Writing Means Failing A Lot

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I am really starting to understand why the word “persistence” comes up so often when writers talk about what it takes to be successful. While decluttering my writing space and organizing files on my hard drive, I faced the eye-opening reality that I’ve been at this writing thing for ten years, (at least in the quasi-professional sense). Ten years. And I don’t have a lot to show for it other than a few teeny tiny publishing credits.

My journals and files say otherwise. I’ve written two novels, more poems than I can count (there are about 1,000 haikus alone), and more than 1,000 blog posts (this one blows my mind the most!). Writing is the easy part. Finding an audience is a little tougher. Getting published feels almost impossible.

My rejection folder is enormous. I have an interesting relationship with this stack of rejection. On one hand, it’s hard not to take it personally. It is after all one agent after another telling me they aren’t interested in what I poured my heart into. On the other, it’s nothing personal. We all have opinions about what we like to read. My only saving grace is that I’ve never had an literary agent tell me my writing sucks and that I should just give up. I know writers get this sometimes and so far I’ve been lucky. It’s just frustrating on so many levels that I can’t seem to break through the barriers.

The soul crushing truth is writing means failing a lot. Not only in the ridiculous number of failed drafts, but in the process as a whole.

Yet, I persist. I’m too stubborn to let the failure win.

I took a little break from the query process to regroup after the last batch of rejections, (30 rejections hit pretty hard). Then, last month I took a writing workshop on query letters and the synopsis. While much of the information wasn’t anything new to me, I still walked away with a renewed sense of purpose. It’s amazing what being among writers in the same situation can do!

This week I sent off a brand new volley of query packages. I must be a glutton for punishment. Most writers seem to be, so I’m in good company. As a matter of fact, I already got my first rejection from this batch. It was pretty swift and painful, but not unexpected.

I’m bracing myself for more to come, but I keep reminding myself I only need one yes. All the no’s don’t matter, it’s the yes I’m after.

Persistence is key.

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c.b.w. 2017

 

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Plugging Along

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Summer’s reprieve from the day job leaves me with a lot of time to relax (which I desperately need no matter how much I try to deny it) and dig into the To Do List I created instead of New Year’s Resolutions. As with all lists, some items are easier than others!

Item #1 Declutter

It’s a work in progress, but I have made some headway. Two out of three closets at home are cleared and so is most of the junk I was hoarding in my classroom. I’m pretty sure my colleagues thought I was losing my mind – I tossed out an entire three-drawer file cabinet of handouts and folders, (all for classes I no longer teach). Then, I got rid of a ton of stuff from my supply cabinets, bookshelves, and office storage area.

However, what I’m most proud of is thinning out my Barbie collection. I’ve been collecting for most of my life, which lead to amassing more than 120 dolls and accessories. To say I’m attached to them is an understatement. Yet, I realized that my preferences as a collector have changed, so I sold or gave away 24 dolls and there are more I’m looking to clear out. It was surprisingly easy to do once I made the choice to let them go.

I still haven’t touched the DVD or CD shelf. Yikes – they are pretty daunting.

My writing area is better, but not organized. Everything is in a box until I decide what to do with all the shelving units in the guest room.

Item #2: Publish Something

I’ve made some good headway on this front, too. The summer actually started with a piece of fan mail from an avid reader of my poetry blog, Haiku Tree. She wanted to know if I had any books out and that gave me quite the boost to work on my chapbook! So far, I have 75 haikus selected from my journals. The goal is to get to 100, so I’m getting close. I’m writing all new pieces for the last 25.

Last month, I attended a query package workshop at Phoenix Comicon. It ended up being the kick in the pants I needed. I rewrote my query letter, cranked out a synopsis, and compiled a new list of agents. This week, I started putting together query packages with all my new materials for each agent on my list. While the sting of rejection is imminent, I’m jumping in head first. Let’s do this!

Item #3: Read 35 Books

I’m right on track according to Goodreads! At the moment, I am reading Book #17.

