Am I Lost in a Fictional World?

Can creative writing be considered a mental illness?

 

Creative writing crazinessIf you love it too much, does it actually take over your mind, for good?

I’m a proud, card-carrying weirdo, and I’m certainly a top contender for geek-of-the-year (for over thirty years, running), but when it comes to writing the Perspective book series with Amanda, I am taken to an entirely different oddity plane. I stop living here and I start living on an entirely different world that exists inside my head.

On any given day, I think about the books, the characters, and the future direction of the plot, more times than I can count. I can honestly say that an hour hasn’t passed in fourteen years in which I have not thought about something happening on the planet Qarradune, at least once.

Writers are known for being a little bit on the different side (to say the least). I think the entire artistic community – actors, painters, authors, sculptors, singers, etc – has a certain requirement in terms of being somewhat strange. But at the same time, as much as I’m glad to be unique (some might say that “unique” is a rather kind way to describe myself), I do wonder if I am crossing the line from being a quirky artist in the creative writing world, and stepping over into madness.

Am I supposed to think about a fictional world this much? Are people who are figments of my imagination and who interact with people who are figments of Amanda’s imagination supposed to matter more to me than some of the characters I have met in real life?

The thing is, allowing my mind to drift over to Qarradune so that I can mentally hang-out with Irys Godeleva, Megan Wynters, Thayn Varda, and Acksil makes me very, very happy. Even Galnar can bring the occasional twisted smile to my face…hmmm, maybe I should be questioning the sanity of that, too…

Perspective book series - crazy writerOccasionally, I think that the fact that I am this passionate about the book is a good sign. A lot of famous authors are, after all, known for completely losing themselves in their fictional worlds, to very extreme degrees. Then again, many of those authors are also known for struggling with the real world and escaping through hard-core drugs or a permanent visit to the bottom of a river.

Will I be able to recognize if I ever make that leap from peculiar or eccentric to plain-old nuts?

For now, I plan to embrace my bizarre side and to keep loving the world that flows from my mind and out through my words. Hopefully, someone will let me know if I’ve made Qarradune my forever-home, so that they might help me come back to Earth to visit, now and again.

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Take a Break – Free Yourself from Writer’s Block

I’ve recently joined Goodreads as an author and one of the site’s recommendations is to answer a few general questions that people frequently ask authors. Since I was looking for a little inspiration for my blog this week, I figured I’d make one of the questions I was asked by Goodreads the subject of my blog.

The question is: “How do you deal with writer’s block?Writer's Block leaves you hanging

This might be a question that other writers may be able to answer in an instant. However, for me, this wasn’t the case. I really had to think about what solution works best for me when I’m struck with the big WB (no, I don’t mean a wrecking ball or Warner Brothers). The reason being, once I have overcome this maddening writer’s plague, I don’t spend much time reliving it or contemplating how I will be victorious the next time it strikes. Instead, I’m far too busy blasting through the block to care about what it was that finally gave me the power to smash through it.

That being said, what I did realize, as I gave it some thought, was that taking a mental break is what has always helped me to unshackle my mind and creative writing talents. While that is certainly not a revolutionary solution to the problem, it does work (for me, at least). Unfortunately, the trouble is that when I’m actually faced with writer’s block, the last thing that I usually want to do is take a break. I trick myself into thinking that if I keep writing, I’ll get past it.

This is the biggest mistake I make when I’m suffering from WB: I try to force myself to write. For me, this strategy is always a flawed plan. Forcing myself to write, when I am already discouraged, only makes the situation worse. Then, not only is my heart not in it, but I feel like an even bigger failure by the minute and I only make myself more frustrated. In the end, all I have successfully accomplished is to turn me into my own worst enemy, when what I should have done was supported myself, as I would have a friend, and cut myself some slack.

However, as soon as I take a brain break from what I’m writing and allow my mind to become fully distracted by other things, the block begins to lose fortitude. When I stop obsessively thinking about what I can’t do and what I’m not achieving, and turn my attention to other interests and activities, I’m reminded of a much bigger picture.

