Pitfalls and Mountain Climbing

As a writer, I find there are infinite pitfalls of self-doubt and whole periods of time where all I do is question whether or not my writing skills are worthy. Are they good enough for the books I so badly want to author? Do my words inspire others to jump into the lives of my characters and love the story so much that they want nothing more than to drown out the world around them as they race with reckless abandon to the last chapter? Is my prose moving without being ‘purple?’ And for the love of all that is holy, do I have any talent at all?!

pitfall
A different kind of Pitfall maybe, but the writing journey can feel about this treacherous.

It’s frustrating when you’ve been refining your craft for years and still have nothing tangible to show for it. I’ve been writing seriously for seven years, querying for three, and am currently drafting my fourth manuscript. I’ve gotten paid to ghostwrite blogs I’ll never get credit for. I’ve entered several online writing mentoring competitions like PitchWars and Sun vs. Snow and I’ve yet to be selected as a mentee. I’ve pitched in Twitter pitch contests like PitMad and SonOfAPitch. I’ve pitched in person to agents at the Write Angles Conference and at the Philadelphia Writing Workshop. And in the midst of it all, I have made dozens of amazing writer friends* who have been there to support and cheer me on at every step of the game. (As I do for them as well! Writers make really good cheerleaders!)

And yet all of this ‘failure’ on the professional end of things takes a toll on a writer’s ego. (Yes, I know it’s not real failure. It’s *experience.*) One might say it’s all about leveling up. Lots of XP for me!

level up

The fact remains that I couldn’t not write even if I wanted to. So it means the world to me when people around me are supportive of my decision to pursue my passion, even when the going gets rough. Support is everything. I made the decision a few weeks ago to attend the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC this year. The location alone makes it a pricey conference, but the WDC is one of the bigger conferences with tons of relevant industry info and it offers a great opportunity to participate in PitchSlam—a sort of speed dating for writers hoping to find agents who will represent them and agents looking for writers to represent.

About a week ago, I lamented to my husband about the price of the workshop, feeling guilty about spending so much on myself. (Because until I’m actually making some sort of professional progress, it still feels like a frivolous expense—the same as a pedicure might…only about ten times the cost.) He reassured me that he wanted me to go and that he was going to make sure we could afford it, even if he had to do some eBaying to make it work out.

Fast-forward a day or so and I had a repeat of the same conversation with my mother, only she didn’t offer to eBay anything off for me. No, she waited a couple of days, conferred with my father, then texted me this:

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How do you argue with that?

If you don’t come from an Italian-American household, let me fill you in.

You don’t. You can’t argue. It’s like trying to bulldoze a mountain.

And so I’ll take them up on their offer not because I really have a choice, but because I know it’s not about the money. It’s about having a family who supports my dream unconditionally. It’s about the support they want to provide to me in the way that they can. I’m lucky. Luckier than most.

So, I’ll go to the Writer’s Digest Conference this summer and maybe I’ll reach the summit of this mountain.

Or at least base camp.

Yeah, I could be content with base camp.

 

 

* Seriously, NEVER underestimate the power of amazing writer friends! Xoxoxo!

2017 Stats

Hey, writers and readers! It’s once again that time when everyone you know in the writing world looks back and reflects proudly on their accomplishments throughout the past year. I’ll admit that when I look at the writing statistics of other writers & authors this year, I immediately relapse into another bout of Imposter Syndrome. Just who do I think I am, anyway?

Sometimes I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished very much at all, and that’s why I decided to publish my list of 2017 statistics. Given all the things that occurred in the Personal category, I guess I didn’t do so badly in the Writing category all in all…

Writing

Manuscript words written: >71,000
Manscripts queried: 1
Query rejections: 40
Query no responses: 9
Requests for partial: 3
Requests for full: 2
First draft manuscripts finished: 1
Second draft manuscripts finished: 1
Third draft manuscripts finished: 0
First draft manuscripts started: 1
Total accumulative completed manuscripts (2011-2017): 3
Writing conferences attended: 1
Online pitch contests entered: 3
Writing friends made: too numerous to count
Blog posts written: 32

Professional

Jobs applied for & not offered: 2
Internships applied for & not offered: 2

Political

Letters to congress sent: 110+
Rallies & marches attended: 2
Petitions signed: A lot
Political posts on social media: enough to annoy a lot of people

Personal

Days caring for cancer survivor: 209
Trips (as driver & caregiver) to Emergency Room: 3
Days spent in hospital with loved one: 11
Trips to Philadelphia for medical care: 23
Days as Mom: 365 (24/7)
Lives led: 1

