There is courage in opening up and bravery in asking for help.
I am neither courageous nor brave. My default response to any difficulty is to wall myself off from the world and figure out a solution on my own. I am independent to a fault.
Work, writing, and life have all been in varying stages of overwhelming at some point this year. Recently, I wrote a message to my writing group, The Emissaries of Strange (TESSpecFic). I told them I could no longer be a part of the group, that I was taking down my blog, and quitting fiction. I couldn’t take the immense, crushing sense that I am not measuring up, that I’m falling behind, that I’m never going to get it right. And by it, I mean writing, life, everything. I sat poised to send the message.
And then I deleted it.
I asked for help instead. I told The Emissaries I was overwhelmed and unsure of my path. The responses were immediate and heartfelt. Not only did hearing from my friends make me feel better in the moment, it showed me a vital truth: it is easier to carry a heavy load when you have help. No one can write my novel for me, but other writers can help me understand I’m not uniquely cursed with this horrid pressure. I’m not the only one who feels like I can’t write well enough, fast enough. I’m not the only one missing self-imposed deadlines because of a story that turned out to be far more complex and challenging than expected. I’m not… alone! Asking for help allowed me to engage with my community, and to feel accepted despite my doubts. Independence is a useful and necessary quality, but there is warmth and fellowship in accepting help. This is the grace in asking.
In my discovery of this grace, I have learned something else: I am ready to accept help in my writing process. Given that I am independent to a fault, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I rarely let anyone read my stories before they are finished. Sure, Stolen Climates had an editor and beta readers, but I only engaged them once I was 99.9% certain of the story’s overall shape.
Now I am struggling with my second novel. It is a looming fright of a task. I am afraid that the book is confusing because of the complexity and the fact that most of the characters are duplicitous. I am afraid that I am both being too technical, and not technical in enough of the right ways for sci-fi. I am afraid that my world building is too weak, but fearful excessive detail will bog down the story. I am afraid that it is not going to ever be good enough. I am afraid I am not strong enough to write this story’s soul.
Ask for help. Or, more accurately, accept the help that was extended to me before I even realized I should ask. Mr. Aniko has offered to be my reader and brainstorming partner, and I have accepted. It will take courage and bravery to share an early draft, but I will. I am open to grace.
I hope this comment doesn’t post a billion times. My reader keeps booting me out. Anyway, just wanted to say this a great post! Exactly what I needed to hear. I have been feeling the same way too. Maybe i should find a writers group. Keep writing!
The comment only posted once, and it’s great to see you Erik! It’s an awful way to feel, and it’s so easy to succumb to the pressure. I try (with varying levels of success) to remind myself that I started writing because I loved it, not because I had publication deadlines or wanted to see my Kindle sales numbers go up, or any of the other ten-thousand things that come with publishing. I would suggest finding a group. Mine has helped me more times than I can count.
Good for you. Growth as a person will reveal itself in the words you write.
You know, that’s exactly true. That is why I continue blogging even though it takes some time away from my fiction writing. Crafting my posts forces me to focus on some aspect of how I experience life, and that turns out to be highly revealing of my own nature.
Thanks for visiting!!
If we could get tattoos of feelings, and for some reason wanted to, then me and you and probably thousands of writers would someday all go to the same party after never having met, and pull up our sleeves just to be like “Woah, you got that same thing? No way..” and it would be everything in your second-to-last paragraph here, written on our arms when we thought that we were so unique.
I’m explaining that idea horribly but hopefully you can see my meaning.
I think it is so true that we aren’t alone. Reading this made me realize it even further. The other day I was doing something, I can’t even remember what, and I asked my boyfriend “Am I just a horrible writer? Do I even have anything at all to offer, at all? Like, am I just stupid and thinking I can do this?” and it went on and on in my head until I realized that it was just me “having a moment”. And it passed. Then right afterwards, there came a fabulous idea for a short story that might turn into a novella or a novel.
I thought maybe I was going bipolar but reading your post made me realize that maybe it’s just a thing that happens to writers…right? 🙂 Ah, yes. The sweet relief of community! I’m so happy you wrote this, so happy that you deleted your draft and therefore did not delete your blog, and so happy that you have proof readers and support. Yes!
