We all have to guard against fantastical thinking. When we are new writers, we think, “When I get this book finished, then it will get easier.” When, I land an agent…” “Once I score a publishing deal…” “Once I hit a best-seller list, then…”
There are certain things that with time and practice will get easier. Social media, blogging and even writing do get easier over time. Once our author platform is built and we understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, we go into a maintenance phase. We might hit some spots that require more work and attention, but overall, it does get better. When I started blogging, a post that took me half a day now takes a half an hour. Why? Practice. Experience.
A lot of us, our first novel takes three to six (okay, ten) years. Get that under our belt and each novel takes less and less time, provided we fully understand the fundamentals of our craft. For instance, when I began playing clarinet, fingering the notes was enough to make me break out in a sweat. I didn’t have the muscle memory and hadn’t logged enough practice where I could get lost in the technique of the music. I had to do too much “thinking.” Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star might as well have been Flight of the Bumblebee.
This is one of the reasons I love the new paradigm. Blogging teaches us to ship. These days, we can let go of the work (“publish”) and keep pressing forward, writing more books and progressively better books.
Technology changes. We just about learn how to use our fan page, and Facebook rearranges the digital furniture and changes the rules. By the way, we have an upcoming class—Facebook Changes? We Got This. The benefit of taking a WANA class with Lisa is you get a lifetime membership to her group, so as Facebook changes, you can quickly and easily adapt and not have to pay for a new class.
Anyway, Facebook aside, as a career, this writing thing will never get easier.
It will just be different. It makes me think of rearing children. When they’re a newborn, we can’t wait until they sleep through the night. Oh, when they get older, it will be easier. Uh-huh. But then they’re toddlers and yes, they sleep through the night, but now they can climb, paint the world with poo, and start having free will.
I tell ya, once the little buggers get free will, it’s all uphill from there.
When you have a toddler, suddenly that newborn that slept 80% of the day looks AWESOME. Oh, but once our kiddo is out of the toddler phase, then it will be easier.
I think you guys probably have the point.
Each phase of development has benefits and challenges. When our children are newborns, we don’t have to worry about their friends, their grades, or if they are wearing makeup behind our backs. We don’t have to keep up with their homework.
Science proves that newborns are lousy at turning in homework.
We just about get the kid out of middle school and then we have to ponder handing them the keys to 5,000 pounds of moving metal death (a car) and then paying for college and a wedding and…
Okay, I really want to go watch Bubble Guppies right now.
This is a lot like our author career. Enjoy wherever you are. Enjoy your meantime. Yes, each stage has challenges. When we aren’t even finished with our first book, we can’t even tell other people we’re writers without feeling like a fraud. The upside? We don’t have to panic at sales numbers and reviews and wonder if the next book will be at least as good. I’ve worked with mega-authors like Sandra Brown, and it is hard to imagine the pressure that every book will hit the top of the New York Times best-seller list. Anything less is “failure.”
This job is easier if we’re realistic. The newborn stage, yes we are checking every thirty seconds to make sure our career is breathing. Was is a victim of SIDS? Sudden Inspiration Death Syndrome? But there is all kinds of joy ahead. Watching that novel stand then walk then grow on its own and make way for the next. It will never be easier. It will be different. But if we are doing what we love (writing) all the sleepless nights, worry, grief, pain, insecurity will all be worth it.
What are your thoughts? Did you suffer from magical thinking in the beginning and experience has taught you better? Do you think I am being too harsh? Does the future scare you? Excite you? What are you looking forward to? What will you miss giving up?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
you should really check this chick’s blog out…she has some great stuff. 🙂
Great post. Thanks for sharing some insight and words of wisdom. It’s MUCH appreciated. And I love the little twist to get others to be more interactive!
Love this, Kristen! Posts like this remind me that I need to enjoy the meantime. Thank you.
Learning, by definition, involves conflict and change. Sometimes those elements are hard. Other times, not so much. The challenge of learning is ongoing and I find that it makes life interesting.