For overcoming writer’s block, the following are some activities I find to be especially therapeutic:

• Showering
• Taking a brisk walk or going for a run in fresh air
• Reading a book or watching a movie/TV that I greatly enjoy
• Getting proper rest (sleep does amazing things for thinking and memory!!)
• Playing a game (video or board games), especially with friends
• Engaging in a silly activity or conversation with friends
• Singing my favourite songs at the top of my lungs
• Dancing like no one is watchingWriter's Block Freedom

I’ve discovered that it doesn’t really matter what I do, what is important is that whatever I do choose, it’s got to take my mind 100% (or at least 90%) off of my writing struggles.

Finally, I’ve realized that not every case of WB is the same. There are occasions when it can be cured quickly, while in other instances it can last for what feels like forever. Regardless of how long it decides to stick around, don’t fight it directly and don’t rush yourself. Sometimes, the last thing that you want to do is the best thing that you can do for yourself. I hope I remember this the next time I’m faced with the block.

Thankfully, I’m not suffering from writer’s block at the moment, but if you are, my heart goes out to you and I’m sending you digital support and a digital hug (*hug*). Good luck and remember to cut yourself a bit of slack – you deserve it!

Thanks for reading 🙂

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Creative Writing: The Emotional Toll

Refusing to be the Little Engine that Couldn’t

I am SO tired! Okay, whining done. I just had to get that off my chest.

I love (love, love) creative writing, and knowing that other people will be reading what I have written (that is, what I have written with my exceptionally talented co-author, Amanda, of course) is a huge thrill for me. But, like so many other things in life, the extreme highs that writing brings to my life has also sent some powerful emotions at the other end of the scale.

love of creative writingGetting the book published is the start of the dream. It really is. But it isn’t just a matter of finding a company that will put the book on shelves and then sitting back to relax as you automatically become a bajillionaire whose works have been read by pretty much everybody.

To be fair, I was never under the impression that, after finding a publisher, my only other activities would be to decide who gets the movie and merchandise rights. I may have been living on the fictional world of Qarradune for the last 14 years, but it doesn’t mean that I’ve completely lost touch with reality.

Still, even after having been the owner and operator of a small business for more than a decade, I wasn’t entirely ready for everything that would be required of me in order to make sure that Amanda and I not only had a book, but that people would hear about it and read it, too.

Look, Ma! I’m a marketer..?

Marketing is fun for me. I genuinely like taking part in the ads, videos, social media, and all of the other steps that we have been taking. I like to bring a personal side to things. I’m not one for hard-sells, but I like the idea of opening up a conversation with readers and, hopefully, engaging them to the point that they see the book – the passion of my life – as something that they’d like to experience.

True…but I’m still a writer, first

I take part in marketing every day. I also work every day and I try to write Book 2 most days of the week (because what’s the point in having only one book in a series?). As is the case with everything in life, things go right and things go wrong.

hard work creative writingWhat’s different about the experience when it has to do with my creative writing is that it is not only immensely personal and important to me, but it’s also happening at a time when I am stretched about as thinly as I possibly can be. Nearly every minute of my day is filled. If I’m not working, marketing, or writing, I’m thinking about those things. I haven’t had a day off this year, and it doesn’t look like things are going to slow down at any time, soon.

Am I upset about this? Nope! This is exactly how it has to be. But at the same time, the lack of rest and the extreme range of emotions that all this entails are certainly taking their toll! The idea that the result of all of this hard work could put me in the spotlight has also sent my social anxiety into high gear…which only makes me more emotional.

But it’s worth it. When you find what you want in life and you don’t put everything into it, you’re making the decision to be the “Little Engine that Couldn’t”. That’s not going to be me. I’m going to keep trying, keep working, and keep putting myself out there because I know that this book is a lot of fun, I know that the second book is going to be even more exciting (we’ve laid out the first seven chapters so far and all I can say is “wowee-zowee!”), and I am going to do what it takes to keep my dreams coming true.

