The Biggest Mistake I Made…

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…when I started writing.

I thought it might be fun to think back over the past six or seven years of my writing career and think about the mistakes I made, especially at the beginning. No one is perfect.

Everyone screws up in one way or another.

I’m no different.

When it comes to writing itself, my biggest mistake, in the beginning, was trying to be a non-autistic author. And by that I mean, I read lots of advice in blogs, books, and online. All of it was geared towards neurotypicals (as is most self-help.)

Much of that advice is great–unless you’re autistic or neurodivergent.

And the mistake I made was trying to make myself fit into that mold. A mold I was never going to be able to fit into. Setting goals and tasks for myself that I was never going to be able to complete.

It led to burn out. Disappointment. And put me into a bad place mentally for a while.

I had to fight my way back to enjoying writing.

The biggest lesson I learned was finding what works for me.

Finding it and accepting that what works for a non-autistic author will likely not work for me. And that’s okay. It’s okay to need a little extra help from my publisher. It’s okay to not be able to do ‘all the must do things to be a successful author.’

It’s okay to just be me.

And to just do what works for me.

What is failure?

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I don’t know is the short answer.

2019 was a year from hell, personally. Hospital visits. A husband diagnosed with heart failure. A death in the family. A car accident where my aforementioned husband almost drove off a mountain (only being mildly hyperbolic.)

If it could go wrong, it went wrong in 2019.

And I remember thinking fuck, 2020 has to be better, right?

I set goals. Intentions. A word for the year. I was so hopeful about 2020.

Or maybe, cautiously optimistic.

And to borrow a quote from George RR Martin…”ah, sweet summer child.” How wrong I was.

2020 hit like a wrecking ball and hasn’t slowed down since.

Initially, I found myself feeling like a failure because every time I set a deadline or goal, I had to move the finish line. It’s been three years in a row of taking longer to write novels that I did in 2017 or 2018.

It feels a lot like failure but it isn’t.

The thing is that finishing any creative project in difficult times takes strength and resilience.

So what if I didn’t cross the line I set for myself within the time frame that I thought I would?

I still finished.

Maybe it takes months longer than expected but finishing a project is success.

Not failure.

And seriously, if you’ve managed to complete any sort of creative project during the trashfire of the last few years?

You should consider it a massive success.

Do the Job

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Do The Job.

It’s a phrase written on the dry erase board over my bookshelf. A small reminder to myself. Do. The. Job.

I don’t remember where I saw it, initially. I think a friend shared something on Instagram. I don’t remember. It stuck in my head, though. And I scribbled it on the board over a year ago.

Do the job.

The job in question?

Writing.

I love to write. It’s what ‘brings me joy.’ My head becomes way too cluttered when I don’t. Some days I’m working on a novel, others I’m writing simply for my own entertainment.

Stories I’ll never share with the world.

My hobby?

Writing.

My way to relax?

Writing.

My job?

Writing.

And therein lies the problem.

When one of your hobbies or ways to relax becomes ‘the job,’ it adds a lay of stress to your joy. It adds a deadline. Responsibilities. I don’t just want to write–I have to.

It’s often a struggle. One of the reasons I wrote the phrase on my board was a reminder. If it’s what I do, I need to do it.

Take a break when required.

Step back when needed.

But eventually, I have to do the job and write.

Writing Advice Revisited

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In 2016, I wrote a post about writing advice that boiled down to simply sitting in a chair and writing. Still true. But I can think of a few more things I’ve learned in the last five years so I thought I’d revisit the post.

First, Do Not Respond To Reviews. And especially don’t respond to bad reviews. Don’t call the readers out. Stay off Goodreads if it’s bad for your mental health. Nothing good ever comes from responding to a negative review.

So, just don’t. Don’t track the reviewers down either. It’s unhealthy, at the very least.

Second, take all advice on writing with a grain of salt because what works for one author might not work for you.

Third, toxic productivity is a thing. Don’t get sucked into the idea you have to write/publish at a particular pace. It will only lead to burn out.