I often feel I’m the ‘accidental writer’. I never anticipated writing a book, or even a blog for that matter. It just evolved. Maybe because of how it’s growing and shaping up I’m less apt to stress over it. All in good time, I believe. Have to live in the moment…and keep an eye on the prize.
This is a great message for writing and for life in general. Thanks for the post!
My first two books I wrote before I had a publisher. The 3rd book, which was the first I drafted under a DEADline, was a completely different animal – both the process and the results. Not better or worse. Just different. Now I’m working on my 4th and trying to take the lessons I learned from those other books to make my process “easier.” But right about now, all I can hope for is to not REPEAT mistakes – because I have so many NEW ones to discover!
This is so true. Every time I think, “When I get to XX, it’ll be easier,” only to discover there are new pressures. I have to remind myself to breathe and enjoy each success (or learn from each crash and burn) as they come. The future is coming whether I worry or not, so why waste so much energy worrying?
Book release in May, I have yet to unergo much of the stress of any of it. although I was picked up by Tate publishing, I’m beginning to believe that I’m self published —with none of the profit. I’m not someone who worries… my life has gone down roads and near cliffs that few have dreamed. Writing is the easy stuff. It’s what makes life worth living.
Thanks for destroying my illusions. I was counting on it getting easier. It put me to sleep at night, like a warm purring kitten. Oh well, maybe I’ll replace it with, “When my book is done and they make it into a movie, then it will get easier.”
The tutor of my writing class five years ago told me I had a romantic view of being a writer. He was right. Now I AM writing – two first draft novels and a few short stories plus a blog to update – I love the hard graft of it. Getting up to write that scene I’ve been thinking about, making those changes to add atmosphere to a piece! If it’s at all possible I probably wax lyrical about being a writer more than I did before I was writing….Although, as you astutely point out in your piece – I haven’t pulished anything as yet, so I’m likely in that phase of having just learned how to deal with the challanges I’ve been struggling with! Here’s to the next learning curve…!
Great post – great analogy (and great pics!). Looking forward to reading more…
TakeCare, Cat x
I’m still in the very beginning stages of my writing career. At best, I have just come ‘out of the closet,’ and that’s really about it. I thought that the hard part would be over when I became more vocal about wanting to write, but I’ve found now all I get are questions like, “How’s your book coming?” or “You finished with that book yet?” These kind of questions put you on the spot and honesty will make me reply something like, “Honestly, I havne’t put in the time that I need to lately. But I will.”
I have to believe that there is a little shiny lining on the other side of being published. I hope and pray because there is so much pressure to get that first manuscript out the door, I can only hope that when that check mark is finally accomplished, I will feel some sense of peace for having accomplishing that task. 🙂
Thank you for the honesty. It is always welcome!
At the risk of sounding smug, I feel more relaxed about waiting to hear back from editors who’ve requested a submission. Going from graduate school to Where will I get a job? to assistant professor with “How can I publish enough to get tenure?” to … It seemed like the hurdles never ended. Retiring from that rat race, albeit a comfortable one, I’m so much happier writing and revising and submitting. I feel like I know the game – lots of submissions, and that most will be rejected. I had colleagues who when a research piece was rejected from one journal, they’d send it out immediately to a more prestigious journal. I can play this writing game, too.
Thanks for an important message, Kristen. Love the pics. Alice
Oh Kristen, how you make me laugh, think, hope and push on ahead. Your blog does a world of good.
This is a terrific article. I have been working so long on my novel that I have forgotten to enjoy the work as I do it.
I posted your link on three FB sites.
Another great one, Kristen. Oh, your “spawn” is adorable! Love the photos.
Nope, life never gets easier. I have a special needs kid who is now a teenager, he is the light of my life, (my youngest son is a keeper, too) – but I still worry and hand-wring over his future. I remember going into IEP meetings where there would be staff psychologists, social workers, teachers, and I’d say, “You know, we’re all parents, and there is not a single handbook on this. I don’t care if you’re Dr. Phil, you’re still going to make mistakes and second-guess yourself. None of us are experts on this.” Right? Even Einstein’s theories have even been questioned.