I love your blog and, based on what I’ve read there, I have no doubt you are a wonderful writer. I have so many of those “I can’t write, this is the worst thing ever, what am I thinking” moments, that my husband has learned to smile and say, “So, we’re back in that phase again.” That always reminds me that it is a phase, and that it will pass. I don’t know if this is normal, but it seems to be normal for writers. 🙂 We aren’t too strange, as long as we don’t stray from the subset of species involved with crafting fiction! 🙂
I *love* your description of the tattoos and the party!
I hope you have a lovely, wonderful week & that it is one devoid of those “I’m a horrible writer” moments!
Thanks for the awesome weekend wishes, I hope you have the same!
It is always a passing phase, it is so good to remember that 🙂
It was a wonderful weekend – and very productive in both writing and other projects! I guess the anxiety that had my creativity dammed up has finally broken loose. Yay!
Community is everything, no matter your pursuit nor anything else. Hang together, never apart. And thrive!
Community is a bit of magic that we can all practice.
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I’m so glad you’re staying with it, Aniko. I suspect the second novel is the hardest. Your expectations of your writing are higher, but you understand the difficulties of publishing much better. Thoughts can get very dark.
I’m glad you’re bouncing ideas off of Mr. Aniko. Sometimes when I talk about a story with a trusted listener, ideas start to flow. It’s like you get reader feedback before you’ve even written it. Sometimes this gives you the boost you need to keep working at it.
I’ve been in the same writers’ group since I started writing 20 years ago. We offer support and honest criticism on first drafts. it takes practice to know how to take such feedback — what to use and what to throw away — but I wouldn’t still be writing without such support.
To anyone who is reading here and doesn’t know Marie, she’s a wonderful friend of mine, the leader of TESSpecFic, and the author of VALKNUT: THE BINDING. Now that we all have the same context, you can all understand how much it means to me to hear Marie’s encouragement. She is amazing.
Her blog: http://marieloughin.com/
The book: http://www.amazon.com/Valknut-The-Binding-ebook/dp/B006NBF0GY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1347195489&sr=8-1&keywords=valknut+the+binding
Thanks, Marie. I’ve read various places about “the second novel blues.” It is much harder, because this time I am writing with publication in mind, whereas the first book, I just wrote to write. Add to the fact this book is the start of a series, and that this year has been crazy in such varied and jarring ways… whew, I’m pretty glad I’m still sticking with it.
Congratulations on being a member of such a longstanding and supportive group! That is awesome. 🙂
I know how you feel, Aniko – as I suspect many other writers do. I think many of us fear that we cannot and never will get it right, that the entire process is overwhelming, and that the stories we write down will never measure up to the stories that originally existed in our own minds. That’s even before you take into account the pressures of social networking and (bleugh) marketing, and all the other things that self-published writers are typically expected to do.
Like you, I have also been tempted to delete my blog, twitter account and so on. I can honestly say that I’m still occasionally tempted to do so, and may indeed go ahead and do it one day. I’d continue writing, and probably publishing too, albeit under a pen name, but the public side of things – yuck. Don’t enjoy it. Not very good at it, either.
Having said that, I’m delighted that you are not going to give up any of your activities!
I can’t offer any practical advice when it comes to dealing with these feelings, I’m afraid; just the assurance that you are not alone in feeling them.
You are one of the most authentic people I have met on Twitter/blogging. By my way of measuring, that makes you better than talented at marketing – it makes you a real person that I (and probably lots of others) feel they can connect with, despite only ever “meeting” on the internet. I understand the temptation to delete everything, to just throw over all that pressure and those expectations. The fact is that it does take effort, time, and psychological fortitude. If you go away, will you tell me your pen name – I loved The Quickening too much to miss whatever you write next!!
I am always surprised when I hear other writers I respect say they struggle with the same feelings. You and Marie are both writers who have penned books I loved, and it is interesting – and very humanizing – to know that it isn’t all honey and milk for you both, either. It makes me very, very grateful that you forged on, despite the doubt, and crafted something beautiful to share with the world.
My decision is to blog because I enjoy it, set aside an hour on the weekend to catch up with the blogs I love, and tweet them. I generally don’t interact much aside from my weekend blogging-tweeting time, so I’m not “marketing” so much as building a community and trying to electronically express gratitude for the bounty I receive from other’s blogs.
