my goal was to be done with it before the end of March. We’ll see what April brings! I’m excited to start the writing.

Invisible Returns

After reading Julie’s post, I started thinking about how many of those ‘invisible returns’ I’ve gotten from writing, because on those rough days, sometimes I wonder why I’m doing this at all.

There’s a reassuring sense of purpose you only get when you know what you want to do or accomplish in your life. Writing gives me that. No matter if I sell a story or not, it feels like I’m using my gifts/talents towards something instead of wasting them.

There are all my writer friends. You are the best. Honestly. You’re all amazing, and so quick to cheer one another (I see you) whenever someone is having a bad day, or cheer along all those mini milestones (like daily word counts) that no one else would think is a big deal. No one else gets it like you do.

I get to live multiple lives at once, to make my dream worlds real enough for other people to experience. I get to daydream and call it work.

Writing gets me out in the world. It’s a way to meet people I wouldn’t have otherwise, or possibly affect people I’ll never meet. I’m a very introverted person so I have to actively work on not shutting everyone out. It’s good to get out of my comfort zone sometimes, and writing workshops, conferences, or even just reaching out to people are online are some ways I can. Even submitting stories into the wild is an opportunity. Each story is a little sending from my heart. Who knows who might answer?

And yes, I think I’ve gotten better at this writing thing. I think I may have finally cracked the short story nut, even though I still prefer novels. I can plot like mad. Level up. 

So who knows what’s next? I’m happy that there are possibilities for my work getting out into the world. Whatever happens, I just know that I’ll still be doing this. I couldn’t stop even if I tried.

What do you get out of your writing?

Procrastinating As Usual

The first words are always the hardest and I don’t know why that is. Whenever I start a new story, it feels like there’s a dam I need to break down before the words start to flow. Right now, I’m scratching around the base of that concrete block by throwing some outlines down, trying to be clever on twitter, and pretending that I’m not really writing.

Why is it so hard to begin? (You don’t really need to answer) The blank page is intimidating. It’s worse than a spotlight on a stage. These are different butterflies, ones that don’t say “if you mess up it’s okay, just smile and keep going”, no one will notice. These are more like moths, threatening to eat through your sweaters so you’re standing there naked.

As always, the cure is just to write.

But, maybe after I’ve checked my twitter feed and written a few blog posts…

(It always begins the same way)

February Recap

Just thinking about the goals I set down at the start of the year and how things have gone so far. After more than a year away from writing, I’ve been so hungry to see progress.

Feed me.

January
Writing/editing days: 6
Days baby slept through the night: 8
Other: Adjusting to full time day job again

February
Writing/editing days: 15
Days baby slept through the night: 18

Completed fiction: 1 flash piece 1500 words (SOLD), 1 science fiction story 4300 words (on submission), 1 horror(ish) story 3700 words.

January / February Reading list

  • Insurgent – Veronica Roth
  • Deathless – Catherynne Valente
  • Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern
  • The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes
  • House of Shattered Wings – Aliette de Bodard

Recap

As you can see, I’m also trying to see if there’s a correlation between sleep deprivation and the amount of work I can manage. My reading did drop off in February, because I’ve been a little more focused on writing. 3 finished stories is also a record for me. I’m not very prolific in the short form and my average output is 1 short story a year. I think that the time off has actually done me well, writing wise. Who’d have thought?

Onwards, March! It’s time to brainstorm and pick a novel project. I’ve got two options, both of which have potential and problems. I need to figure out which one looks like more fun.

Required Reading

Sometimes the most radical thing you can do is just to listen.

Making a Monstress. Interview with Marjorie Liu

If you haven’t read it, read it.

This was one of the best interviews I’d read in a long time. Marjorie finds words the words for so many things I haven’t been able to in my life, because It’s like the air you breathe, it feels just like life until one day you find out that everyone else has been living off of oxygen, not nitrogen, that they don’t see the sky is red not blue.

Personal Essays from POC Destroy SF

There’s a great variety here of writers from different backgrounds. Some are funny, some are inspiring, some leave you feeling heavy. There are many things to think about. POC get lumped together into one big group, but its so diverse there’s always something to learn.

Deadpool gets cancer right

“Survival doesn’t always guarantee happiness”. As someone who’s father had cancer, and whose uncle just had a terminal diagnosis, this resonated. Also got me thinking about how we handle survivors, or disabilities, or illnesses in fiction.

Inspriation. Aspiration.

Something within her refused to grow. Something endless, eternal. Something bold. Something warrior-like. She looked up at the stars, she could feel, she felt as if she could pluck them one by one and send them spinning into the world, like small beautiful elastic mercurial weapons. Now too, the time is coming.
~ Virginia Wolf

I’m not good at painting the internal world of my characters. Which seems strange, since my own is so vivid. You can add so much richness to a character when you paint out the way they think. How does a character form their thoughts? Can you parse feelings into images, tastes, and sounds, instead of thought words into written words? I think Wolf’s quote is a good example that.

I wanted to save that somewhere to chew on. Such much meat there.

Maybe I’ll post snippets of what I’m reading and what I’m learning from them regularly, yes? The learning is endless, but without it the writing wouldn’t be such fun.