If that means the occasional random tears of exhaustion and a lot of genuine apologies for snapping at people when they didn’t deserve it, then I am willing to pay that toll. Knowing that people are reading and enjoying the Perspective book series means everything to me. I guess that means that I’ll need to become a version of myself who can handle it.

This is going to be interesting. Look out, world!

PS – Do you find that creative writing is something that puts you on a roller-coaster, too? Tell me about it in the comments, below. I’d love to know that I’m not the only one who is responding to the writing/publishing experience in this way.

Okay, I’m going to go cry now…then snap at somebody…then apologize 😉

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To shut-up or not to shut-up?

That is the question.

One of the greatest feelings in the world is accomplishing a huge success that not only you can see, but that others can see, as well. Writing a book and getting published is, without question, one of the most exciting experiences of my life and one of the most meaningful. Since Julie and I first completed our book, all we’ve wanted to do is to tell everyone we know (and don’t know) about our achievement. We are so very proud of ourselves and are not ashamed to admit it. We want to sing our praises, hear what other people have to say, and bask in the thrill of what we’ve accomplished.Talk - Perspective blog

However, as understandable as it may be that we want to glory in our success and announce it to the world, there comes a time when we need to shut-up about it. What I mean is if I constantly market our book and jam my spectacular success down everyone’s throats, they’re eventually going to become tired of what I’m feeding them and they will get sick of my self-proclaimed awesomeness. I wouldn’t blame them. I would, too.

I’m sure you know what I mean, reader. Have you ever known someone who only seems interested in talking about what they have achieved or who sounds like their own personal marketing campaign for their job, skills, creative work, or whatever other feat of which they are (and should be) proud? After a while, if that’s all you’re hearing, you get tired of it and, instead of feeling happy for this individual, you kind-of want them to shut up about it in the worst way.

That’s what I don’t want to happen to me. I don’t want the people in my life to go from thinking: “Congratulations! That’s fantastic news. I’m so happy for you. I can’t wait to hear more about it!” to: “I swear, if she brings up her book one more time I’m going to find every copy and burn it!”

Shhh!Don’t get me wrong, I have no intention of keeping quiet about our book. The only way people will hear about it and talk about it is if Julie and I spread the word and do our best to market it like there is no tomorrow. I’ve come to accept that this is likely going to irritate some people for a while (hopefully only to a minimal degree) because let’s face it, repetition gets on the nerves of most people at the best of times.

That being said, although I can take a few eye rolls in stride, I don’t ever want to reach the point where I start alienating people and losing support because were driving them crazy and they dread hearing about us and our book series.

I guess what I’m really trying to get at is it is tough to make a personal achievement the center of attention for the long-term, without annoying people and, at the same time, finding creative ways to keep them interested. It is a careful balance of knowing when to market and when not to market. Sometimes, that can be one heck of a slippery slope.

By the way, if you happen to be one of the people who is sick of hearing about our book, we’re sorry LOL! 😀

Thanks for reading!

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Becoming a Writer Who Reads

Perspective book series - Love at first plight - readingFor nearly a year, Amanda and I have been pouring all of our “free” time into the rewriting of Love at First Plight, which then turned into hours, days, and weeks of editing (and editing, and editing).

Throughout that time, the only fiction reading I did had to do with my own book (aside from a stretch of time in which I read 14 Superman/Batman-crossover graphic novels, but we don’t need to go there, right now). As much as I loved living inside the world of my own book, the process somehow managed to disconnect me from the works of other writers.

I wasn’t worried about it, at the time, but once Love at First Plight was published and I promised myself a break from reading those pages, I found myself playing game apps on my tablet, instead of reading. Shame on me!