If a Writer Logs On

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If a writer logs on,
she’ll want to check her email before she starts working.
When she checks her email,
she’ll see she someone tagged her on Facebook.
She’ll log into Facebook,
and see she has three messages.
When she checks her messages,
she’ll notice one of them is from a writer friend.
When she connects with her writer friend,
she’ll click on the friend’s link to an agent tweet.
When she clicks on the link,
she’ll have to log into Twitter.
When she logs into Twitter,
she’ll see five notifications.
When she opens her notifications,
she’ll want to reply to all of them.
When she’s finished replying to them,
she’ll have gotten six more notifications.
The notifications will remind her that it’s the day of a pitch contest.
So she’ll work furiously on 140 character pitches.
She’ll fake tweet them 12 times to check her character length,
and then she’ll remember that she needs to leave space for the hashtag.
She’ll rewrite the pitches another 18 times.
When she finally has them right,
she’ll set her phone alarm to remind her to tweet periodically throughout the day.
But her phone will remind her that she needed to return her mother’s call,
so she’ll call her mom to chat.
When she’s done talking to her mom,
the first alarm on her phone is buzzing.
She’ll log into Twitter to tweet her first pitch.
Since she’ll have an hour before her next pitch,
she figures she’ll do some writing.
So she’ll open her current WIP.
She’ll read three paragraphs and begin to wonder why she ever wrote them.
Wondering why she wrote them will lead to self-doubt.
Self-doubt will lead her to log into Facebook to talk to her writer friend.
Her writer friend will convince her that her writing is not garbage,
but only after a lengthy chat.
About the time the chat winds down,
the phone alarm buzzes to remind her to tweet her second pitch.
She’ll log into Twitter and discover her first pitch hasn’t been favorited.
Feeling defeated already, she’ll tweet her second pitch.
Then she’ll close her laptop because she just can’t stomach defeat.
An hour later, she’ll regain her determination and decide to write,
so she’ll open her laptop to write.
And chances are, if she opens her laptop,
she’ll want to log on.

Tweet On

twitter-logo-1Once upon a time, writing was really a very solitary activity. Writers would hole up in a room by themselves, channel their inner muse (and hope that she showed up), and tap away on their typewriter (or – GASP – word processor) until a finished manuscript managed to produce itself. This was before the time of the internet, of course. Certainly before Twitter.

Now writers spend half their time chatting with other writers on Twitter about the difficulties of writing.

And that’s okay.

(What? You thought I was about to get preachy, no?)

Sure, Twitter can be a major distraction, but it’s also a tremendous source of encouragement. I’ve learned more about the writing process, the fourteen different stages of going from writer to published author (Okay, you got me – I picked that number at random. It may not actually be fourteen.), and the sheer determination (in addition to talent) needed to keep going on those days when it seems like the only thing you’re good at is pressing the backspace key as many times as you hit all the other keys combined.

The writing community on Twitter is an overwhelmingly positive source of support and encouragement, and provides an endless supply of knowledge from those writers who are one, two, or ten steps ahead of you in the writing journey.

I can’t lie. Shamefully, when I first joined Twitter, my intent was to stalk. I wan’t online to interact. I just wanted to learn. Putting my own sentiments out there into the infinite space of the web was not high on my list of things to do. (Ha! Says the lady who is now blogging…) Besides, what knowledge could I possibly impart onto others?

Guess what? I was wrong. (Really, someone take a screen grab of that… My husband will want to frame it.) Seriously, though, even though I feel like I have little to share with emerging writers, the fact is, I still have encouragement. And the longer I’ve been involved with the online writing community, the more info I have to share.

One of the best ways to get involved and to befriend other writers is to enter online writing contests, contests like #PitMad, #PitchMadness, #PitchWars, and #QueryKombat.  (There are lots more, but you get the point!) Most of the time, the outcome of these contests will leave you crying in despair, wondering if you’re ever going to make it. But the object of writing contests isn’t to “make it.” It’s to encourage interaction and fine tune your craft. To learn.

And it works. The evidence is in the dozens of writers who see an uptick in interest in their work after entering contest after contest. Contests aren’t a measure of your worth as a writer. (Or, for that matter, as a human being!) They are a measure of your skill as a writer, your potential to construct a query that will grab an agent’s attention, and your ability to sell yourself and your work in a simple elevator pitch (one preferably without the “Uh’s” and “Um’s”).

So the next time you find yourself on Twitter and you suspect you might be stalling (because, admit it, you’re stumped on that one scene), give yourself a free pass to continue tweeting. It’ll make you a better writer.

And if it doesn’t?

Well, you’ll have new friends, and that’s always a win.