What Scares You About Being Published?

 

What’s your biggest fear about being published?

My biggest fear about being published, if it ever happens, is being in the public eye.

I’m a social person, but I don’t like criticism, and I have to admit, I’m a bit of a control freak. Turning my novel loose on the public opens me up to all kinds of opinions, all kinds of scrutiny. And that terrifies me.

It also opens me up to books signings and public appearances. And that’s where the real insecurity rears its ugly head. What if I’m lame, or boring, or…and this is the worst…what if nobody shows up?! #writerfears

I would probably write under a pseudonym, but in the information age, I’m not so sure a pseudonym protects your privacy. In the old days, you know, pre-internet days, a pseudonym probably was fairly effective. But not so much anymore.

About 10 years ago, I wrote a Letter to the Editor of our local paper. It got printed, and much to my terror, a woman looked me up, and called me at home! Fortunately, it was to tell me that she completely supported my position, but it was still unsettling. What if she felt differently?

You see where I’m going. Of course, if I ever do get published…I could probably get over it. LOL

So what scares you about being published? Do you think it holds you back?

If you are already published, what surprised you the most?

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Waiting

clock-474128_1280Writers spend a lot of time writing. I know…it’s not rocket science.

But we also spend A LOT of time waiting. I can’t speak for the successful, published writer, as I’ve not yet reached that height. But I can speak from the unpublished writer’s view. In fact, I would venture to say, if you’re a writer who has actually tried to be published, and you were to actually be paid for the amount of time you wait, you would probably make more money on the hourly wage while waiting, than for the actual sales of the book.

The act of waiting has become a bit of a lost art.

Think about it. What do we wait for anymore? Our TV is On Demand, our music is downloaded instantly, even our phone calls don’t wait…we send a text when we don’t get a hold of someone right at the very moment we need them. And then, we don’t even wait for them to answer, because we’ve already moved on to our next order of business until they can answer back.

But writing is different. Writers don’t always get an answer. Sometimes they don’t even get the obligatory “thanks for your interest, but we’re not accepting at this time.” A lot of times it’s just the sound of crickets on the other end of that email.

So what does a writer do while they wait? They write, of course. And they read. And they learn. And they hope. And they wait some more.

What other profession (other than parenting) involves producing a product, sometimes over years (sometimes 20 or more), and then gingerly handing it over to someone you hardly even know to have it come back to you riddled with red marks, or worse…having no feedback at all?

I think blogging revolutionized the writing industry for the writer. Sure, it provides hours of entertainment to its recipients, but before blogging, the only feedback a writer had was maybe a handful of people that they allowed to read their work, or it just gathered dust in a box in the attic.

I’m a child of the 80s, and I remember the punk rock underground mags that were photocopied, stapled and distributed at shows, and thrift shops, and then passed around to friends. I remember how dog-eared and tattered they would be by the time they got to you sometimes. Imagine if that was still how we got our material out there. Imagine how long that wait would be.

Without the blogging community, the waiting would be unbearable at times.

Waiting takes patience, and it takes practice. And sometimes the best things do happen while we wait. Have you ever had something remarkable happen while you were waiting for your next step in life?

Don’t Write That Down…

Wad of paperSome things are better left unsaid.

How many times have we had a bad day or a bad run-in with a co-worker or family member, or even bad service and wanted so badly to shout it to the social media world?

As a writer, my first line of expression has always been the written word. It’s my best defense, and my worst enemy.

Having a blog is risky business, especially when friends and family read it. Fortunately, most of mine could either care less, or have no idea that I even have a blog.

I do try very hard to not publish everything that comes to mind. I like to rest on my words and let them sit a few days before I release them into the wild.

For me, writing and having a blog carries with it a responsibility. I want to make my readers think, even challenge them at times, but I always try to remember that my writing represents me. My readers don’t personally know me, and the last thing I want is for someone to misjudge my character simply by my words. How easy it is to misinterpret or read into someone’s email or Facebook post. I would hate for my “bad day” to be the only day someone happens to come across my blog.