Writing’s like that, too. There’s no single handbook where I’ve gotten up, cried out, “Eureka! The lightbulb’s at full wattage! I am henceforth a WRITER!”
Instead, I’ve read about 50 How-To’s and STILL can’t quite get it. For years, I concentrated so much on craftsmanship that I wasn’t getting the storytelling. As one screenwriter once told me: “You can be a great writer and a weak storyteller and stories are what sell.”
It doesn’t get easier. Finally, I think I’ve nailed deep POV and characterization. Then I realize I’m weak on plot and structure. I start to get those two down, and realize my lines aren’t as sharp or humorous. “It just goes to show you, it’s always something,” as Roseanne Rosanadana used to say on SNL.
Then I worry that I’m writing self-consciously, that a novel becomes a series of checklists, e.g., “Do I have GMC in this scene? Do I have a cliffhanger? Does this scene advance the story?” I’m writing self-consciously, rather than intuitively.
The best thing I’ve done, in the past year or so, was to befriend a few writers and meet them for coffee and/or dinner. To hear about their struggles. To hear about their financial woes, their family issues, their rocky childhoods. That they too procrastinate and worry that they’ll ever be published. Listening to them, I can put things into perspective. I am doing my best to hold onto – humility, some semblance that life goes on, outside a keyboard and a computer monitor and me scrambling for paper when I’m driving and get inspired with an idea. That I indeed have two lives, my real life with my family and this crazy life called fiction.
Two years ago, I thought that successful writers coasted effortlessly to a book deal and tossed around rose petals and tra-la-la’ed to the NYT bestseller list. They seemed to “wish” success and it happened. They had the fairy godmother and I didn’t. I was the one who really “worked” at this, they had luck. Well, that ain’t so. They worked, too. Worked hard. And the worst thing I can do is feel sorry for myself. The best thing I can do is keep busy, work, be grateful for what God’s given me (plenty) and keep going.
That’s working and realizing that it doesn’t get easier. Life isn’t supposed to be easy. It’s not fair, and it’s not effortless. Maybe it is for the pampered kids who inherit a gazillion, but for most of us? We ain’t winning the Lottery or defying the odds. We climb that ladder one step at a time.
Renee, I love what you said. May I use this as a guest post on my blog this month? I put one funny story a month on it. I want more people to see your work. I would give you a chance to update it first, of course.
Marilyn, how kind of you. Sheesh. I used to write a blog but stopped. Not sure I’m all that good at it, although at one time, I played a writer on TV. (lame joke / takeoff on 1980’s Vicks commercial.) Very flattered you’d ask.
Renee, I don’t want to misuse this space, and this is going to seem like an ad, so I won’t link or anything. My client just wrote a book called “This Crazy Quilt: Parenting Adult Special Needs One Day At A Time” about her special needs daughter “aging out of the system.” It came out of her daily blog posts and is intended to help other parents going through the same thing. You may find it useful. Kristen, please forgive this comment if you feel it is inappropriate, but there was no email for Renee, and I am really just trying to help.
LOVE this! It’s so true about kids and makes me realize that it’s so true about writing also. Thanks Kristen! I’ll enjoy the now (for now).
Kristen, You didn’t mention how often we use children as an excuse not to write. For years I told myself I would have time to write when they were potty trained, started school, finished school, got married, moved out, etc. The truth is, you don’t stop being a mother when the kids turn eighteen. It’s a lifetime commitment. You can’t start being a writer when the mothering job is over. It’s never over. I was in my sixties before I began giving my writing scheduled high priority time every day. Nothing interrupts my writing. Except the grandkids.
Too true, Kristen. Before I retired, I thought I would write during all my waking hours. Now I find it is too easy to decide I need to go to the mall, which doesn’t make sense because now I don’t have the money.
