Tuesday, December 13

Guest Author Angela Ackerman: Keeping Despair at Bay

By Angela Ackerman

I'm delighted to have with us today, Angela Ackerman, who is one half of the amazing The Bookshelf Muse blog. (If you haven't discovered this one yet, pop on over. You'll be glad you did). Angela is a long-time supporter of both me and my blog, so I'm honored to have her here sharing her tips on surviving this thing called writing. She's also a fellow zombie-fan, which earns her extra points in my book.

Angela often writes about mythology in the real world, but twists everything so that it's much darker and interesting. Bad things happen, but her teen and pre-teen characters always rise to the challenge in impossible situations. This is no surprise, because kids have internal strength that represents the best qualities in all of us. They struggle, adapt and survive. This is why she writes for this amazing YA & MG audience. She is represented by the ever-tenacious Jill Corcoran of The Herman Agency.

Take it away Angela...

Becoming an author is not for the faint of heart. Not only does it take time, discipline and hard work, it also takes the WILL to see the dream through. I don’t know about you, but as an author-in-waiting, I’ve learned there is a big difference between knowing this and living it.

The road to publication isn’t a woodsy drive through sun-drenched glades, listening to birdsong and breathing in fresh country air. No, the path is twisty and slow, pocked with ruts, wash-outs and road blocks: the unanswered queries, the form rejection letters, the close-but-not-quite manuscript passes. At times it feels that the few bright spots are overshadowed by gloomy stretches of uncertainty and frustration. So what happens when worry and dejection leads us to the blackest pot hole of all: doubting the dream itself?

There’s no darker road stop in the journey than when we stop and question our path. Negativity has killed many a dream. So when thoughts like, Why is everyone else succeeding but me? and I’m just not good enough start to overwhelm, it’s time to fight back.

3 CRITICAL ways to shuck off the negative & boost fortitude:

1) Remember the dream. Sometimes all the little disappointments and frustrations build to a point where we feel like we’re drowning in them. When this happens, remember why you chose to be a writer. This dream of publication is no small thing--it might be the biggest, best dream you’ve ever dared to chase. When you started, you knew it would be hard, but you also knew it would be worth it. This dream is worth fighting for!

2) Examine the path. When negativity clouds judgement, a trip down memory lane will provide a much-needed reality check. Remember that first story, the one that shone so bright it fuelled your desire to write? Pull it out and read it. And while you’re cringing, indulge in some pride. Look at how far you’ve come and how much you’ve improved!

Still in the driveway of despair? Make a list of what you’ve done to get to this point. How many books have you read to improve your craft? How many hours have you spent researching, reading & critiquing all in an effort to improve? Did you join a writer’s group, sign up for a workshop or attend a conference? These are road markers of your commitment and should be celebrated! What about your accomplishments? Did you complete a novel or find the courage to submit your work? Have you sold a poem or short story to a magazine? These are victories in your pursuit of the dream.

3) Take control. What often leads to despair is that at a certain point, success feels out of our hands. We can craft a sizzling query, but can’t force an agent to request the full. We can write a great novel, but we can’t make an editor to say yes. The wait times, that contest win, the rejections that will at least contain eye-opening personal feedback, yep you guessed it--not ours to control.

Keep focused on what is in our control: writing, pursuing knowledge and creating an online presence. Writing the next book means more product to sell. Expanding our writing knowledge gives us a greater command of story. And working on a platform makes us more attractive to agents and publishers. There is never a point where we ‘know it all’ or have ‘done enough’. This business is not about sitting back and waiting. Stay busy and focused, and it will bring about success. I believe this and live it.

There isn’t a writer alive who has not doubted the dream at some point. But the ones who were able to find the strength to move past that gnawing doubt...these are the ones we call AUTHORS.

44 comments:

  1. Great word of encouragement. And so true. :)

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  2. I love all your suggestions Angela. This is such a great post. And I totally agree with it all, especially focusing on the parts we can control.

