Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Getting the Most Out of Writing

I started writing when I was in high school.  Back then, I had stars in my eyes and a misconception about the publishing world.  I had teachers tell me I was good and encouraged me to keep doing it.  I enjoyed it; I had fun.

I never submitted anything back in those days.  I remember going to the library and looking up agents in a huge book, which I can't remember the name of right now.  The Internet was still new and young and not a place I turned to daily for information.  I had grand ideas in my head, but I never followed through.  I never actually sent a query letter.

When I got to college, I still attempted to write.  It was difficult to write for enjoyment since most of my time was spent studying and writing term papers.  I still enjoyed writing, but it was a different kind.  I took fiction classes, and that's when I got my first dose of reality.

There was a particular professor that, for whatever reason, tore students down and forced them get out of the writing game.  Some of my other classmates speculated it was because she viewed us as competition and was trying to weed us out.  Whatever her motivation, she totally shook my confidence.  I didn't give up completely, though, I continued to take other writing classes, only to have other professors tell me they couldn't fairly grade the genre I wrote in.  I wrote fantasy while the professor was a literary writer.

I was crushed, hurt, and angry--mainly angry.  I didn't care if I never wrote again.  When I got a job at an environmental consulting firm, I met back up with a friend I knew from college.  She encouraged me to start writing again and to submit my stuff to publishers.  I was leery, but I did it.  And I got things accepted.

The road wasn't always easy, though.  To this day I continue to get bombarded with rejections and my confidence gets shaken.  I question my ability to write and I wonder why I waste my time.  Looking back, my professors really weren't trying to be mean, they were trying to be honest.  The world of publishing is a harsh place.  It chews you up and spits you out.  If you're not ready for that, it will destroy you.  Heck, even if you are ready for it, it still takes its toll.

Everyone tells you to prepare for the slew of rejections that will come your way because they will come your way.  But even if you know that, it doesn't always make things easier.  They say to persevere and continue trying, which is really good advice, and you should, but you also need to know when to take a break. 

No one told me it was all right to take a step back and take a break.  I figured I had to keep cranking out stories, hoping one of them would eventually land me on the bestseller list.  I burned out, got angry again, and didn't care if I never wrote again.  Writing stopped being fun.  It turned into a stress and worry.  It should never come to that.

It's okay to step back every once in a while and regroup.  For your mental health and stability, I would recommend taking at least a week, if not more.  Go outside, hang out with friends, veg in front of the TV, read a book.  Do anything but write.  I know it's hard, I know it makes you feel guilty, but sometimes it has to be done.  I find myself revived and re-energized after these breaks, and it helps me do revisions with fresh eyes.  Besides, sometimes it's just nice to get away.  Even your imaginary friends need a vacation once in a while.

Pembroke Sinclair has had several short stories published.  Her story, “Sohei,” was named one of the Best Stories of 2008 by The Cynic Online Magazine.  She has novellas and a short story collection available from Musa Publishing and eTreasures Publishing.  Her two novels, Coming from Nowhere (adult, sci fi) and Life After the Undead (YA, horror), are available from eTreasures Publishing, as well as Death to the Undead (YA, sequel to Life After the Undead), which is forthcoming.  Life After the Undead was a Top Ten Finisher in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll in the YA category and the cover art category.

As Jessica Robinson, from March 2008 to January 2011, she wrote scientific articles for Western Farmer-Stockman.  Her nonfiction book, Life Lessons from Slasher Films, is available from Scarecrow Publishing (an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield).

Jessica/Pembroke received her Master’s in English, and she is a freelance content editor for Musa Publishing, as well as a former content and line editor for eTreasures Publishing.  You can read her blog here.

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