Don’t get me wrong, I still express those bad days in writing, I’m just careful to keep them buried in a shoebox in the backyard. That’s also why I’ve never kept a journal. I would hate for my children to find it after I’m gone and think “Whoa, that’s not the mom I remember!”

And I think we can all agree that if any of us ever achieves author stardom, we would hope that our surviving loved ones would have sense enough to destroy those long, lost, embarrassing poems of high school angst.

How important is it for you to rest on something you’ve written before making it public?

Writing in a Vacuum

My vacuum is a bit of a relic. I bought it sometime around 1992, and it still works. It’s got actual metal parts and still uses bags (which I have to purchase from the manufacturer), but I won’t trade it for one of the newer plastic models until it inhales its last dust bunny.

But that durability has its drawbacks: it’s heavy and can be hard to maneuver, and vacuuming the stairs can be a real workout.

Sometimes writing can be that way too. Of course there are steadfast rules to writing. There are plot formulas, and correct grammar usage, and trends in the publishing arena that a writer should be aware of to stay relevant, if a writer cares about such things. Publishers and writers need those things to create a business for themselves.

But sometimes, just sometimes, a writer needs to go beyond the formulas. Sometimes a writer needs to step away from the keyboard and get some real life experiences. Otherwise, we are just writing in a vacuum. And just like my trusty relic, our writing becomes clunky, and hard to maneuver. Writing becomes a workout.

Writing is by nature a solitary, lonely business, especially if we forget to get out of the vacuum. Remember to share life with others, not just with the voices in your head. Have conversations, not just texts. Don’t be afraid to vacuum up a lego once in a while to really shake things up. That’s when writing really comes alive.

What do you do to shake things up? How do you get out of the vacuum to make your writing better?

Filling My Head…

Phil. 4:8 (NIV) Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

The words are so simple, but hold so much wisdom. As a writer, I try to absorb everything I can about technique and style. The do’s and don’ts of the writing and publishing world can be mind-boggling, and often full of contradiction. I find myself beating my head against the wall trying to please some unknown force…not the best things to fill my head.

Sometimes, I have to take a step back. Sometimes I forget what brought me to writing in the first place.

When I was ten years old, I entered my school’s poetry contest, and won first place. It wasn’t much, just a blue ribbon, but it was the little push I needed to believe in myself. The poem was called “God’s Creation.” (Believe it or not, you could write poems about God in public school. Yeah… times have changed.)

Seems most everyone who has ever been published has advice, and a lot of it is contradictory. So who do you believe? The guy who writes sci-fi and fantasy who says the first page should throw the reader into the story, or the one who writes mystery who likes the slow burn that leads to an edge-of-your-seat climax.

Even within my own family there is differing opinion. My husband would never read women’s Christian fiction, my children wouldn’t read anything that isn’t fast-paced sci-fi, and I wouldn’t read either of their choices.

My point is this: we all have to remember who we’re writing for. Do you journal? I think that’s great. Do you write fantasy? More power to you. Do you write comedy or farce? That’s hysterical. But who do you write FOR? Who is your audience? Is it an audience of thousands or just an audience of One?

I think once we figure that part out, than the rest will fall into place. As I’ve written before in I Might Never Get Published, the odds of getting published are statistically not in my favor. But I’m okay with that, even if it means I have to occasionally remind myself of that fact.

Not every story is meant for every reader. But I’m grateful for the readers I have.

So I will fix my eyes on whatever is lovely, and right, and noble, and I will fill my head with those things. Life seems to fall into place much better when I do.

I Might Never Get Published

I recently came to terms with the fact that I might never be published. I realized I could do everything right and still NEVER make it to the top of the slush pile…EVER.

I had to re-evaluate why it is I write. I think for most writers the ultimate goal is getting published. But for me, getting published became distracting – from my family, from my activities, and, ultimately, from my writing.

