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:

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 10.41.06 PM

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!

These Boots Are Made For Walking

Let’s talk shoes. What? That’s not related to writing?

Of course it is! Bear with me.

I love shoes. I know what you’re thinking already, but trust me when I say you’ve got it all wrong.  To clarify, I love a single pair of shoes. So what are they? Pretty little red ballet flats? Sexy black kitten heels? Strappy summer sandals?

No.

No.

And no.

They’re these.

boots

Purple, waterproof hiking boots by Ahnu. They’re considerably more beat up now than they were when I took this photo two years ago, but I love them no less (and they were especially wonderful on numerous hikes during my cross-country trip in 2015)!

What do I love most about them? I mean, why in the world would I dedicate a blog post to shoes?

These aren’t just shoes, my friend. These are the most kickass pair of boots I’ve ever owned. They’re comfortable. (Oh so comfortable!) And that’s what’s important. I love adorable shoes as much as the next gal, but every time I’ve tried to buy shoes because they’re “cute,” they sit in my closet and never get worn. So why bother? Why waste my time and money on something that I’ll never actually use?

The same goes for writing.

I’ve read work by so many different authors — authors whose voice pops off the page, authors who create characters I want to invite to lunch, authors who describe settings so beautifully, so poetically, and with such prose that makes me wish I could hop on a plane and get myself to wherever that main character might be because surely it’s heaven. (This is considerably harder if you read fantasy and the character is not on Earth, of course.)

But reading books by authors whose writing strengths are different from my own can have a debilitating effect on my writing. When I put down a really well-written book, I instantly fall into despair, knowing that my own work could never compare!

My writing will never be that good! I’ll never be able to capture a scene like that! What am I thinking???

Back to the boots. I don’t wear flashy heels because I can’t pull them off. (God, I wish I could. At 5 feet, I could use the height.) I don’t do the strappy sandal thing because I’m not a Greek goddess. (I’m not even Greek.)

So, I stick to what I do best. Yes, other writers have their strengths, but in admiring those strengths, it’s important not to get so caught up in my awe that I forget my own strengths. I, too, have strengths.

My point? As a writer, it’s okay to appreciate what other writers do well. (It’s encouraged!) It’s even okay to experiment with different writing styles to see what works for you (also a good idea!), but don’t get so intent on mimicking someone else’s style that you lose what makes your writing yours. Your voice is important. Willingly giving up your own style because you think it’ll “look better” if you do what works for another writer is akin to putting on a pair of heels half a size too small. Sure, you can fit your foot in there, but at the end of the day, do you really still want those shoes on your feet? Are they comfortable?

Forget about flashy. Stick with comfort. The “next big thing” could be anything, and maybe, just maybe, purple hiking boots are the next J.K. Rowling.

(Probably not.)

(Okay, definitely not.)

(But stay comfortable anyway.)