Very true, Carolyn. With my first child, I put my writing on hold. When I was pregnant with my second, I decided to write the first draft of a novel before she was born so that I could feel I’d accomplished something. I’m now revising and will be publishing this particular book almost two years to the day that I started writing it. I cannot believe I have accomplished so much in such a “short” time in comparison to two previous novels I’ve started and put on hold over the course of ten years. I can’t help but feel a little bit excited that I’ve GOT this make-the-most-of-(almost)-every-moment thing; if I can keep this going when both my children are in school… well, maybe, just maybe, I can join the ranks of the “prolific writers”.
Mwah ha hahargh! Cracking stuff. I have a 4 year old and I write books as well as being a stay at home mum with no support – yes, when he’s not in school, I’m not writing anything. I could related to both parts of that… I can add some more advice though. Unless it’s stand alone books, don’t start your career with a trilogy!
A comforting post, as I ponder the reason why starting my second novel is turning out 10 times harder than starting my first. I thought I’d have it made once that was done. Now I know it’s only the start. Glad to know it’s the same for everyone.
The only way I can stay sane is simply writing for myself. Once I’m happy with what I write, I’ll see if anyone else agrees with me. If not, I’ll put that on the back burner and throw another idea out there. Being realistic is hugely important, but isn’t exactly the most fun way to view the future. Will I be loaded from writing? No, but I can still daydream about it 🙂
As it is with writing, so it is with life: not easier, but different.
I think perspective has a lot to do with how “different” will look. Our approach, our mindset, will determine if we can be at peace – if not satisfied, or even happy – with different
I finished my first manuscript in March of 2012. I joined RWA that same month. It’s been 1 year and it’s taken me every blasted second of the time between to adjust to ENJOYING the ride. I still catch myself whipping my own ass now and then, but I’m able to recognize and breath through it better now. The fact is, I don’t WANT to rush past this part of the ride. I WANT to smell the roses and enjoy what I’m learning. (Although my task driving nature tries hard to sabotage that goal.)
Thanks for another reminder. I can use all the help I can get.
Great post. Thanks for the reminder.
The points you made are so true. I am finding the writing part of the business a bit easier as I have refined my craft a LOT since I first started writing fiction a hundred years ago or so. LOL But the other part of the business is getting more and more challenging. Especially all the tech stuff. I have just spend two hours trying to convert and send files to my Kindle to do some reviews. UGH!!!
Your Spawn is adorable!! Great post too. It never gets easier. It gets more challenging and rewarding.
It never gets easier, it just gets different kinds of tough! And calling you kid a “spawn” just proves that you’re realistic. 🙂
Thank you SO MUCH for saying this! Being a mother of two (and stepmother to five), I have accepted the truth when it comes to motherhood. But somehow I expect the writing process to simplify itself. I am still discovering my literary footing and tend to focus on how far I have yet to go, but now I feel much better equipped to enjoy where I am, at least until the next identity crisis 😉
My problem with writing novels in the past was being a self-creator. Many times I wished that I was capable of the “Immaculate Conception” and the novel would magically appear. Then there was the period around 1996 to 2004 when I thought that I was infertile. The church sterilized me when I was young. “Houston, we have a problem.” I had to create the old-fashioned way. Just, write it. But as years went by of learning and growing and developing my ideas of writing novels, I am at the stage of development that I really believe it. I can now write novels. Without even intentionally brainstorming I even added to my list to write someday, hopefully this year. With all the young adult writers making comments I decided to finally write my winning the state high school basketball championship coming of an age novel. It has been outlined again mentally while trying to remember 1998 lost files. It will not be a Mark Twain classic, but I can now write it. I am not afraid of not having enough words of 40K plus for a YA. My future is to write the novels. I read your E-newsletter from the blog to learn more about the Social Media life experiences. I am not against Facebook, but at this stage in my writing career development I prefer to concentrate on writing the novels, now that I have extreme confidence to write it and in completing it.
Yes, thanks for reminding me that I’m close to handing my kid keys to–what did you call it?–5,000 pounds of moving metal death.