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  3. Thanks Angela! We all need to be reminded of this at times.

    Thanks for hosting Janice.

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  4. Wonderful words. We all hit these snags and are grateful for helping hands like this post.

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  5. Thank you. Such a relevant post.

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  6. Great post, Angela. Thank you.

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  7. Fabulous post, Ange! Love the reminder to focus on what we can control. And of course, remembering that helps us remember why we have the dream in the first place. Thanks so much for the smile this morning!

    Martina

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  8. Love love love this post! Great job, Angela. This line resonated with me so much, "Writing the next book means more product to sell." It is exactly what I've been trying to explain to my friends and family when they say things like "You're writing more books?" LOL.

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  9. Excellent. And from what I can tell that gnawing doubt presents itself at every stage of the game whether writing that first novel, querying, submitting, post publication. We will always battle it!

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  10. Good thoughts, Angela. In my writing process, there's one difference from that. Most of what I write is nonfiction and devotional. So, I kind of reverse #3. Instead of taking control, I let go. If it's about God and the thoughts are from God, I ought to let Him handle it. If I'm not stymying the process by trying to fit my own square peg in a round hole, things flow much better.

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  11. A great post Angela. Gives a nice boost to the day!


    Happy Holidays!

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  12. I'm posting Angela's three points on the virtual fridge... Wise words.
    Years ago, when the Rabbi gave me and my husband to be pre-nuptial advice, his points echoed Angela's. It keeps working for us.
    Sage advice for writing, and for life.

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  13. I needed this today Angela :) Thanks!

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  14. Brilliant as always, Angela. I especially like the advice to focus on what IS in our control. The frustration you described regarding the factors NOT in our control has been really tough for me. Great advice--ALL OF IT! :-)

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  15. I went through that not too long ago. I've had it a few times, and I see it as a sign that I need to take a break. I just close up the files for a while, and try not to think of writing things. I don't like to force myself to write, so my breaks can last a long time.

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  16. First of all, Angela, I just want to say, I love the photo. I miss Canada and the snow.

    I love your post, negativity is a sure way to bring down your writing career. When you dream, there's nothing wrong with dreaming big. Sure, we may not all end up like Stephen King but still, there's nothing wrong with hoping...

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  17. I'm so glad I stopped over to read this post. No matter where we are on the path of publication, these encouraging words so so helpful. Even got me a little teary eyed as I sat and thought, truthfully, about being published. I felt that swell within, the desire to share a story that maybe not everyone likes or fits the trends but someone out there can enjoy.

    Okay, going to grab so tissue now. Feeling some rejuvination about my writing purpose...not just writing.

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  18. Thanks everyone for chiming in. I think we all struggle with this at some point, and one of the great things that keeps us from jumping off the cliff is the support of others. If any of you ever need an ear and I can help, feel free to email me. Striving for publication is tough, and we're all in it together.:)

    Have a great week, and keep believing in the dream! :)

    Angela

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  19. I needed words of encouragement, I'm going through one of those 'I'm never going to get published' modes at the moment.

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  20. Wonderful post, and so timely! Thank you so much for reminding us how to encourage ourselves!

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  21. Great and heartfelt tips Angela! Thank you for sharing them with us.

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  22. What fantastic tips, Angela! You're so right--being a writer isn't an easy road and sometimes the doubts and fears of never succeeding can be overwhelming. But when those days come, the best thing you can do is keep pressing forward and reflecting back to why you started in the first place.

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  23. Timely post. As we hurry to meet our self-imposed deadlines, it's easy to get discouraged.

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  24. Do you think you could record this for me so I can play it back over and over? Like a self-help tape.lol

    I needs it.

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  25. This is exactly what I needed to hear/read today! Thank you!