Item #4: Survive National Board Certification

Done. I’m still alive. I finished the final component last month, but I won’t know until November or December if I scored high enough to be certified. Fingers crossed!

Item #5: Take Better Care of Myself

Working on it. Being away from the day job is helping, but finding my mojo after such a stressful year has been challenging. I’m using some of my summer time to rediscover all the things I gave up during the school year.

One thing is certain, when the school year starts up again, I am determined to protect myself and my time.

Item #6: Go Somewhere

This is delayed. The furbaby needs a lot of special care. If that means staying home, then I’m staying home for the time being. Meanwhile, I will be planning a future adventure! I finally sent my application to renew my passport.

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How are your goals To Do List items going?

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c.b.w. 2017

To Do List: 2017

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I hesitate to make so-called resolutions, but I do love a good to-do list. Instead of making the oh so predictable list of goals for the year, I’m going to dig through the list of things in my head I keep meaning to do. These are things that keep piling up thanks to life getting in the way or they are simply forgotten in the cluttered mess that is my head.

Item #1: Declutter

Give the state of my head, this one makes sense! However, the clutter in my head is only part of the problem. The house is cluttered, My classroom is cluttered. The past is cluttered.

The last one is probably why everything else in my life is full of just too much. After four years of many personal losses, it’s been hard to let things go. The fact that I have awareness and understanding of this fact is why I’m now able to move forward. I no longer need to hold onto so many things to feel anchored. I can let go.

The following areas are where I’m focusing my energy:

Shelves

  • Bookshelves throughout the house. This is actually where I started. On January 1, I cleared out close to 150 books.
  • DVD shelf – we have almost 1,000 DVDs. There’s no way we need that many. Clearly, we love TV and Movies, but I know there are quite a few duds on the shelf!
  • CD Shelf – Same deal as the DVD shelf. There is some weird stuff on this shelf and it’s time to sift out the duds.

Closets: There’s too much of just about everything: blankets, sheets, clothes, shoes, etc.

  • master closet
  • linen closet
  • hobby closet

Hobby/Guest Room

  • Multiple shelves jammed with stuff (not even sure what)
  • Barbie Collection – I have close to a hundred dolls, but I want the collection to be more streamlined to reflect my love of vintage and vintage-look dolls. So far, I’ve pulled 21 dolls to give away or sell. 

Writing Area

  • One of the biggest culprits of clutter are old journals, multiple novel drafts, and writing reference books. A lot of this comes from figuring out who I am as a writer. I’ve figured it out and now it’s time to sort through the paper trail and discard what no longer matters, (i.e. rough drafts, journals full of scribbles).

Classroom

  • Supply closet – OMG. So much stuff has landed here over 17 years.
  • Storage area in department office – started this last year, but more work needs to be done

Item #2: Publish Something

Over the last couple of years, I’ve written over a thousand haiku. I think it’s about time to put together a chapbook or two! I’m probably going to self-publish using a digital platform. There are so many options out there, many of which are free, so I don’t have much of an excuse not to do this!

The same goes for my novel. I’m going to get back into the game of sending out query packages, but I’m also going to dig deeper into research regarding self-publishing outlets. It’s time to get this done!

Item #3: Read 35 Books

As I have for the last five years, I’ve once again joined the Goodreads Reading Challenge.

Item #4: Survive National Board Certification

The road to National Board Certification has been brutal. It is not fun navigating a newly rolled out process because there are so many unknowns. Previously certified teachers can’t really help, nor can the coaches. I have one more component to finish and hopefully it will be enough to not only survive, but achieve National Board Certification.

Item #5: Take Better Care of Myself

I need to eat better, sleep better, and leave more stress at the door. I let the day job invade much too large of a space in my life and it’s time to push it back to where it belongs: at work.

Item #6: Go Somewhere

I miss traveling. It’s time for another adventure. 🙂

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What’s on your To Do List for 2017?

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c.b.w. 2017

November Challenges: Week #4

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The close of November brought the end of both NaNoWriMo and the Poem A Day Challenge (via Poetic Asides on Writer’s Digest). By some miracle, I managed to complete my goals for both challenges despite a few days of writer’s block and the Thanksgiving holiday.