I am struggling now with thinking that some writerly things should be easier now than they are. But I can tell looking back that I’ve made progress. And I don’t think I’d enjoy success as much if I didn’t have to bust my butt to get it. 🙂
When we start out writing we have a certain naivete that gives rise to an overabundance of optimism about what we are doing. Later, we see the weaknesses of our earlier attempts,.Although we may still have a soft spot for that time, our new-found awareness makes it harder to carry on with the same blithe spirit. We are more critical. And rightly so, for that is what makes us improve our craft. It also has the unfortunate effect of making it harder to continue. I find that each new book is more difficult to write. I hope it is also a better book.
Gap-toothed grin … Priceless!
reminds me when I got my first expensive bicycle. It was a joy to ride, but uphill was still uphill.
When babies smile at me in the grocery, I stop and smile back, compliment mom on the cutie in the basket and as a parting shot remind them to ‘enjoy that baby now because eventually, it’s going to turn into a teenager and you’ll wonder why you had it.’
Writing is a lot like that…
I have spawn too, my oldest is ten, and the more I have to re-write and re-vision my novels, the more I’m discovering what kind of writer I am. And the closer I feel to getting to publication.
If things get to easy, we start to be bored. The way things are right now, I will never to worry about either.
Hi Kristen. I was a bit like that when my kids were younger, but I knew to make the most of that time as I’d never see it again. It’s the same with my writing. I’m learning to embrace the ‘now’ and enjoy it as much as possible without having to worry about deadlines. I always enjoy your posts – informative and funny. The photos of your ‘spawn’ are gorgeous! 🙂
Wait… kids don’t get easier? 🙂 It’s a great parallel — there are definitely challenges and joys at each step of the phases. Having readers reading and responding to your work is kind of like having your kids finally old enough to carry on a conversation with you. Free will, sure — but the interaction is worth it! Thanks for the post.
Yes, yes, yes! I’ve reached a point that I’ve said to myself. I am living my dream. Sure, I might not be where I want to be yet, but I’m working toward it, and that in itself, is all part of the journey, it’s my dream, and it’s coming to pass. When I first started out, I had no clue, so I did have some magical thinking. If I just get here, then…but not anymore, because I am living my dream. 🙂
I think Bat Spawn has discovered another secret to maintaining sanity… how to find the chocolate!
Love your blog and love your sense of humor 🙂 It often gives me my belly laugh for the day. This one also reminded me that it’s okay to struggle with your writing… or promoting, or outlining or pitching/querying or brain dumping (whatever phase you’re in) once in a while, even after being a writer for many years. As my mom says, ‘that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ I’m sure she wasn’t the first to say it but she’s my hero and the first one who said it to me!
Hm, this is basically a reminder that writing is a JOB. Fortunately, it’s (hopefully) a job that we love and are challenged by and thus feel fulfilled with, but jobs are work, and work is hard! I loved the post and your analogies. XD
Been there, lived that! All we can do is write on!
Thanks for the reminder to enjoy the process. Today is the only day we have right now, so we better make the best of it.
Kristin, I can relate to both the analogy of raising children and becoming a new writer. In both cases we have specific aspirations and expectations and , lo and behold, things (and children) turn out very differently. Enjoyed your post and am now one of your many followers. 🙂
I know you aren’t being too harsh because the parallel you draw with children is exactly right. Good post.
Thanks for the reminder to enjoy the now in my journey as a Writer!
I am working towards making sure I enjoy where I am at and maybe soon be able to let go of my writing, knowing I can only make it so perfect so I can move onto to a new phase, and a new project, and new mistakes. 🙂
Also little Spawn is so friggen cute with his dimple chin that I think I just ovulated.
I love you for posting this! I’ve had these thoughts, that things will be easier when I’ve done x or y, but then sometimes I just sit back, enjoy the flexibility I have in publishing my first novel, and keep up the day job until the dream job takes over.
Love the comparison to having kids! You gave me a giggle…because it’s true! Thank you!!! 🙂
Brilliant post (as ever). This one really struck a chord with me as both a writer and a mother of a young child. You speak the truth. It’s important to recognise that and to just keep your head down and keep plugging away, imho.
