Hiddey-Ho Scribblers! J Monkeys here. Are you familiar with the 70’s song, On the Radio by Miss Donna Summer? No? Click here and give it a listen.
So why the disco today? I’m on the radio tomorrow! Very exciting times – my first radio interview. I’m not really nervous about doing the interview, but I am a bit nervous about sticking my foot in my mouth. You see, I have a terrible birth defect – my brain and my mouth work independently of each other. I can’t tell you the number of times in my life when I’ve said something incredibly stupid, thoughtless or rude, without meaning to at all. I swear, it’s one of the reasons I like being a writer. I get to edit before anyone else becomes aware of what I’ve said/thought.
But the opportunity to do an hour long interview was much too good to pass up. It’s not all me talking, there will be music and stuff too. I’m going to be talking about my soon-to-be-released-book DIY Publishing ~ Cheap & Easy. After much ado, this handy little manual for do-it-yourselfers will be available next week.
So, if you want to hear more about it, and potentially hear me gaff, tune in to 88.1 fm in central CT from 6:30 – 7:30pm on Sunday, January 5th. Or you can stream it live at http://www.WESUfm.org.
Yesterday I guest blogged over at Jill Archer’s siteabout our favorite buddy – the Doubt Monster. Fellow CT RWA members may recognize some of this information because it was taken from a presentation I did last March. If you missed it, here’s your chance to catch up!
Many creative types proclaim that they have a Muse – a benevolent entity that encourages the artist and nourishes the soul, allowing magical prose to flow from his or her fingertips like golden honey down a river of . . . blah, blah, flowery words, blah, blah.
Me and a Muse? No such luck. Instead, I have a Doubt Monster. In fact, if I ever had a Muse, I’m pretty sure the Doubt Monster ate her a long time ago.
What is a Doubt Monster? Let me introduce you.
The Doubt Monster is that nagging feeling while writing that your prose is terrible, your plot is silly, your characters are insipid and no one in their right mind would read this drivel, let alone buy it. Definition courtesy of Jen Moncuse.
In my case, the greedy Doubt Monster messes with my confidence and rears his ugly head (yes, I believe it’s a male – no clue why, honest) at various times in the writing process. Sometimes, he nags me constantly like my brain has been Rick-rolled by an earworm (you know, an irritating song that repeats in your head over and over).
What? That never happens to you? Never mind, then.
Other times, he appears sporadically. If I’m lucky, he won’t show up until I’m almost done with the first draft.
So what attracts the Doubt Monster? (Besides Rick Astley lyrics)
In my experience, lack of certainty creates openings for the sneaky cretin. Observe:
If your self-confidence is shot. Hello, Doubt Monster.
If you received a rejection letter. Hello, Doubt Monster.
If you received a bad contest score or one star review. Hello, Doubt Monster.
If you receive an awesome five star review. Hello , Doubt Monster. (Yes, success can also freak you out with an – “OMG, how will I ever top this story? I will never write anything good again” – moment.
If your family doubts you. Say it with me – Hello, Doubt Monster!
If you’re like me, and you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop or you just expect that what you’re working on will suck at some point – yeah, yeah, Hello, #@!# Doubt Monster!
And the Doubt Monster doesn’t prey exclusively on unpublished writers. Once you’re published, he has even more confidence busting fodder to torment you with! Even multi-published, NY Times, award winning authors battle the beast.
So how do you combat this annoying creativity killer?
Don’t Feed the Monster!
1. As with any problem, identification is the key.Admit you have a problem. And take it seriously. Yup, it’s that simple. Consider the possibility that you’re staring at a blank page because you’re suffering from self-doubt. If you’re lazy, sorry. Can’t help you with that one. Maybe consider not being a writer, ‘cause, you know, writing requires self-discipline and actual work. Just throwing that out there!
2. When you are in “the creative mind” – anything should be possible and telling yourself that your ideas are dumb or won’t work is not helpful. Really. Sit back and play out those ideas to their logical conclusion. Do they work? Do you like it? Does it move the plot along? Even if it doesn’t – write it down. You know the old adage – you can’t edit a blank page!
4. Confront your Doubt Monster and root him out. What stage of writing are you in? Are you allowing your inner editor to stomp on your creative process? Do you fear imminent arrest by the Grammar Police? If yes, remember you’re not in English class anymore. You don’t have to have perfect sentences or perfect grammar while you’re drafting your story. First draft = word vomit! And that is fine!!