NaNoWriMo

Early Bird word count: 1,611

Week 1 word count: 3,262

Week 2 word count: 4,567

Week 3 word count: 3,535

Week 4 word count: 2,416

Total: 15,391

I hit my goal of 15,000 words (plus a little more). It doesn’t get any better than that! All I can say is I’m grateful for planning a little bit ahead when I clocked in three early bird writing days. I knew Thanksgiving weekend was going to be crazy, so I worked in a few extra days beforehand to alleviate the stress of cramming in writing time while also trying to spend time with family. Thank goodness the only pantsing going on was with the actual writing, rather than with scheduling!

The Month’s Trends:

I pantsed it the entire time!

I fully expect to be referencing my notebook during the next phase of my novel, but the first seven chapters were completed pantsed. And I loved every second of it! I never would have guessed it, but pantsing is quite liberating.

I’ve always planned everything I write, but this time my characters had other things in mind. I fully intend on giving them more control as the process continues. Why bother fighting them? They know their story best, right?

Music Matters

I’ve always used carefully constructed playlists to help fuel my muse’s imagination. Even with pantsing, this is still true. Imagine Dragons, Junip, and Muse all played a key role in giving my main characters a deeper sense of emotion, while also unearthing some pretty interesting secrets.

I have a lucky charm.

My typewriter key pendant has become a talisman of inspiration. I don’t know if I’m just imagining things, but my writing time always seemed to go a little smoother when I wore it. I’ll be wearing it until The Muse’s sequel is finished.

There’s always time to write.

Is my life crazy busy? Yes. But this month has reminded me that there is always time to write. I just have to want it bad enough. Small sacrifices had to be made, but it was worth it overall to get the chance to tell the story that’s been inside my head for so long.

November Poem A Day Challenge

A month of poeming has come to an end and I’m proud to say I wrote a poem for each day in November. I had to play catch-up a couple of times, but I still completed the challenge on time.

The next step is choosing 20 poems to create a chapbook submission. I’ve entered this competition several times before without success, but I’ll jump in again anyway. It’s free to enter and I love the challenge of piecing together a collection. I learn something every year about what works and what doesn’t when selecting poems for a chapbook.

The last batch of poems I wrote for the PAD challenge will be posted on my haiku blog, Haiku Tree, throughout this week. Check it out!

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How did you fare on your goals for November?

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c.b.w. 2016

 

A Plan For NaNoWriMo

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Over the last few days, I’ve asked myself if it’s actually a good idea to do NaNoWriMo. My schedule is already ridiculously full and my stress level is already off the charts. Do I really need to add writing 500 words a day to my insane list of things to do?

In a word: YES. Writing is actually a stress reliever for me. Just like knitting helps me sleep (the repetition helps to slow down the thought train in my brain), writing lets me escape everything giving me a headache.

The only thing I’m worried about is having a enough time to complete 500 words. From past experience, I know I can punch out 500 words in an hour if I’m really focused. During the work week finding that kind focus will be challenging.

To deal with the work week challenge, I’m giving myself the freedom to have variant word count days as long as I hit a weekly goal of 3,500 words (which works out to 500 words/day). Some days I’ll be happy to get 200 words, while on others I might get up to 1,000. I know this isn’t how NaNoWriMo traditionally works, but I know what will work best for me!

I have several days off in November due to Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. I’ll be using those days off to their full advantage, along with weekends. Hopefully, I’ll be able to work ahead whenever the day job isn’t taking up 12 hours of my day.

We’ll see how it goes. While I’m motivated to dig into my novel, I’m also realistic. If I make my goals, great. If not, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. This is supposed to be a fun stress reliever, not a source of stroke inducing deadlines!

In any case, I hope my favorite coffee shop ordered extra mocha so they can keep me happily caffeinated while I write!

Stay tuned for updates on progress!

What’s your plan for NaNoWriMo?

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c.b.w. 2016