Don’t Let the Murky Bottom Hold You Back

Note: I’ve added a new page at the top called Current Scene FA Pic.  A handy place to check the current photo for writing as well as the deadline.  Yes, I put in a deadline.  Not for pressure– no.  My purpose was to alleviate pressure so you know how long you can let a photo simmer.  Easier than my usual just fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants style, isn’t it?  Took me long enough to come up with the idea.

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That’s me.  Uh, this isn’t something I’ve just figured out, but to be honest, I never was a slow learner before I decided to jump into this writing gig.  Maybe that’s why the lessons that pertain to writing were so hard for me to learn.

I’m no longer embarrassed by the amount of time it took.  I used to be so embarrassed about it, I stopped attending writing meetings, then stopped writing altogether.  For years.  I took a job in a family business and proceeded to be miserable.  Not because I had to work– no, that’s life.  Because I’d quit writing.  Oh, since today’s post is about brutal honesty,  I quit finishing and submitting.  Big difference there.  I’ll explain in a sec.

Yes, I still feel the hot flush of shame occasionally.  Please, I finished my first book at 21 and here I am fifteen years later with six completed books under my belt.  Books that will never, ever see the light of day.  Books I can hardly bear to revisit myself.   And yes, it’s hard to go to family gatherings and hear the inevitable, “You still trying to do that writing thing?” 

Actually, it’s worse when they quit asking. 

(Short story sales don’t really count with them.  Ever noticed that? <g>)

So, I stopped.  But did I really?

Nah.  Most writers never really stop.  They may not put something into polished form, may not submit to magazine and book publishers, but the ideas are still there, hovering in the nosebleed section of their brains.  They may put a guard rail around those ideas and ignore them or… like me, they may accumulate intimidating piles of scratch-filled notebooks.  Ideas, notations, observations. (I’m a damned pack rat.)

This isn’t like a job you take on to earn minimum wage and put food on the table. (Not that the current min. wage does that…)  No, it’s more like a down deep, life giving part of who we really are.  We see the possibilities of stories in odd places, find ourselves daydreaming in the oddest places and we learn to accept that it’s just the way it is and make it work… in the oddest places.  If we’re lucky, we learn that particular lesson fast. 

Unfortunately, I think a lot of writers start out thinking it’s going to be easy.  There will be days when it is easy and and you end the day with that euphoric high that only comes from true personal accomplishment.  Good times.

And then there will be days and even weeks when you feel like you’re having to slice your wrists and bleed on the page.  Times when you feel you will never get it to the place you want it to be.  Times when regular life interferes so much, you want to scream in frustration.

My advice is to not give up.  Good times come back and in the meantime, you might learn a thing or two.

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When I decided to jump back into the deep end, I knew it wouldn’t be any easier than it was the first time around.  I still don’t know what’s lurking for me in that water, but I now have something going for me I didn’t before.

I’m ready. 

My skin is thicker, my attitude bigger.  I know it takes hard work and time to get the words right and that good writing doesn’t always come in a first or even the second draft.  I’ve learned that not every rejection is a sign from a higher power to quit. <g> 

And while I may still feel a twinge of worry over family reactions to certain aspects of my writing, I’ve learned that I’m not responsible for other people’s happiness.  There isn’t anything I can do about that horrible human tendency to judge.  It’s going to be there no matter what I do.

So, I have to do what’s right for me.  This breath-stealing urge to create compelling stories is alive and swimming fast.  Nothing’s gonna block its way.  Not even me.

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About Rinda Elliott

Writer.I love unusual stories and credit growing up in a family of curious life-lovers who moved all over the country. Books and movies full of fantasy, science fiction and romance kept us amused, especially in some of the stranger places. For years, I tried to separate my darker side with my humorous and romantic one. I published short fiction, but things really started happening when I gave in and mixed it up. When not lost in fiction, I love making wine, collecting music, gaming and spending time with my husband and two children. I’m represented by Miriam Kriss of the Irene Goodman Agency.
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15 Responses to Don’t Let the Murky Bottom Hold You Back

  1. Missy says:

    Some of the things you said really hit some nerves ’cause I completely relate; my intention was to comment and commiserate. After opening the comment page, I’ve found my feelings are too raw to share at the moment. I can say that I’m relieved that I’m not alone in my shame.

  2. relliott4 says:

    That’s why I continue to write this blog. You aren’t alone. Writing comes with so many wild and crazy emotions and it can feel so, very lonely at times.

    First thing you gotta do is try and shake that shame. Man, it’s hard and I’m sure none of us ever do entirely, but there are deeper reasons than we understand for these things. I believe that every writer has a learning curve and some of us just take longer– that’s all. Skills take time to develop. Some levels of self-confidence take even more time. Here, have a hug. 🙂

  3. Well, WP just ate my post. Damn it!

    In summary, great post, Rinda. Good advice. I luv ya!

  4. sniv says:

    Once, I read that Stephen Crane published his first novel at 26. Stephen Crane was my new hero and I determined to publish a book by 26. Three months after my 25th birthday, I know this is impossible. I only have one completed full-length manuscript and it’s complete shite.

    Depressing.

    But I still have my short stories to hold onto. Though only one’s been accepted for publication, I work on them consistently, and they give me the occasional smile of satisfaction.

    Thanks for your posts Rinda. They help.