5. Are you worried about what everyone else will think? At this stage in writing, do not think about your critique group, readers, the marketplace or much of anything else real world related. And, seriously, who cares what anyone else thinks?
6. Tell old Doubty to shut it. Don’t feel guilty about it. You can’t hurt his feelings. See # 4.
7. Do not stop writing. Ever. That is the worst thing you can do. If you are truly stuck, work on something else for a little bit. Take a walk, read, go the movies, clean your closet. Whatever floats your boat.
Who’s seen Men In Black 3? There is a great scene in the movie where J &K are stuck trying to figure out the enemy’s next move. Agent K says – “let’s have pie.” Meaning, they will eat a piece of pie and discuss anything but the case. Believe it or not, this really does work (well, you don’t have to have pie). Sometimes, in order to solve a problem, you have to let your subconscious work it out. Doing an alternate activity and letting your mind wander can help silence the Doubt Monster.
Which leads me to my next point . . . sometimes you need to listen to the Doubt Monster.
Wait! What?? But you just said –
– Yes, I know. There are times when you should heed the Doubt Monster’s warnings. He or she is not always wrong to make you question your work. One way to test the validity of the DM is to ask a non-writer to read your finished work. I find it helpful to use first readers whenever I complete a draft. They are not writers, but friends who will be honest and read extensively in the genre I write in.
During editing, let the Doubt Monster play all he wants. This is the time to question your plotline, pacing, word choices, and story flow. The DM can be the voice of reason. Think of
it as the same instinct that prevents you from engaging in dangerous activities like jumping off a cliff or leaving your house in nothing but your underwear.
Over time, the more you write the more you’ll find a happy medium. And, I have discovered that some stories are more prone to attacks of the Doubt Monster. Many times, those books turn out to be better stories in the end and that’s a goal even the Doubt Monster can get behind!
If anyone has confidence building techniques, please share!
Mr. Fern, who by then was raggedy, although he still had green fronds, sat discarded outside the teachers’ room door at the school where my husband teaches, and rather than let him be consigned to the garbage, John brought him home. For years, Mr. Fern sat by the sliders to the deck in the winter, and on the deck, summers, and regenerated and bloomed, and — I truly believe — begat a whole family of ferns that return every year, shooting up like alien pods, in my pachysandra patch.
So it was with great sorrow that two or three years ago, we watched as Mr. Fern deteriorated to the point where he had no new growth, his leaves shriveled, browned, became dessicated, and he died.
We put him in the back yard nevertheless, loath to leave him in the detritus that would be cleared away in the bi-annual garden clean-up. And there he sat for a summer, a winter, another summer, forlorn, dried up, leafless, lifeless …
And then one summer day, I saw a sliver of green poking out from the midst of the jungle of brown. One fully formed fern frond, child-size, fresh green, fresh life, a little miracle stretching out from the dirt and decay. No stopping him then. I began watering him. He pushed out more long stringy fingers which turned into an explosion of brand new fronds.
Mr. Fern is back. Why, how, from that mass of crinkly dead leaves, I’ll never understand. I thought he was truly gone, and then, suddenly, there he was. And now he sits in my cluttered dining room by the sliding doors, growing and flourishing every day.
It’s a lesson to all of us. Sometimes we feel hopeless, helpless, dry, dessicated, chewed up, beaten down
— like we couldn’t produce another word, even if it was the word “I” — and we just bury ourselves and let it all go.
Don’t let go. We’re writers. There’s always life in there, even if at times it seems like still life with no possibilities. All it needs is a little poke and prod. A book, a word, an overheard conversation, something in the news — and we green up, poke our way out of the dessication, and get going.
Because we have to. Because there are stories to tell and we can tell them. Because there are fictional lives to explore, and we can do justice to them. Because when you’re a writer, you’re never not writing, even if you think you’re not.
And, because we can.
Thea Devine is currently working on her next erotic contemporary romance. She’s pleased to announce that five of her early books, Reckless Desire, Ecstasy’s Hostage, Relentless Passion, Montana Mistress and Angel Eyes are now available in Kindle editions.