So I wrote myself a manifesto of sorts and gave myself permission to write with abandon and set my muse free.

It was liberating as I felt the burden lift. I don’t want to miss my life while pursuing something that may never happen. Statistics show the odds are clearly not in the writer’s favor.

Writing for me is a joy. There’s no better feeling than when the words are flying out of my brain faster than I can write them down.

I want my words to inspire, to make people think, and to entertain. Writing happens as a result of our shared experiences. I had to find a way to get back to the joy. For me, letting go was the answer.

What distracts you from living your life the way you want to? Has something that you enjoy turned into a burden? How do you find balance between pursuing a dream and keeping it in perspective?

Writing Goals

I am a list maker. I’m not sure why or when it started, but it works for me. Recently I’ve had a lot of trouble finding uninterrupted writing time. Just when I get an idea or a moment of inspiration, it’s time to go to bed, or time to make dinner, or it just isn’t, well, my time. Does that sound selfish? I hope not. In fact, since I started this piece, and mentioned to my family that I got inspired, I’ve been interrupted several times…in only 7 sentences! Thank God for my dear husband, who has agreed to rally the troops into the other room for a few minutes.

So, back to my list. Years ago I made a list of 101 things I wanted to accomplish in my life. It actually wasn’t easy to come up with 101 things, and it took a lot longer than I expected. I recently found the list, and it was fun to see what I’ve accomplished as well as what I set out to accomplish, and still have yet to accomplish.

Lists keep me motivated and organized. There’s something about seeing it written down that makes it valid, and embeds it into my brain.

I thought that at least if I couldn’t get enough uninterrupted time to write a complete thought, then maybe I could at least make a list and set some more goals, some writing goals. Some that I can actually accomplish on a day-to-day basis. I hope you can find some inspiration in list. And please comment if you have any of your own to share.

  1. Write daily, even if it’s chicken scratch.
  2. Don’t worry about getting published right now.
  3. Think big, write small.
  4. Don’t get lost in the publishing process.
  5. Write because I love it, not because I want to be published.
  6. Write what I want to write: poetry, prose, essay, a letter, a thank you note, the grocery list.
  7. Don’t worry so much about the elusive “rules”.
  8. Follow my own path.
  9. Follow my own timeline.
  10. Write to leave a legacy to the people who matter most.
  11. Don’t steal time away from my family.
  12. Write what is good and pleasing.
  13. Write what I feel: nobody ever has to see it.
  14. Make memories to write about.
  15. Write stories for my children.
  16. Write about the details of life.
  17. Write about the heartaches in life.
  18. Write about the joys in life.
  19. Don’t stare at a blank screen.
  20. If the words won’t come, then draw the story.
  21. Not everybody will like what I write.
  22. Stay authentic.
  23. Start a word journal.
  24. Write dialogue.
  25. Write a love letter.
  26. Write a eulogy.
  27. Write a genre that I wouldn’t normally prefer (and then laugh at how bad it turns out).
  28. Create some writing prompts.
  29. Find an old story, and write it again.
  30. Re-write a scene from a different point of view.
  31. Write in a different voice.
  32. Come up with story themes.
  33. Try writing flash fiction.
  34. Look through old photographs, and write about an old memory.
  35. Write down true events in story form to pass down to family members.
  36. Ask relatives to tell me about a childhood memory, and write it down.
  37. Make a story family tree.
  38. Recount a moment in history and change the ending.
  39. Be okay with what I write.
  40. Know that there’s a reason it’s called a first draft.
  41. Don’t sacrifice my joy for the need to be published.
  42. Remember that it’s okay if I never get an agent.
  43. Remember that creativity is a gift.
  44. Nurture that gift in my children.
  45. Take advice to heart, but also with a grain of salt.
  46. I am my best critic.
  47. Write for reasons bigger than myself.
  48. Write the end before the beginning.
  49. Write…and then write again.
  50. Write for God.