Fourth, read your contracts carefully.

Fifth, find people who want to support you with no strings attached. It’s brilliant when you have a healthy connection to other authors or people in the writing community. Just be careful about expectations.

Sixth, there are many paths to publishing. Find one that works for you.

Seventh, a good editor is worth their weight in gold.

Eighth, not every story is yours to tell.

Ninth, don’t steal images from photographers. Seriously. Don’t. If plagiarism in books bothers you, stealing from photographers should as well.

Tenth, or maybe 9.5, learn what you can about copyrights. It can help you avoid a lot of scary legal trouble.

Fighting Your Muse.

Inspiration

I’m writing this blog post on Sunday. And my brain is all over the place. It’s hard to find peace and joy when the world seems chaotic and filled with pain.  And writing a holiday novella seems almost impossible.

Though, that is not the topic of this post.

I wanted to talk about fighting your muse. Something I don’t recommend, and something I frequently do as a pantser.

My muse likes to dump ideas on me constantly at inconvenient times and places.

In the middle of writing a story?

My bastard of a muse: “here’s a brilliant and completely unrelated idea.”

Falling asleep?

My muse: “Have you considered….”

In the shower?”

My Muse: “I am a genius.”

So when do you fight the muse?

It can be dangerous to ignore good ideas. I mean, they’re good. You want to write them.

Some ideas I have to let go because I don’t think they’re mine to write. Others I jot down in my idea notebook (I start a new one every year.) And some, I start immediately because my brain won’t quit.

The key is to know when to battle your muse into submission–like when you have a deadline and don’t have time for a new idea.

And when to go with the flow.

How about you?

Does your muse flood you with ideas at the worst moments?

 

 

 

An Open Letter To Myself

….well, a letter to twenty-year-old me.

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Dear Self,

First, you’re going to be okay. Divorce is scary, but it’s not the end of the world.

Second, you’re autistic. I know you think you have some terminal illness because you get so tired after being around people. It’s okay. You’re autistic. And you’re going to be so relieved when you find out.

Third, you will fall in love again.

Fourth, the divorce was about him…not you. He’s been divorced three more times since you.

Fifth, you’re brilliant. And you can write. You just have to believe enough in yourself to try.

Now, stop crying into the ice cream.

He’s not worth it.

You’re going to be fine.

Love,

Me

 

Own Your Shit. Dump The Rest.

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The gif has nothing to do with this post aside from the fact that I’m writing it on a Thursday morning when not even coffee is enough to get my brain in gear.

So, buckle up.

The other day I was playing a video game. It’s a multiplayer game. Now, I turn off the open chat because I’ve no interest in listening to the misogynistic nonsense that is prevalent in the gaming world.

While standing around waiting for an in-game event to start, another gamer began harassing my character.

This is how it started.

My character is literally just standing still playing a lute. (It’s a game emote you can do to kill time.) My character is female. Another gamer comes over and begins trying to engage me.

He swings his weapon at my character.

I keep playing my lute.

He gets tired of being annoyed, so he runs over toward a group of enemies nearby and uses one of his powers to drag the enemy over to my character which forces me to engage with the creature to avoid being killed.

I kill the enemy then go back to playing the lute.

This happened four times.

And I’m starting to get pissed off. Why does this always happen? I just want to play my lute and wait for the in-game event. Being pissed off causes me to also be stressed out, which is terrible for my blood pressure issues.

And that’s when it hits me.

You know, this jackass is just doing this to get a reaction.

So, I leave.

Own your shit. I can only control myself. No matter how annoyed another person makes me, I can’t force them to change. So? Controlling my shit means leaving an area to find somewhere else to play. It’s a massive game, I easily found another event without the annoying asshole.

And that’s the dump the rest part.

That dickhead? Not my responsibility. I shook off my annoyance and continued to enjoy the game.

Why should I let a perfect stranger ruin my enjoyment?

I owned my shit. And dumped the rest.

Can you relate?