The problem was, I had no idea what to read. In fact, I actually felt nervous about getting back into books again! It was as though I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to find my way into someone else’s fictional world. Could I really be locked in Qarradune, forever?

Being the determined (that’s such a kind way to say “stubborn”) person I am, I decided to ease my way back into the fiction of other writers, once more. I picked up a copy of Lyddie, by Katherine Paterson (Jacob Have I Loved, Jip, Bridge to Tarabitha). I have to say, I enjoyed every minute of it. I only wish that there was a second book, because I would have liked to continue following the main character! I’m looking forward to the next book that I’m going to read, too, The Palace of Laughter, which is the first in The Wednesday Tales book series.

Am I looking forward to getting back into Qarradune? I sure am! Amanda and I have already started Book 2 of the Perspective series and I am already head-over-heels in love with it. But I’m glad to say that even though I am a writer, I can still consider myself a reader.

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My Dream is Coming True…I’m Terrified!

This week, as of Monday, Amanda and I have been on Cloud 9. In fact, if there is a better cloud than 9, that’s where you can find us. Our first novel, Love at First Plight, the start of the Perspective book series is getting published. Our dream is coming true…and I am so freakin’ scared.

Love at First Plight published Perspective book seriesI know for a fact that I couldn’t have done this with anyone but my co-author. The rollercoaster of positive and negative stresses from having been let down by so many different people and so many different companies, and from having been thoroughly supported from our closest friends and family (and from some unexpected places, too), would have tested even the truest friendship. If I’d ever had any doubts in the strength of my friendship with Amanda, they’re certainly long-gone, now.

This book has threatened to bring out the ugliest in us, and has allowed us the opportunity to rise above it. At the risk of sounding completely full of myself, I’m going to declare that Amanda and I have done just that. We faced one challenge after the next, and now a story that we adore is getting started in a published book. I am very proud of our book and I am very proud of having survived the process of making it.

If you are a published author and you are reading this, my hat goes off to you. You have made it through a storm that cannot be understood by those who have not experienced it for themselves.

Notre Dame stained glass rose windowGetting a book published is like looking at the stained glass from the inside of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. It’s like crawling, climbing, and wriggling your way through the systems of tight limestone tunnels and vast caverns of the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky. It’s like trying a very good quality of chocolate for the very first time. It is like facing your fears, your insecurities, and your dreams, head-on, and discovering who you are when you reach the other side.

You can certainly imagine what all of those things would be like, but until you go through them for yourself, it is impossible to know the complete experience. Without fail, what you see, feel, hear, smell, or taste will be different, and greater, than what you had thought.

That’s exactly what this last week has been like for me. At first, I went through a stage of denial. After all, just knowing that Love at First Plight would be an e-book and a paperback didn’t create an immediate change in my life. Certainly, I felt excited, but nothing had technically happened, yet. I had bragging rights, of course, but there is still a lot of time left before the novels will be on the bookstore shelves.

That did move on to a feeling of excitement. Equally, I think that aside from being thoroughly ecstatic (and immensely impatient – I’m not exactly known for patience), the other reining emotion that I am feeling, at the moment, is terror! Since Monday, I have been very thrilled about the future of the Perspective book series, and yet, now that my dream is coming true, I wake up in the middle of the night, sweating, with a pounding in my chest. I love the book and its characters with every part of my heart, but now that world is about to be exposed to the world…that’s a terrifying thought!

It’s a great story. It really is. I wouldn’t have put my name on it and published it if I didn’t completely believe that. At the same time, I am aware of the fact that if I actually talk to people and tell them about it, then they’ll never be able to discover the story, for themselves! This places me in the spotlight, and as someone with a social anxiety disorder, that’s not exactly the most comfortable place for me.

There are few things that I want more in life than for Love at First Plight – and the Perspective series that follows – to be a tremendous success, but even as the hype begins to build among friends and family, I can feel a rapid heartbeat kicking in with every “tag” my name receives in a Facebook post.