Happy Friday everyone. Casey here. If you have a moment, please stop by my blog. I’m hosting another Goodreads giveaway to celebrate the paperback release of The Undead Space Initiative.
In case you hadn’t yet heard the news, Mystic Storm will be published in 2013. And while this is my third published novel, I still feel like a giant imposter.
Like someone is going to single me out and yell – “Fake! Fraud! She’s not a real writer!”
I know that sounds totally ridiculous but I know I’m not the only one who sometimes feels this way. I have heard an established NY Times bestselling author admit to having the same feeling – that no matter how many novels you write and sell that this one might be your last.
That you will never, ever write anything “good” again. Your career will be over!! You’ll be a “has been”, the equivalent of a dried up old spinster.
Eek! What’s a writer to do? Well, for starters, it’s time for a reality check.
By the power invested in me I say to you – You’re a writer. A real, honest to goodness writer. Doesn’t matter if you’re unpublished, published big, published small, self-published, or any variation in between. If you’re dedicated to the craft of storytelling and you are actively putting words on a page, you’re a writer.
If not, and you’re still fretting,consider this:
1. Ignorance is bliss. Remember back in the early days of writing before you knew any of the “rules”? When it was a thrill just to type those words on the page and “publication” was some far off dream on a distant shore? If you find yourself traveling down the road of uncertainty, hark back to that earlier time. Too many “rules” equals zero fun. Ditch’em. Be that dreamer again. The completion of one book doesn’t mean you’re doomed to never write another good story again.
2. There are many paths to publication. Readers don’t care who published your novel. All they want are well-written, entertaining stories. I know I don’t go looking for books based on who published them. I just want to read something good and judge accordingly.
3. Tell the Doubt Monster to shut his (or her) gob. If you’re suffering from imposter syndrome, consider it a form of self-doubt. Cut it out.
And finally, square your shoulders, hold your head up high and be proud of your accomplishments (no matter how big or small they are that day, week or month).
Now say it with me – “I am writer, hear me roar!”
Time for the truth – who else has had imposter syndrome? And what are your suggestions for combatting it?
Yay! It’s Friday again! Hope you’re having a good one! Casey here.
Harry Truman famously had a sign on his desk that read – “the buck stops here.” I’ve always loved that phrase.
It’s the ultimate mark of true leadership, taking responsibility for an action, even if you personally didn’t cause it. Like a good captain, you go down with the ship and are responsible for your subordinates behavior. Not an easy thing to do.
I’ve been in this position, not as U.S. president, but as a mother, a manager, even president of my sorority chapter in college. In my day job, I’ve sworn off having responsibility for others. Too much stress, too little reward. Obviously, as a mom, I can’t do that, but lucky for me, my sons are well-behaved.
However, I can’t totally abdicate my leadership role as an author because there’s only one captain at the helm of the good ship SS Writer– me.
Often times, when I attend my monthly RWA chapter meetings, I hear a common complaint – “I need more time to write.” Or “I need someone to motivate me to write.”
I’ve addressed adding more time, so this time I’m switching to motivation. And I’m not going to go easy on you. There’s a reason Suze calls me “the whip cracker.”
First rule, when it comes to motivation – you are in control of you. No one else.
To use myself as an example, if I’m sitting at my computer staring into space or web surfing or avoiding writing, the first person I chastise is me. Sound harsh? You bet!
But it’s also great news. That means you can take charge and do the work.
Casey’s Whip Cracking Tips:
1. Recognize that you are procrastinating and cut it out!
2. Determine why you’re procrastinating. Maybe you’re stuck at a certain point in the plot. My advice, either skip that spot and come back to it later or plow ahead and write something (and fix it later if you don’t like it). I can tell you this from personal (and recent experience), waiting for inspiration to strike isn’t going to work!
3. Enlist the aid of a friend. I know I just said, no one can make you do the work, but it can help to spend time with others. Even if to cheer you up!
4. Join a writing sprint – CTRWA has them all them time on our Facebook fan page!! All writers are welcome, not just chapter members.
5. Use the carrot and the stick approach. Try to reward yourself for meeting your goal (avoid using food, otherwise you’ll be stressed about your weight too). And, sorry, but if that doesn’t work, you have to suck it up and just do it (hear the whip snap?)