Kristen, I love your blog. There is so much sanity here. And it’s true, parenting doesn’t get easier, it changes. Each stage is different just as each child is different. And I’m finding that’s true with my writing too. Each book is a different experience and for all the grief they give me (kids and books) I love them all.
I wrote my first novel when I was 14 and thought it was a block buster, but getting published back then just didn’t happen unless you knew someone.
I kept the dream and kept on writing, even when it wasn’t in the format I longed for. My next three novels were learning pieces and each one is better than the last.
Great post! Though I wish the news were better! At least I can look forward to this whole social media/platform thing getting somewhat easier!
So true. Actually it’s funny because my illusion phase didn’t last too long. Now I have the opposite problem: the lack of a comforting illusion can make it difficult to plow on some days. It makes me wonder why I wanted to do all of this in the first place, at which point I remind myself I didn’t get much of a choice. Writing is a genetic disorder, haha
In fact when I saw the title of your post I sighed. I was just like: “No, don’t tell me that, kristen! Don’t kill my hopes!”
And then you told about the things that get easier and I was like, oh, not as bad as I thought …
And then you dropped the baby analogy bomb. Damn you, Kristen!
Haha, but no, you’re not too harsh. You’re wonderfully straight about truth. I must read one of your books one day. I have a feeling there must be a lot of true observations there.
Wonderful post Kristen. I had no illusions that writing would get easier. If anything it gets tougher keeping all your social media updated, contantly tweeting, each tweet different. I started out writing screenplays. Got tremendous actors to say yes to lead roles – Gary Oldman, Ian McShane, Amanda Donohoe and even John Travolta, but screenwriting is more fickle than a fickly thing. The slightest crack – John hated the director – producers argued – my agent screamed at them all – smash – it all went down the toilet. Then my agent kicked me out for writing garbage. Real low mood. Poor health. Operations. Now slow climb back up the ladder, one rung at a time. Now published. Now less sleep. Now Now Now! Now what’s next? My next novel and I have a great director attached to my screenplay. The rollercoaster ride has begun all over again.
It sounds like fun. I already cannot sleep when my mind is engrossed with writing something. The voice recorder on the cell phone for dictations at anytime helps because it is the worry of forgetting it in the morning that keeps me from having a good night sleep. I cannot wait for when I have the editor keeping me up all night with a simple E-mail reply. Can you afford the Coney Dog with extra onions, but get one after the roller coaster ride. [The Script Frenzy Challenge in 30 days of 100 pages during the month of April] was terminated and I wrote two screenplays the years I was involved because of it so I am back just waiting for NaNoWriMo and writing on Novelettes and adding to the WIPs needing more word count to be a completed novel.
Ah… the interface between self-published authorship and life itself. But excuse me. Are you and I closely related? Did we room together in college? It so happens that I am in my 9th year of first novel writing madness, I released my 2nd self-published book yesterday, and I have a virgin blog to bring to the world…how did you know? Just asking.
I do truly appreciate this insight. As I am a newbie at the writing gig I feel I have had these sentiments more often than nought. It’s always great to take a step back and get some scope, perspective on the adventure.
OH Kristin, once again you got me, this time with:
“This job is easier if we’re realistic. The newborn stage, yes we are checking every thirty seconds to make sure our career is breathing. Was is a victim of SIDS? Sudden Inspiration Death Syndrome? But there is all kinds of joy ahead.”
I posted THIS on my Facebook page the other night:
“It’s hard to believe that a little over a month ago I was in the grip of such a fierce writers block that I was afraid that going back to school might be a foolish decision…and today I’m bouncing up and down like a happy 3 year old saying “Yay! Writing is so fun!””
I’m just starting out as a writer and I do feel like a fraud telling people that I’m a writer…but I think I feel less and less like a fraud as I work more and more with my writing. I’m excited about finishing my first book (a book of poetry), then finishing my first novel and having them published. I’m really just excited about everything right now.