I ramble & I wish you a happy week!
You are definitely not alone in how you’re feeling! I’m one of those overly-independent types too. All the balls we have to juggle between writing, publishing, and promoting simply get overwhelming sometimes.
Like Mari, I’m not big into the networking/marketing scene, but I feel the pressure to perform in that area. Lately I’ve been getting back to basics. I focus on my writing, try to stay on top of my blog posts, and keep my Twitter activity to a minimum. (I’ve never been a big Twitter fan anyway. Even with Tweetdeck and lists, I find it overwhelming.)
I think we all need to find our own way to a state of balance that works for us as individuals, but this often means accepting support from the people around us. It sounds like you’re moving in that direction, and I hope I am too! 🙂
I’m glad you didn’t give up and take down your blog. I love that you write such honest posts about what it’s like to be a writer, instead of the usual grammar and writing tips you see so often on writer blogs. Your posts really resonate with me, and I’m sure others feel the same.
“I think we all need to find our own way to a state of balance that works for us as individuals, but this often means accepting support from the people around us.” This is very wise. It is tough to find balance, but trying to make a one-size-fits-all mixture out of the elements of writing and life would create a regimen that doesn’t work for anyone.
And, yes, accepting support is a large part of the equation, even for those of us who are overly-independent. 🙂
I’m glad you enjoy my blog, Jacquelyn!
Again we are on the same wavelength here hun 🙂
It is HARD to ask for help but nobody can know we need help if we don’t ask for it: the worst thing than can happen is someone can refuse. But in my experience, we are walking a long and windy road, our throats get clogged from dust and sometimes the point of destination only teases us in shimmers on the horizon. This is when we need to pull up, stick our thumbs out and ask for a ride from a fellow traveller. Only we can walk our own roads, only we can write our stories but this does not mean we cannot ask for a second opinion, another’s insight and yes – help.
I am so glad you did not quit, you not stop blogging, nor did you pull out of communication – that is the easier route. Instead you shared your heart, your worries your doubt and you found your load lightened. Sometimes it is easy to feel you are the only one struggling because very rarely do we speak of the struggles – but it is so important to voice these struggles sometimes even more important than to voice the wins.
Giving you a great big hug across the web and the ocean 🙂
Ps* Eager reader here for when you need another pair of eyes on those words of yours. 🙂
Kim, I love your analogy of us as writers walking a dusty road, and sometimes needing to hitch a ride. I think you’re right that dropping everything would have been easier, but it also would have been the wrong choice. I just needed to get over my own stubborn pride and ask for – and accept – the help that my friends are willing to give. It does lighten the load. It also seems to have helped me get past my slight case of writer’s block, and I’m excited to be writing again! Thank you for your part in that, Kim.
And, yes, if you have time when the time comes, I would love to send you at least a portion of the book and get your impressions on it.
Happy to do so…I always find time to read my friend’s mss 🙂
Send it to me when you are ready hun xx
Can I return the favor? If so, you know how to reach me. 🙂
I will say this: I am loving every little nuance of Stolen Climates, but this book has to end at some point. Then, where am I left? Nothing new from the ever pleasant world of Aniko Carmean? That would be a sad state of affairs indeed. Seek help if needed, overwork yourself if that is the only solution, because I for one will be waiting with bated breath for the next book.
I’m known for tough love, so excuse me if I sound too pushy 😉
Thank you, E! I’m very, very happy you’re enjoying Stolen Climates. I’m working on my next book as fast as I can (much faster now that I got over myself and just admitted that sometimes I feel overwhelmed!). 🙂
And, now… off to do my morning writing!
PS – Thanks for the “E”ncouragement! 🙂
Aniko-It is great to discover another fellow spiritual seeker walking along the path! Writing is a collective effort, and sometimes our partner is no longer in this realm. I write with the help of my father-gone now for over forty years, but still standing by my side every time I take a deep breath, exhale slowly, then reach for the keyboard.
Thank you for visiting, Aniko! I must say, I really like your name. 😉 You honor your father’s memory with your kindness to reach out to me, a total stranger. Writing is much less lonely now that we have the internet and blogs, but it’s always nice to make a new writer friend. Happy writing!