Love at First Plight - Perspective book series 1I feel genuine excitement when someone mentions the Perspective book series page on that social network, but whenever the attention is aimed directly at me, I find myself shaking in my boots (or, more accurately, fuzzy purple slippers, since I don’t tend to wear boots when I’m at my computer). This is definitely something I’m going to need to work on if this book is to go somewhere. After all, I don’t think that the media would be satisfied with quotes taken from the book series Facebook page. I’m going to need to start being me, in front of real-live people.

This is going to be the most important “therapy” of my life. I need to ensure that people will hear about this book so that they can enjoy the world of Qarradune as much as I have for the last 14 years. I need to be there for Amanda and for Love at First Plight if I am going to keep this dream come true going.

It’s time for me to move beyond writing a strong female character who will take on the world so that she’ll achieve her goals and dreams. It’s time for me to become one, too.

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Plot Holes and Typos and Errors! Oh, my!

If you’ve ever edited your own writing, chances are that you have likely been amazed at the number of mistakes in your work. Even more maddening are the times when you continue to find glaring errors in what you had felt was a polished piece. Repeatedly spotting new problems in the same work starts to make you wonder if you are incapable of reading all of the words in a sentence or wondering if someone is playing a trick on you by adding mistakes on purpose, just to mess with your mind (and sanity)!

Importance of Editing Perspective Book SeriesThe continual discovery of new errors is a frustration that Julie and I have been facing since we began editing our manuscript. Although we knew that our first draft was far from flawless, I think what surprised me the most wasn’t the grammatical errors and typos that we found, but was rather the number of statements that were utterly nonsensical!

It is easy to forgive typos, laugh off word repetition, and shake your head at a massive run-on sentence. It’s even easy to accept certain grammatical errors if you don’t consider yourself a master of syntax. However, what I found particularly stinging to my pride was discovering that what I had originally thought was a powerful statement, turned out to be not only weak, but also didn’t make any sense!

If you’re a writer, you likely know that repeatedly proofing your work can be a real PITA (pain in the a**) and very discouraging, at times. Be that as it may, editing is an absolute must if you’re serious about producing something awesome that you will feel proud to share with the rest of the world. As a creative writer, you have to accept the fact that you will need to edit what you write, more than once and – more importantly – it is imperative that you have someone else proof it, too.

Whomever you choose to proof your work should be someone who not only has an incredible understanding of the English language, but he or she also needs to be able to work around/with your creativity. When writing a story, especially in the first person, not every character speaks or describes a situation or his or her surroundings using proper and perfect grammar. Some characters may be so rebellious that they will end some sentences in prepositions or *gasp* will occasionally split infinitives.

That being said, this doesn’t mean that you can continuously commit grammar crimes in the name of creativity. There is always a balance that needs to be maintained. In other words, if you’re going to flip the bird to syntax, it should be intentional and you should know why you’re doing it. Otherwise, you’ll be found guilty of linguistic ignorance and your sentence will be a grammar lesson that you’ll be wise not to forget.

Thankfully, Julie and I are very lucky to have a wonderful copyeditor who has exceptional grammatical skill and the ability to recognize that shackling some characters to every grammar rule in the book would snuff out their spirit.

Beyond the proofing done by you and your copyeditor, make sure that you let a few regular readers (you can trust) experience your work in its flawed form. They may not circle all of your typos, but what they will point out are plot holes, and parts of the story that they found hard to follow, hard to believe, or that simply didn’t make sense to them. No matter how great or small, almost all of the feedback that you will obtain will be valuable. It will help you to figure out what changes need to be made and it will put your end goals into greater perspective.

The proofing process of our manuscript has been a real eye-opener for me and I am grateful to everyone who has helped us along the way. The support we have received, as Julie mentioned in her last post, has been incredible. I hope you have an equally wonderful support team behind all of your creative endeavours.

Thanks for reading and all the best!

P.S. Thanks to my father-in-law for introducing me to PITA 😀

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