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  26. Thanks again, everyone--I am so glad this one resonates. It would be great if no one needed this post, but hopefully if you do, you'll come back and find it. :) You can do it! :)

    Angela

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  27. That was beautiful!!! I find that one of the most important ingredients for hanging in there is friends. Other writers that support me, while I support them. I would have quit long ago if it weren't for the company. :D

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  28. You're right, Angela. The dream is worth fighting for! :) Thank you for sharing such a lovely post.

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  29. Great advice! One thing I like to do when I'm struggling is to read really good books, then pick them apart. It can be discouraging to read a great book because you start to think you'll never be that good. But if I take the time to break it down and see why it's working, I almost always learn something I can apply to my own writing and propel it forward.

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  30. Great post, Angela. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  31. I have been considering that I can't ever do it.Thank you for this most encouraging post! I'm saving it!

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  32. What wonderful advice. Most of life I tilted heavily on "being a quitter." Until several years ago when I buried that message and began telling myself, "I'm not giving up." And, no matter what, I didn't. Because of this, I'm doing some final revisions of my first completed children's fantasy book! I wouldn't have made it this far if I wouldn't have given up! Don't give up on your dream.

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  33. Beautiful, inspiring post! I've been knocked to my knees a few times by the pursuit, but so far I've always found reason to claw back and keep chasin' the dream. Here's to all the other authors out there still fighting from the trenches! Cheers! :)

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  34. Such a wonderful, inspirational post. Doubt is always at the door, like it or not.

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  35. Thanks Angela and Janice--this was GREAT!

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  36. Beautifully said, Angela! This was awesome!

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  37. Thanks for the reminder to focus on that which we can control. I frankly find it weird how much I worry about uncontrollables in seeking author success. If I worried as much about them in life in general, I'd never get out of bed! Your post puts things back into perspective.

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  38. I love the sense of community in these comments! Where would any of us be without the support of others? I am so grateful to have so many caring writers in my life. Thank you all! By living your dream, you give me the courage to live mine, too! :)

    *hugs all round*

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  39. Ha! The "driveway of despair." I love it. ;o) This is all good stuff for encouraging us as writers, Angela! Thanks, Janice, for having Angela as a guest. Staying busy and focused is truly the answer!

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  40. Great blog!

    How I survived it was to keep my eye on what I wanted. We preach goal, motivation and conflict to aspiring writers, but we're on a similar journey as authors. We must want our goal so badly that we'll suffer anything to get it. Overcome any and all obstacles. Don't quit your career story in the middle of the book. Get past those obstacles so you can triumph. Most people give up way too easily.

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  41. I loved the post!

    But I will offer something different:

    Switch the "goal" or "dream" from being "published" to --

    WRITING SOMETHING WELL

    IMPROVING THE PROCESS

    IMPROVING THE RESULTS OF THE WRITING

    In other words... finding meaningful satisfaction in writing something that is creative, engaging and gets you further down the road than you were the day before.

    If the above becomes the goal, and the dream... you will have done two things -- you'll know that you are writing for the right reasons -
    - to write and become a better writer/communicator. And you will feel 100% in "control."

    Now there will be times when you do stop and focus on "getting published" or "reaching an audience" with your writing, but the more you detach your emotions from that part of the process... the better off you'll be as a creative person.

    This is advice I give writers who have been published. Why? Because they also had the dream and goal of getting published... and often times when they do get published it doesn't end up matching their "goal" or original "dream." So as a writer (who has been published) you end up with the same (or similar feelings) as the the writer who feeks despair because they've never been published.

    The "goal" should be -- the writing... everyday... improving... finishing a well written page... chapter... story... book. That's the journey... and the journey must be the goal... the dream... Then if/when that other thing happens (getting published/reaching and engaging a reader...) it's all desert.

    For what it's worth... this has always worked for me...

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  42. When writing becomes a despair, take time to write something just for fun, something silly or so off topic you know it's for your eyes only.

    Remember the joy!

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  43. Thanks everyone for sharing your strategies. I know I'll be coming back to this post when the blues hit. :)

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