My final tip, realize that tomorrow is another day. Believe it or not, there are days (and sometimes weeks) where productive work won’t get done. That’s not an excuse to slack off, but do recognize that sometimes life throws curve balls.
Now, go forth and be productive! Or I’ll find you with my whip! *snap*
What are your favorite whip cracking techniques?And do they work for you?
Happy Friday everyone. Casey here. I’ve recently discovered evidence that the my sneaky adversary is up to no good. Look what I found!
To Do List:
5:10 am – wake up when Casey does. Whisper doubts in her ear about her WIP so she can’t fall back to sleep.
6:00 am – while Casey is doing her day job, read e-mail, catch up on latest DM news. Oh, look at the cute little puppy on Facebook!
8:30 am – Consider taking a class. “Character Assassination: 5 Quick and Easy Ways to Use Characters to Foster Doubt”. Or perhaps, “Your Author has been Published: New Fears and How to Foster Them.”
9:00 am – Decide to take both classes. More weapons in the arsenal of doubt are always a good thing.
12:00 pm – Lunch with fellow Doubt Monsters. Listen to endless complaints about how their authors have the delusion that authors and Doubt Monsters can be friends. Scoff at the idea. What is the world coming to?
2:00 pm – One more hour until Casey finishes the day job. Take opportunity to plant idea that time would be better spent on social media. And as a parting jab – remind her that she will never be free of the day job.
3:15 pm – Observe: Plan to steal Casey’s time with Facebook and lure of a higher Klout score appear to be working.
5:00 pm – Dinnertime. Torment Casey while she is cooking. Remind her that she’s been working on Mystic Storm since February. Ignore her counter argument that she wrote an entire book between May and June.
6:30 pm – Casey appears to be staring off into space. Her hands are on the keyboard but nothing is happening. Yes. Yes.
6:45 pm – Enlist aid of cat to distract her further. @#$@ Cat refuses to do my bidding.
7:00 pm – Uh. Oh. Casey finds my to do list. Yup. She’s making that super angry face. She flicks me away with rude gesture and bad words, then starts writing.Nooooo! Hey, do you kiss your mother with that mouth?
9:00 pm – Am able to briefly tempt her away with a series of fun Facebook photos. But she soon returns to writing. Drat!
10:30 pm– Casey’s been productive despite my best efforts. Have no fear. Tomorrow is another day.
So back to The Doubt Monster. We were watching a movie not too long ago. Yes, he likes TV and since he’s always around, why can’t he have some fun?
Anyway, the movie was Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. It was trippy story about a writer who’s visiting Paris with his fiancée and her parents. It’s immediately obvious that they want different things in life.
He wants to walk in the rain. She thinks it’s silly and unneccessary. He’d like to move there and write his novel. She wants to stay in LA (where he can continue to write movie screenplays).
While sitting on a step at midnight, pondering his life, a 1920’s car arrives and whisks him off to a party attended by famous intellectuals and writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!
What does this have to do with The Doubt Monster? Well, everything! That writer’s Doubt Monster was so powerful, he could make time travel possible.
Obviously, my Doubt Monster is a tad bit jealous. He has no such abilities.
I won’t tell you what happens next in the movie. You will have to watch for yourself.
Back to the topic at hand. Now that we’ve been together for a while, I’d like to offer these tips for making the most out of your monster.
1. Ground rules are a must. Establish parameters of when and where The Doubt Monster is allowed to influence you. My monster is not allowed to speak to me when I’m writing my first draft. Period.
2. Do not ignore your Doubt Monster. Seriously. If you try to suppress the monster, he or she will get back at you – big time. See above – you don’t want the DM to mess with you when you should be creating.
3. Cultivate confidence. Make yourself feel good. Compliment your efforts. So rather than saying – “my writing is total crap.” Instead say – “this isn’t so bad” or even better – “this is pretty damn good.”
4. Reward good behavior. See #1 – For his patience, I let Doubty play when it’s time to revise. I let’em rip. If he’s been really good, I may even ponder a few concerns at night (after the lap top is off) and right before I fall asleep.
See, he does serve a useful purpose. He can guide me when I know something is missing or not quite right. The trick is to be confident in yourself. Be the Author Goddess! It’s your world, your rules.
And if your Doubt Monster gets uppity, just watch Midnight in Paris and remind him that until he can manipulate space and time, he’s nothing special!