  5. relliott4 says:

    Laura, I made this silly vow to be published by 30. I panicked around that time and a couple of very experienced writers made a point to take me aside and say that I should never set goals out of my own reach. In other words, publishing isn’t up to me. Writing is up to me. Writing my best is all I can do. Then, they kindly pointed out that I had published a bunch of short stories and that counted.

    You, my friend, published a short story before 25. I think that’s huge.

    I have six full length pieces of shite. One of those same authors told me we have to write around a million words before we’re good enough anyway.

    Heather, I’ve had trouble posting in Blogger. Hmmm… I’m getting conspiracy vibes again…

  6. Sscott from Oregon says:

    I discovered that the whole idea of “being a writer” is a pile of spiraling poopie-doo.

    I mean, if you can readand you can put together a sentence, you are a writer.

    Most people can put together a sentence, if they can read, so where does that leave all the writer wannabes?

    In an enormous pile.

    Writing should be something you enjoy and makes you have a better day than without it.

    Otherwise, why bother?

    I write because it exercises my brain and allows me to share a smidgen of what goes on inside my skull. Getting paid or getting”published” play no part in why I stack words end for end likeI am putting together a path that leads far away from ordinary.

    I do it because I enjoy it.

    And ya’ll should too…

  7. Word Doctor says:

    Rinda,

    Your outpouring is appreciated this Tuesday morning. It sounds like you ARE ready to jump in, so go for it. You can obvioiusly craft your words together in a brilliant fashion, so let the world read your (new) stories.

    You hit it when you wrote, “I’m not responsible for other people’s happiness.” If you’re happy, the world will follow.

    Don’t be afraid to send a chapter over for some friendly critique. All the best.

  8. Missy says:

    Rinda, when your family implies to you that short stories don’t count then inform them that Stephen King perfected his craft with short stories before delving into the world of novels. That bit of info came from my Imaginative writing instructor so I don’t have a reference to for you (or me) to confirm. But I like the way it sounds so I’m believing it. 😉

  9. relliott4 says:

    Scott, you know, I have this saying about the word should. But that was kind of the point. 🙂 I do it because I love it. I quit writing when I quit enjoying it and that was because I expected to get it right away. But I wasn’t happy “not” writing either, so it’s possible that part about ‘being’ a writer isn’t totally a pile of poopie doo.

    Some of us aren’t as laid back in the beginning. Some of are perfectionists. And some of us went into this as a career and spent tons of money going to classes, conferences, submitting, entering contests. I know I had a spouse who got his hopes up in that mess of expenses.

    So yes, when it gets to the point it’s not fun, you might want to rethink your choice. Though, some writers find the struggle a challenge, too. They like it.

    Not everyone gets it right immediately. I share all this because I meet so many writers every year at conferences and in meetings who feel like this and maybe they can read about my experiences and realize that it is suppose to be something to enjoy.

    Oh, and not everyone can put together a sentence well. I’ve judged in many a contest and am always surprised. 🙂

    Thanks for the offer Word Doctor! I jumped back in last year and have since published a short story, placed a couple of writing articles and thrown myself into book writing.

    Missy, I freaking love writing short fiction, so I’ll never stop. I may struggle with books right in the middle, but I worked hard on getting that short writing down. It’s challenging and gets my blood flowing. It’s where I have the most “fun” in writing. Oh, I should make it clear that no one actually came out and said they didn’t count– but the implication was certainly there. I get– “But what about the book thing?” and “You can’t help support your family with short fiction.”

    Anyway, all I’m saying is I can’t let myself listen to things like that–what I do with my writing and my life is mine. 🙂

  10. Man, I wish everyone who can read could put together a sentence. But that just isn’t true! I’ve known some very, very smart people who sound good when they’re speaking, but who can’t string together coherent paragraphs for anything.

    And while I agree that you should write because you love to write, I should say that I’ve always wanted a career in writing. And now that I’ve started one, I’m eager to keep it going. I love writing, but I also love that it pays my bills. 😉

  11. relliott4 says:

    I’m working this hard –through the good writing days and bad — because I want this to be a career for me as well. I think I finally have the experience to know how to make that happen. I’ve talked one on one with enough editors to know I have a chance. I didn’t have the experience or the drive before- which was part of my point. Some of us take a while to get it right.

    Yes, I write because I love it. But since I do want to earn a living at this eventually, I’ve had to learn to write through the times when it isn’t as fun, too.

    Plus, I know a lot of writers out there who have this dream of publication. I hope that my words give them some comfort– that if they’re having a hard time getting it right now, they’ll get it eventually. If they want it badly enough and work for it, they will. And yes, they do need to love what they’re doing. I wrote a few days ago that “that” is the big secret.

  12. NIk says:

    Well said, well spoken. My heart jumped with every word.

    I don’t want to sound elitist BUT those who do not have this thing inside of them that wants to write and create and birth imaginary people on paper, will never, ever understand.

    And even though I sometimes wish I could be dull and mundane enough to be happy in my comfortable cube, I stop and took a deep look into some of my co-worker’s zombie eyes and shudder. There but for the grace of God go I…

  13. RElliott4 says:

    I don’t think it elitist at all. I’ve been at this a long time and that long time I wasn’t writing made me miserable. The fact my husband couldn’t understand made me miserable. When I realized I had to keep trying because I am a writer, no, it didn’t all of the sudden get easier, but a huge weight lifted with the acceptance.

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